During the toddler years, children begin to become more independent, and the need for discipline arises. As they start to explore, we need to keep them safe by laying down a few ground rules. Discipline is not the same as punishment. There is no need to punish, hurt, or humiliate; our objective is to teach them right from wrong.
As in all parenting situations, there is no one-size-fits-all method of discipline for toddlers. Be consistent, but flexible. Never use violent and aggressive ways of disciplining your child such as yelling in front of other people or spanking. Here are some tips to guide you:
Refocus his energy into something positive. If your child is throwing sand at a playmate, pull him out of the sandbox. Offer him a ball to throw instead.
This is similar to redirection but instead of focusing on similar activities, pick those that are unrelated or opposite the behavior your child is exhibiting. If he’s making a mess in the living room, call his attention and ask him to help you bring out the chips and dip instead.
This can be hard to pull out but it can be extremely effective. Sometimes, drawing attention to the unwanted behavior can make things worse. If your child has a temper tantrum, it will most likely end sooner than you think – if he finds you are no longer paying attention to it. Just make sure he is safe, and then ignore it.
4. Natural Consequences
A bit of inconvenience and discomfort can be an effective teacher. Let your child experience the consequences of his actions whenever you can (as long as he is okay of course); this can be a good learning encounter for him. Just reinforce by saying, “I asked you to keep your toy while in the park, but now it is lost, and I’m sorry about that.”
5. Not-So-Natural Consequences
Make sure your child is starting to put together cause and effect on his own. Use “if-then” statements such as, “If you don’t share your toy with your friends, then you will have to go and play by yourself somewhere else.”
6. Time Out
Use this to help your toddler regroup. When he’s outwardly exhibiting anger or is out of control, say, “I can’t understand you when you are yelling. I understand that you are upset but you need to calm down.” Lead your child towards an area away from everyone and help him settle down his emotions. You do not want to instill a sense of shame, but rather set up a way for your child to learn self-control.
If you’re having a hard time disciplining your child, always remember that you may not be doing anything wrong. And you don’t have to compare with how other moms deal with the situation. Children have different temperaments and developmental levels. A style of discipline that may work with other children may not necessarily be the best technique applicable for your child.