Bringing up a toddler is far from easy; it’s called the ‘terrible twos’ for a reason. If you’ve ever had to flee the supermarket after your toddler threw a temper tantrum, you probably wish you had these discipline tips from the experts ahead of time…
The toddler years are incredibly special but also fraught with challenges. Your little one is starting to seek independence but still can’t really tell you what he or she wants. Hence the occasional temper tantrums and hour-long negotiations over clothing.
These simple strategies for toddler discipline can help improve life for the both of you…
Create Order and Routine
You may think a toddler is too young to appreciate a consistent routine, but predictability helps a child to feel safe. That means trying your best to keep to the same schedule day in and day out, including meal times, play time and bedtime. If you must change the routine, tell the child beforehand so they understand what is happening. It may help to avoid a scene or tantrum.
Be Consistent with Discipline
If you’ve said ‘no’ once to something your child does, you have to keep the same message throughout. Repeat ‘no’ again and again to keep your message consistent. Otherwise the child learns that if he keeps playing up, you will eventually give in.
No matter what your child does or how deliberately he or she attempts to ‘push your buttons’, your job as the disciplinarian is to stay calm. It may not be easy to do, especially if your child is making a scene in public, but taking out your anger on the child doesn’t send a composed message. Avoid emotion altogether if you can. You may want to ignore the problem behavior entirely, so the child learns that a screaming fit isn’t going to get him the attention he craves.
To Spank or Not To Spank
Most experts nowadays warn against spanking, pointing out that it teaches the child that physical violence and punishment is acceptable. Better toddler discipline is taking them away from the attention (a child hates the idea of missing out). Redirection can also work effectively.
Redirect their Attention
The good news is that toddlers tend to have very short attention spans and you can get that to work for you. Experts recommend not punishing the child for doing something minor such as running around the house when you’ve told them not to, but to distract them and move their attention elsewhere. It may be that you take them outside, put them in another room or give them a game to play with.
Finally, Give Praise Where It’s Due
Don’t be so quick to offer discipline that you forget to praise the child when they do something right or noteworthy. Praise often makes the child want to do the same thing again so they keep getting the admiration, as opposed to acting out in order to get attention. Your relationship with your toddler will be much better if you give your child a break now and again. If you use the ‘time out’ strategy, for instance, make sure it only lasts a minute to two at this young age. Sometimes you may want to chalk the behavior up to toddler high spirits as opposed to deliberate acts of insurrection. It helps if you put yourself in their place and realize that often they’re not deliberately trying to cause trouble, but they genuinely don’t understand yet how to behave appropriately.
You might also want to avoid stressful situations, such as taking the child to the supermarket when you know it’s time for a nap. That’s never going to end well.