Every parent deals with the challenge of how to discipline a toddler at one point. They are impossible. They misbehave. But at the same time it is useless to try to communicate.
This is a “mom to mom” post. I am not an expert. I did, however, verify these simple methods with a child psychologist that I know, just to make sure that it’s not “bad advice.”
How NOT to discipline a toddler:
Children learn by copying behaviors.
When you hit a toddler, you teach him to resolve problems by hitting (even if you do it gently).
When you say “no” to a toddler you teach her the word “no”. Case in point, we decided to use “uh oh” instead of no. Now every time M throws something, he says “uh oh!” He still throws it…
When you give your toddler “time out” all he knows is that Mommy is far away, and does not want to be with him right now.
Toddlers don’t relate these situations to the misbehavior. While it may stop the behavior in the moment, you will not be teaching your child; it will have no disciplinary effects.
I see so many articles discouraging the behaviors above and telling you how not to discipline your toddler. I see few that give practical positive solutions. Children can and should be disciplined from a young age.
While I have NOT totally mastered “disciplining my toddler”, I have a few pointers that can turn you in the right direction. It can even transform your day. You’ll still need to deal with tantrums, mess, and screaming (it’s one of the blessings of motherhood). But it can help you in a very big way with long-term discipline, starting from a young, impressionable age.
How to discipline a toddler (practical solutions):
The key is to get to the root of the problem and to divert the behavior to a positive solution. Fulfill your child’s need in a positive way. Your child is acting out for a reason. Here are some practical solutions that have helped me tremendously:
1. Satisfy the curiosity:
Toddlers get into everything, often as a means of satisfying their curiosity. Redirecting this curiosity to a more positive activity can help.
My baby (like many) loves to raid kichen cabinets. Locks only go so far, as you can see from this video:
I created a cabinet special for him with toys. Between this, and the pot cabinet, I successfully stopped him from breaking the locks on cabinets with things he really shouldn’t be playing with. He still tries to open the others on occasion. Turning him toward this cabinet works like magic.
This also gives him something easy to do while I’m working around the kitchen.
2. Offer the sensory stimulation needed:
3. Give some quiet time:
Your child may simply be overwhelmed! Teach him to deal with this by sitting with her in a quiet corner, and giving some “down time”.
This has worked wonders for us. Since we don’t have space for a quiet corner, I use his crib. I put him in with a kiss and a book. I either sit near him, or leave the door open and pop in and out every few minutes so that he feels my presence. I have been doing this since he ditched his second nap, before he was quite ready to.
Note the difference between time out and quiet time. Quiet time is a positive solution, not a punishment! You are there with the child and simply helping him settle down. (Don’t stay with the child if you are worked up. Give him a toy to cuddle and go calm down too!)
4. Give your attention:
Your child may be calling out for attention. A quick game of “head bumping” or some story time can turn your tot back on the right track.
5. Discipline with love:
Whichever method you choose, it must come from a place of love! Discipline with empathy, in a way that is in tune with your toddler’s needs. Set her up for life with the right skills and habits from this tender age.
6. Recognize a special situation:
If you think your situation is extreme, or your child’s behavior isn’t age-appropriate, seek expert advice. You’ll be doing what’s best for you and your child, and you won’t regret it.
7. Pick and choose your battles:
I’m very keen on this one. If it won’t last to adulthood, isn’t dangerous, and isn’t destructive, I’ll usually fold. For example, as we speak M is transferring the clean laundry into the dirty laundry hamper. Oh well! I hope he’s having fun!
What are your best tips for how to discipline a toddler? Which methods have worked for you?
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