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Toddler Discipline

What Is Discipline?

Discipline for your toddler is about teaching and learning in an environment where they feel safe and secure. Discipline provides the skills for your toddler to learn about how to live in society and to get along with others. Discipline is not ‘punishment, or physical punishment’. Physical punishment is of no use and harmful to children and parents.

When disciplining with your child think about what is the best approach, given your child’s age, level of understanding, and needs. The best discipline leads to children learning self-discipline.

Why Is It Hard To Discipline my Toddler?

Don’t be disheartened; you are not the only parent in this situation.

Keep in mind that misbehaviour may happen as your toddler has not learnt or does not have the skills to know what behaviour is expected. Toddlers also have a limited ability to communicate their feelings, and to reason with others.

Toddlers are typically busy exploring their new world, making a mess along the way, and they like to assert their independence by saying say ‘no’.

To help you teach your child acceptable behaviour here a few simple strategies:

  • Only have a few rules. Too many rules means too much to remember, and can result in a confused toddler!
  • Choose your time well. Don’t try and teach new lessons if your toddler is hungry, restless or angry
  • Ignore bad behaviour you want to stop. Your tot will soon get tired of yelling as he/she will see that yelling will not get that second biscuit
  • Use Handy Distractions. If your child is doing something you don’t want them to do, use distractions like reading a book together, favourite toy or moving to another room
  • Make time to praise good behaviours Make sure these don’t go unnoticed
  • Show interest in what your toddler is doing. This will put them in a cooperative mood e.g if it is bedtime for your toddler and they are playing with their teddy ask them to help you put teddy to bed
  • Don’t use open questions. ‘What would you like to wear today?’ Can leave your toddler confused. Allow your toddler to feel they have some control by being able to make small decisions of their own, ‘Which t-shirt would you like to wear today, the blue or red one?’
  • Repeat and show. Toddlers are not able to change their behaviour straight away, be patient and consistent e.g if your child has spilt some food and made a mess remind them gently what needs to be done and help them to clean up the mess
  • Realistic consequences. Don’t make these so long and harsh that they are hard to follow through such as ‘If you don’t have your dinner you won’t have chocolate for one year!’ Follow through with your realistic consequences so your child is likely to do the right thing next time
  • Stay Calm. If possible try to give yourself some time to cool off, count to 10 before speaking to your toddler. They can sense when you are becoming stressed and this can make their frustration worse.

In time, your toddler’s language skills will improve as they mature. Remember discipline should be positive and used to encourage good behaviour and to stop bad behaviour.

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