Toddlers A Guide To Disciplining Children

Toddlers are a lot of fun. They’re full of energy and are fascinating to watch as they learn and grow. However, toddlers can also be very frustrating for parents when it comes to discipline. Because they are often so eager to explore their developing skills and newfound independence, toddlers tend to be very headstrong and willful.

What’s a parent to do when it comes to striking a balance between disciplining children and nurturing a toddler’s self-esteem? Fortunately, there are a number of way to discipline your toddler without bringing him (or yourself!) to tears.

Consistency is Key in Toddler Discipline

As they grow into toddlers, children begin to observe the reactions of their caregivers and those around them. Modeling consistent behavior can help ensure your child knows what kind of reaction to expect from you. While there is no hard and fast rule for how many times a behavior will have to be repeated before it is learned, a desired result will likely occur sooner if the same consequence happens with every incident. Do not allow a behavior one time, then punish it the next. Though it’s tempting to let things go sometimes, especially when you’re tired, this sends mixed messages to your child. Inconsistent punishment can be confusing and stressful for young children.

Keep Your Cool When Disciplining Children

We all know our toddlers can push our buttons. After a long day, it’s only natural to feel frustrated when your little one misbehaves. Parents are only human and can sometimes raise their voice or yell when pushed too far. However, toddlers can pick up on your emotional negativity, which only adds to their own poor behavior. Also, when you yell, your child may not be adequately receiving your intended message. In fact, for a toddler, it can be kind of fun to see the faces mommy or daddy make when they’re angry! Instead, come down to your child’s level and speak slowly, but firmly. Make eye contact and repeat yourself to increase the likelihood that your toddler understands you.

Understand Toddler Development

While it’s certainly not necessary to have a degree in child psychology in order to be a successful parent, it is useful to be aware of what a toddler is and is not capable of in terms of his development. Some of a toddler’s most annoying characteristics are actually quite normal developmentally.

For example, the tendency for toddlers to be stubborn and defiant are really just ways of asserting independence. This exploration is necessary for learning and growth. Your child is not purposefully trying to drive you crazy by constantly grabbing things that don’t belong to him, or hollering his favorite word; he’s merely exploring his environment and asserting himself. Keeping your child’s developmental stage in mind will help you to keep your cool and deal more effectively when it comes to discipline.

Be Proactive When Disciplining Toddlers

Knowing your child and the behaviors that come with her stage of development will go a long way in helping you to anticipate and avoid discipline problems. When a particular unacceptable behavior occurs over and over, you can often put an end to it by being proactive in your technique. For instance, if your little girl likes to pull items out of the pantry or kitchen cupboards, you may wish to put safety locks on the cabinets she can reach so that it’s no longer a daily battle. Better yet, many parents will choose to designate one or two cabinets as accessible to children and place non-breakable or older pots and pans in them that the child can play with freely. This allows the toddler to express his creativity and his desire to independently explore without clashing with the parents’ desire for order. When using this kind of technique, be sure that both you and your spouse are comfortable with the boundaries you’re setting and that they fit with your lifestyle. While we want to allow self-expression in our children, safety and parental comfort should be given priority.

Using “Time Out” Effectively

Time out is a tried and true discipline method for many, but it’s only effective when used correctly. Time out must be introduced in early toddlerhood, by around 18 months of age. At this age, a child is developmentally able to understand the concept of time out and to follow the instructions for implementing it. By beginning time outs in the early stage of toddlerhood, you allow the child to practice and learn the concept before bad behaviors can become entrenched.

Once the child understands what time out is all about, be sure to send her to the designated time out spot immediately upon breaking a known rule. Be matter-of-fact in your approach and simply tell your child to go to time out. This method maintains consistency and does not allow for argument or complaint. Keep time out brief. The general rule is to make it a minute per year of age. Set a timer and allow your child to leave the time out space when it goes off. Let him know that he’s served his time and is now expected to follow the rules.

By keeping discipline techniques consistent, matter of fact and proactive, you will be setting the boundaries that toddlers crave. When she knows what to expect, your toddler can feel safe in exploring her world, knowing that her parent will be there to guide her along the way.