How to Discipline a Toddler
One of the most difficult tests of parents is how to discipline a toddler and the way in which they handle their children not when they are being good, but when they’re misbehaving or doing something that is off-limits. When your child is not old enough to understand why playing with the laptop cord or chew on toys is potentially harmful, it can be frustrating and trying for you to be a role-model. Even more difficult is having to face a really bad temper in a toddler that seems to “have it his/her own way” every time.
For the Parent – You do not punish, you teach
The most basic, yet hard to grasp concept about properly guiding your child’s growth is the fact that you, as a parent, are a guide, not someone that’s always keeping watch for bad behaviour – this can be especially tricky when it’s the 100th time you’ve said they should not pull the dog’s hair or ride its back. If you feel that urge to just punish, it is you that needs a bit of time-off. You can afterwards rationally implement a form of punishment through which you emphasize teaching that what your child did was bad, not punishing them for it. Probably the most important element of your image as a parent is consistency. For instance, if on Monday morning scissors and knives are off limits, it has to be so always.
When dealing with a toddler, lecturing is never effective. A firm “No” or “No touch” should be your reaction when they start throwing their food at the table or lifting the toilet seat. Their first reaction is most often a tantrum, as they have invested some emotion into their goal and you’ve taken their possibility to accomplish it. In order to minimize or remove tantrums altogether, you should provide your toddler with a distractor – redirect their attention towards something else. With some children, it’s their name that makes them stop what they are doing and suddenly pay attention to the parent. With others you might be surprised to find out that “ball”, “cat”, “dog” or anything connected to a pleasant experience might make them engage in a different activity.
For your child – Protection
All children share the same lack of distinction between right and wrong. The limits and boundaries that you set are not there to prevent them from exploring, discovering or doing what they desire, but to protect their lives from harm.
As a parent, you are guiding their development, teaching them that it’s safe to grab a teddy bear, it’s very good to share it with a friend, but that it’s “No touch” or “Hot touch” for the stove. Sometimes, you’ll have to face a little grabber that simply does not calm down if he or she does not hold the respective object. Again, redirecting their attention in an assertive and firm manner should do the trick. As your child grows older and starts understanding you, you might even offer to share some experiences, in order to help him or her figure out what can happen if when playing with the scissors.
Countless experiments have shown that in a new environment, facing no boundaries, children will most likely be afraid to explore, as they are literally afraid of getting hurt.
Never get physical
All children are young explorers and they will end up doing things you don’t like, such as playing with the water tap or arranging their cereal animals in a certain order. The key-factor is for you to learn how to differentiate between things that are strictly wrong and other activities that might be imaginative or fun. This way, your toddler navigates through the world including in daycares, firmly knowing what’s off-limits and constantly trying to see what can be done within those limits. The only thing you will achieve by spanking or beating your child is irreparable emotional damage. Furthermore, you will hinder their healthy development into sociable adults, who can integrate and function in a society.
Humans need limits and this applies to all children. One of the most important lessons your young one will learn from this is that the world is full of things you can do and things you can’t – such as bite, hit or pull the hair of your school-friends. You can set these boundaries for your child by using negative reinforcements, but never by corporal punishment. The invariable outcome of any limit-setting is frustration, which leads some parents to never punish their children. What they forget is that frustration provides a person with ambition to achieve their goal. Consequently, dealing with frustration is another important lesson your child needs to learn.
Ironically, the core factor in your child’s discipline is you. Your behaviour, actions and manner of expression must reflect a mature, assertive and calm adult. You don’t want to treat your children as puppets, as you too probably agree that they should have some freedom. Instead, you want to be the person they come to for comfort and safety. If your boy or girl does not listen to you when you tell them to drink slowly, they will spill the water or juice on themselves. Realising that they have done something wrong, you’ll be the one where they come to for guidance. With you, they will feel protected. It is important to positively reinforce good behaviour, as much as it is to negatively emphasize bad one.
In your attempt to discipline your toddler you provide a structure for their behaviour, environment and development. Through such a structure, you do not prevent, but direct their growth towards a healthy life. This is why the rules you assert require constant revision as your child grows. Always remember to explore and enjoy life alongside your child and never to resort to violence.