Tips to Build Obedience in Toddlers & Preschoolers

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Tips to Build Obedience in Toddlers & Preschoolers

Toddlers are known for their disobedience, strong will and throwing fits to get their way. As a parent, our job may feel like an overwhelming feat that you may not be even sure of how to get from point A to point B without losing your mind.  Experiencing four completely different personality as toddlers to raise, I will tell you that teaching obedience is NOT that hard. If you give your full attention to teaching obedience, you will have a child that ‘knows right from wrong’ and understands that with each choice there are consequences. Consequences come in beautiful packages if they chose the right decision and consequences come in undesirable packages if the wrong action was chosen.

4 Steps to Teaching Obedience to a Toddler:

  1. Both parents and all care givers need to be on the same page.  A toddler will quickly learn that adults divided are easy prey! You remember going to one parent and receive a ‘no’ and deciding that the other parent will probably say ‘yes’, which they would.  Children learn quickly who the ‘yes’ parent is and will begin to manipulate that parent.
  2. Consequences need to be the same from both parents and all care givers. A toddler understands the natural world of consequences from a very early age, even before they say their first words.  We teach them this within the first months of their lives. If they cry,  they get held, feed, changed or played with.  If they throw a toy or pacifier, it will get picked up regardless of how many times they throw it.  If they get dirty, we clean their hands, face, or the whole body.  Reason is something an infant is able to do naturally.  We, as parents and caregivers, are doing a child a disfavor when they begin to walk or reach that toddler age and we ignore this knowledge of consequences and forbid it in our parenting or caring for a child. If all the adults who are responsible for a toddler can communicate the appropriate consequences (remember there are both beautiful and undesirable) for the actions of toddlers and be prepared BEFORE the actions present themselves, this stage of teaching obedience can be easier than you expected. “United we stand, divided we fall” is a perfect slogan for the toddler stage. (consider sharing this post with the care givers, grandparents, other family members, so all loved ones can grow together for the sake of the child)
  3. Visual Aid is the Perfect Tool for Teaching Obedience. When you begin this process, give your child the beautiful consequence of praise. When a toddler disobeys, you will have all ready decided the consequence for him and can quickly administer the consequence. No praise, just the understanding of why it was a wrong choice or ask them why it is wrong and then follow through on the consequences.
  4. Restoring a Toddler after Disobedience. This step is CRUCIAL to all of us, especially a toddler or child of a young age. If you do step 3 consistently, administrating both beautiful and undesirable consequences, the toddler will show quick steps toward obedience. However you must never skip the step of restoration after a undesirable consequence was administered. To restore a toddler, a child or an adult, is simply allowing the individual the opportunity to confess their sin, explain why it was wrong and allow them to apology to the person wronged. The person wronged must allow the individual the opportunity to express this part of learning and in return the apology needs to be accepted and then praise should be given for doing the right thing. Once this step is complete, move forward and do NOT dwell on it.



  1. Heather @ Cultivated Lives says:

    Great advice. Although not new to parenting, it is great to have a fresh reminder as I go into parenting my fourth toddler! :)

    • I feel that I need reminders, weekly. Maybe because each child is so different or the age gap of my children, but when something works so wonderfully, I love to share.

  2. Cathy Vosloo says:

    Any tips on a strong willed 3 year old boy? Am raising him single handedly as his dad passed away when he was 9 months old. Both maternal and paternal grandparents are late. He has a 5 year old sister.

    • Cathy, the first thing that come to mind is my journey with my oldest who was a strong willed child. There strong will serves a purpose in their personality, but must be trained for positive or it will quickly become rebellion and defiance.

      Here are a few tips:

      -Don’t break his spirit, but work on the heart (that is where change happens)
      -Begin memory work for key scriptures that will teach God’s way for obedience – here is a post that will get you started:
      -Pick your battles: as you know life with a strong willed child is filled with daily battles. Pick which ones that show up often and are the ones that cause the most strife in the home. Be diligent with correction on these and don’t forget to praise the smallest improvements. Strong will children need a lot of praise!
      -Find a positive way to use that strong will to cultivate it in good things. Give him some responsibilities that are only his and allow him to make decisions. Feeding a pet, picking out the food, deciding what time of day to feed the pet; tend a flower garden, have him pick the location of a few suggestions, pick the followers.

      Strong willed children grow to be influential and leaders. As a parent, this tries every fabric of your being because their is war for leadership in everything. EVERYTHING! Demonstrating love while cultivating this important quality is where your focus should be and your energy given. This doesn’t mean that you let him rule your home, only the little areas that he can be faithful in and before you know you, your strong willed 3 year old will be your right hand helper in the home and most reliable one in your home. If you don’t give faithful to cultivating it, he will become a rebellious and defiant teenager bring pain and heartbreak to your every day.

      Now that I wrote a post on it, I hope you find encouragement in this! Thanks for the question!

    • You may benefit from the generic question on my FB page: Some good advice is being shared!

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