Toddler discipline is a very difficult task for parents. As parents, we would need to set limits and provide structure to create an atmosphere in the home that makes these limits easier to respect. One of the developmental tasks that toddlers undergo is looking and testing for boundaries. As such, it is important that they clearly know where these boundaries lie. They must also learn that there is consistency in the way that these behaviors are handled when they cross the boundaries. When you first implement structure, you can expect A LOT of testing, crying and often an increase in misbehaviors as they will be testing your limits.
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Discipline is grounded on a healthy relationship between parent and child. To know how to discipline your child you must first know your child. Build and strengthen this connection between you and your child and this will lay the foundation for discipline. Once your child trusts you to meet her needs, she will trust you to set her limits.
Time OUT. This is one of the most common toddler discipline method. Keep the time brief around one minute per year of age. Toddlers don't usually stay in the corner so it means stopping what you are doing and standing over them with your side or back to them so that they can't engage your facial/body language. Once time out is over, you can remind them what they did wrong in very simple language and then if they do it again (as most toddlers will immediately do upon being released from time out until they have the concept) they go back into the corner. Discipline must occur at the time of the action and not an hour or longer after. So even if you are out of your home, you must be prepared to discipline them. Be discreet, and remember always NOT to do it in front of others to avoid bringing down his self-esteem. Remind toddlers of the rules frequently when out on an outing or in the house if necessary.
Distract and divert.The best form of toddler discipline is redirection. First, you have to distract them from their original intention and then, quickly divert them toward a safer alternative. Give them something else to do for example, helping with the household chores and soon they will be enjoying themselves rather than investing a lot of emotional energy into the original plan.
Ignoring temper tantrum. Ignoring the behavior or making statements such as when you throw a tantrum I can’t hear you or I don’t like watching temper tantrums so let me know when you are finished and we will talk, will both show and tell the child that their display of temper tantrums will not gain them control over the situation or the parent.
Temper tantrums are usually dramatic, intense and full of emotion. With a little practice and persistence, parents can learn how to stop the drama of a temper tantrum and change the situation to a calm, quiet discussion. Keep control and keep the peace.
Encourage cooperation. Your child is more likely to do what you say if you uses soft approaches like these: - Ask rather than tell. Say "Would you give me the book, please?" instead of demanding "Bring me the book."
Set Limits. Much of your toddler discipline depends upon your ability to set limits. Boundaries provide security for the child whose adventurous spirit leads him to explore, but his inexperience may lead him astray. For example, your toddler doesn't want to hold your hand as you cross a street or parking lot together. You firmly set a limit: street or parking lot crossing is only done while holding hands. There is no option. We need to achieve the right balance between freedom and constraints for our toddlers.
Limit-setting teaches a valuable lesson for life: the world is full of yeses and nos. You decide what behavior you cannot allow and stick to that limit. This will be different for each family and each stage of development. Toddlers want someone to set limits. It makes them feel secure and loved, and helps them to understand boundaries. As a parent you have to ensure that the rules you set are simple, easy to understand, and consistent.
Provide structure. Set up conditions for toddler discipline that encourage desirable behavior to happen. Structure protects and redirects. You free the child to be a child and provide the opportunity to grow and mature. Structure creates a positive environment for the child. By a bit of preplanning you remove most of the "no's" so that a generally "yes" environment prevails.
Structure changes as the child grows. At all developmental levels restructuring the child's environment is one of your most valuable discipline strategies. When your infant reaches the grabby stage, you are careful to set your coffee cup out of his reach. When your toddler discovers the toilet, you start keeping the lid latched or the bathroom door closed. The preschooler who fights going to sleep at night gets a relaxing bedtime routine. The nine-year- old struggling to keep up with her homework gets a quiet, enticing place to work in, as well as firm restrictions on school-night television. Structure sets the stage for desirable behaviors to override undesirable ones.
Positive reinforcement. Studies show that toddler discipline using positive reinforcement works far better than punishment. Rather than focusing only on those things that irritate us and becoming habitual scolders, "catch your kids doing something right and reward them."
Remember that toddlers tune out a lot so if you are always saying "No", "Don't touch this", "Don't go there", then all they hear is NO. You want to try and give them lots of positive feedback. Examples of positive feedback are to let them know they did a 'nice job following directions' or 'good job playing', with lots of hugs and kisses. Try using other "No" words like stop. You don't need to yell but you do need to put firmness 'don't mess with me' tone in your voice.
There are many books to help you learn more about toddler discipline and why they act the way they do. One of my personal favourite for toddler discipline being Dr James Dobson's The New Dare to Discipline.
There is certainly no magic formula to toddler discipline but it is imperative that you establish the guidelines for behavior in your house as quickly as possible.
Whatever you do, make sure you are consistent in your toddler discipline. If you tell a child no and then eventually end up letting the child do what he wanted in the first place, you are setting yourself up for disaster. Even if you have changed your mind and decided that what the child was doing wasn’t so bad after all, you need to stick to your decision and let the child know that you mean what you say. If he gets his way after a minute or after an hour, he will know he’s got you pegged. As such, the key to toddler discipline is consistency!
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