“Honey, don’t touch that, it’s not a toy.” Smash.
What not to do:
Screaming, “I told you a hundred times not to use that crayon to write on mommy's baby bags. Why don’t you listen to me?” has never worked. If we do not even want to hear ourselves, we can be assured that the toddler who just got your attention does not want to hear you either.
What to do:
The solution is to have your emotions, your actions, and your words in alignment with each other so that your toddler is looking into the face of reason, not a raging monster. Have your script ready so that when faced with the urge to react emotionally, you can say the words that work.
What to say:
Acknowledge that your toddler, when disobedient, is acting out behavior he learned from someone in your house, most likely you. They are brilliant and adopt what they see gets you a result. Ask them an open ended question like “What was the purpose of disobeying me? Or “How did you see that getting you what you wanted?” and then be quiet. They need to feel it is ok to share what they think and feel.
When it is a test:
Toddlers are constantly testing their boundaries and want to know what is going to happen when they disobey or obey. If this is a test, they must see firm authority from you. Do not give them an edge. Give them a consequence that they can understand, like restricted movie or TV time. You want them to remember that actions have consequences when faced with a much more serious situation that could be life threatening.