4 Ways Parents Encourage Bad Behavior

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TweetPin1KShareShare1K SharesDid you know that parents can accidentally encourage bad behavior? Learn about 4 ways…

Did you know that parents can accidentally encourage bad behavior? Learn about 4 ways that you could be encouraging bad behavior in your little ones.

Did you know that parents can accidentally encourage bad behavior? 

Yup, it’s true!

After weeks of power struggles with my oldest, I realized that I was accidentally encouraging his bad behavior.


You’d think that having this this nifty psychology degree under my belt would mean that I knew better!

And for the most part, I do!

I mean, on paper, it’s easy peasy. 

But when you have a strong-willed, demanding toddler testing your patience day-in and day-out, you’re bound to slip up! 

Thankfully, I realized the error of my ways and I’ve been able to reverse a lot of his recent bad behavior in a short period of time.

Let me be clear, 2-year olds will be 2-year olds, but the two’s don’t have to be terrible!

Not sure if you’ve been unknowingly encouraging your toddler’s bad behavior?

Then keep reading to learn 4 ways that you could be encouraging bad behavior.

1. Laughing At The Behavior

Let’s face it, if you’re a parent, there is a high probability that you have laughed when your kid did or said something that they shouldn’t have.

Johnny stuck his spaghetti in his nose during dinner and you and your hubby couldn’t help but laugh.

But now, Johnny won’t stop sticking food up his nose – even when you’re out in public!

The issue occurs when you laugh at that same behavior so many times that your child begins to think that this is favorable behavior.

By the time you start to try and discipline them for it, they’ll probably be confused and continue to do it anyway, hoping to get the same positive response that they were getting from you before.

What Worked For Me…

First and foremost, resist the urge to laugh. Sometimes this requires turning away, or giggling quietly to yourself – but don’t let them see it!

When Ju would misbehave and see me laugh, that was his cue to repeat this behavior over and over again.

After a few attempts of ‘nipping it in the bud’, I realized that by giving the behavior any attention, he was even more inclined to continue to do it.

So I implemented a ‘3-Strikes’ discipline strategy.

The next time he acted out, I would verbally let him know that his behavior was a ‘no-no’. Anytime he misbehaved after that, I would give him yet another warning. If he did it a third time, I would put him in time out. 

After a few rounds of this, the behavior eventually tapered off and in a few days, was gone completely.

2. Yelling

No matter how much I promise myself that I won’t yell at my children, I’ll admit, it does happen sometimes.

Somedays I’m just at my wits end and therefore, not nearly as patient as I should be.

No matter the reason, yelling never results in changed behavior – it actually makes it worse.

I mean think about it…

I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if people were yelling at you all day.

Now consider how a toddler feels when they’re yelled at by an adult.

Terrified probably.

Don’t get me wrong, I get it!

It’s been a long day and you’re tired of sounding like a broken record.

‘Put That Down’

‘Don’t Climb Up There’

‘Use Your Inside Voice’

And the next thing you know, you’ve lost your temper.

Your toddler however probably didn’t connect your yelling with their behavior. In fact, they probably have no idea why you started yelling at them.

Then good ole mom guilt decides to show up and now you feel horrible for yelling.

Sound familiar?

What Worked For Me…

I don’t yell very often so I had to figure out what exactly was triggering me to lose my cool.

I discovered that frustration was the underlying emotion that I was feeling whenever I yelled.

With the exception of those moments where your kid is about to seriously hurt themselves and you just kinda have to raise your voice for their safety. (i.e. attempting to run out into the street etc.).

So I implemented ‘time-out’ for Mommy.

As cheesy as that sounds, I’m 100% serious!

When I would sense my frustration welling up inside, I’d take a moment, walk away from the kids and have a glass or water or something.

Sometimes I literally have to go and say a prayer for strength, because…kids. 

I know it sounds like a lot but I learned that by removing myself from the situation, even if only for a moment, I’m a lot calmer and Iess likely to lose my temper and yell.

3. Empty Threats

Ever threatened your child with some sort of consequence only to not follow through?

I won’t lie, I was definitely guilty of this.

Sometimes I’d completely forget that I just threatened ‘time out’ if he continues to throw blocks at the television.

Other times, I found myself simply repeating the empty threat and not following through.

Each time that I fail to follow through with a consequence for his misbehavior, I’m teaching him that he isn’t accountable for his actions.

What Worked For Me…

I was starting to notice that Ju didn’t acknowledge my threats after a while.

It’s almost as if he became more defiant whenever I attempted to discipline him.

So now, instead of throwing his blocks d2own as soon as I’d threaten to put him in time out, he would throw another block at the television or have a full blown tantrum.

So I Started Consistently Following Through


Nothing fancy.

I simply had to follow through with my consequences.

This meant that AS SOON as he misbehaved (after he’s already been warned), I put him in time out and explained to him why he had to go to ‘time out’.

The first few days were rough since he didn’t expect me to actually follow through.

There were a lot of tantrums and frustrating days for us both.

But I stuck with it and now he KNOWS that I mean business!

Don’t get me wrong, he’s 2 so we’re definitely taking it day by day, but by being consistent, I’ve seen a huge improvement.

4. Treating Them Like Little Adults

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I’m all about purposeful parenting.

I believe that as mom’s (dad’s too!), it’s our responsibility to self-reflect and check ourselves every now and then.

Are we parenting our kids from a ‘just do what I say’ point of view or are we actively parenting them.

Over these last few months, I was so convicted when I realized that I sometimes treat my toddler like a little adult. 

I would talk to him as if he was fully capable of keeping his emotions in check when he didn’t get his way.

I couldn’t understand why, after repeating the same things over and over, he wouldn’t just do what I said.

What Worked For Me…

I had to remind myself that my 2-year old, was just that, a 2-year old.

He is going through rapid growth both physically and mentally, and is learning how to interact with the world around him.

It’s my job to teach him, nurture his interests, and provide a safe space for him to explore, learn, and simply be a kid.

So I Decided To Take It Easy

For me, it’s more important that Ju is able to freely express himself and discover his likes and dislikes independently – without me having unnecessary influence.

Let me unpack that a little bit: 

While I do discipline my toddler, I try not to have a ‘because I said so.’ approach to parenting with him. 

Simply put, I have an authoritative parenting style. 

While I do have and reinforce rules, I also make it a point to take his thoughts and opinions into consideration.

And most importantly, especially at this stage in his life, I always consider where he is developmentally.

As I mentioned above, toddlers experience a LOT of cognitive growth (physical too!) at this stage.

I’ve found that when I intentionally consider these things, I’m much more patient and understanding when he acts out.

There you have it, 4 Ways That Parents Encourage ‘Bad’ Behavior.

Discipline can be tricky and every child is different, but by keeping these ideas in mind, you will be able to better understand your toddler and what may be triggering their misbehavior.

Do you have any go-to discipline strategies that work for you?

Tell me all about them in the comments below! 


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  1. This is great! Some of the parenting stuff I’ve read on Pinterest is so sensationalized and frankly, kind of ridiculous. This is so practical and helpful and realistic! I like your parenting style, it seems so balanced.

    1. Thanks so much, Alyssa! Just keeping it real over here 🤣 Parenting is hard and it’s time that we accept that truth and begin to approach parenting in a realistic way so that we can raise decent human beings without going crazy. haha Thanks for reading!

  2. Thank you for the great tips! I have definitely learned to temporarily remove myself from the situation if I feel the urge to yell. And it works! Being out of control isn’t good for my kids or myself.

  3. Great post! It really spoke to me, I think we’re all guilty at one time or another of doing these things, but the beauty of parenthood is, it’s a journey!

  4. themammaholic says:

    I am definitely guilty of some if not all of these with two toddlers! These are some great tips! Antonia Napier @bottlesandscrubs.com

  5. #4 was what resonated with me most. Sometimes we forget that they are little. This isnt a reason to not have certain expectations but keeping them in relation to their level of learning is key.

    1. Yes!! This was a huge epiphany for me! Sometimes we treat our kids as if they already have experience responding to different situations when in reality, their ‘misbehavior’ is usually them expressing themselves and learning how to navigate this big world around them. Thanks for reading!

  6. I really do like the way you found a work through on each of the issues in regards to encouraging bad behavior in our children. Walking away and giving yourself a time out as a parent is key. My grandson is 18 months and full of energy, and a bit too young to understand standing in a corner for timeout, so what I did was lay a blanket on the floor put a few toys or books in the space and sat him on it and told him to not to get off the blanket. That he understood, and he stayed there until I told him he could get up from the blanket. Starting young setting boundaries is key. Great article!

  7. I admit that I am guilty at laughing at my toddlers bad, but adorable behavior at times. Yelling has always made the situation worse, so I try with all my might not to, but sometimes it’s very difficult.

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