The following ideas suggest how to deal with a child’s undesirable behaviour, while allowing the parent/ carer not to be become too stressed.

Scenario: Your 2-year-old child likes to put things in the mouth

Strategy Child’s Behaviour Parenting Response
Step 1: Apply empathy Your child puts things from the floor in the mouth. a. Accept your child wants to know more about the world by examining things in the mouth; at the same time apply Step 2.
Step 2a: Apply distraction Ask your child to take object out of mouth or give it to you, but child refuses to follow instruction. Gently take dirty object away, while offering a clean object/toy. Avoid argument, punishment or explanation.
Step 2b: Support self-efficacy Ask your child to take object out of mouth or give it to you; child complies. Praise your child for giving you the dirty toy.

Remember that young children have a limited ability to understand the (health) consequences of their behaviours. Using simple words, demonstrating expected behaviours , and allowing opportunities for the children to practise across different situations are helpful ways for children to learn.