As a parent it is hard to dish out discipline that actually works – especially when your toddler has selective hearing! Disciplining a toddler is one of the most frustrating and toughest aspects of parenting, and one reason for this is because different people ‘view’ discipline differently. Does it mean to ‘spank’ your child, or does it mean to keep saying ‘no’ over and over and over? Or maybe it means sitting them on the bottom step or in the ‘naughty chair’ for a while until they learn that bad behaviour = boredom.
Effective discipline is about setting simple rules for your children to follow rather than bullying them into submission. It is important to consistently follow through with known consequences when your toddler continuously disobeys you – because he will!
Number One : Pick Your Battles
You can keep saying ‘no’ until you’re blue in the face – and to be honest you probably will! But the best thing as a parent to do is to realise that you cannot fulfil all of the no’s. Eventually your toddler will just drown them out and it will become completely ineffective because they won’t understand your priorities. Realise yourself what’s important to you then begin to pass this on to your toddler. Most bad habits children tend to outgrow but if there is something pressing like hitting another or touching dangerous household items, then nip this in the bud asap.
Positivity on your part increases good behaviour on theirs.
Number Two: Understand Triggers
For example, I know that a big trigger for Amelia is not letting her do what she wants. So when a situation arises where she wants to do something she isn’t allowed to, I distract her with something else instead and ignore her need to be a monkey! Sometimes it is just easier to move something out of their reach or only allow them access to certain things than endure a full blown tantrum because you won’t let them eat the washing powder.
Another big trigger for her and most children is being over tired and also hungry. You can try to eliminate tantrums caused by this by setting a routine in order to make sure they are getting well fed and well rested – you can find Amelia’s routine here.
Number Three: Consistency
Rules apply, and let that be known. If mummy tells toddler off for playing with something on the no list, daddy must also tell them off when mummy isn’t around. This is the only way children learn through consistency. It’s no good to tell them off one minute then allow it to happen as and when it suits you – you will just cause confusion. You can never tell whether it’ll take 100 ‘nod’ or just 2 for them to realise that sort of behaviour is unacceptable so you must me persistent. By always responding in the same way, he will learn his lesson a lot quicker than mixed signals.
At a young age -2/3 years old – children are working hard to understand how their actions impacts others so consistency is key.
Number Four : Time Out
I think a time out is such a great idea for children. It gives them time to calm down and think about their actions before rejoining the circle so to speak. Time out will definitely be a firm method of discipline in my house when Amelia gets old enough to understand.
Giving them quiet time according to their age is probably not something I will do though because I think a good 5 minutes is long enough to calm yourself down and have a good think about how actions have consequences.
My method for time out:
- Give one ‘no’ warning
- If this is ignored, place them in the time out chair
- Use a sand timer and let them watch it as it runs to the bottom – this is also useful for calming children down.
- When the timer has ran out, it is time for an apology, a hug and a kiss.
- If this doesn’t work and apologies are refused, simply start the process again from number 2.
Toddlers will hate being depressed from their toys and parents so soon enough all it will take is a warning and it will stop them in their tracks.
(And I love these chairs!!)
Number Five: Short & Simple
Be straight to the point when disciplining your toddler. Don’t waffle on about losing privileges or detailed accounts on why it’s wrong, get right down to it using short phrases and repeat these a few times to really drive the message home.
Number Six: Positivity Is The Way
Stay calm and don’t let continuous bad behaviour get you down. Children like to test you and spot your weaknesses and discipline is tough, but it has to be done and showing a weakness by letting them see they’re getting you down will only make them thrive so much more. When they sense there is a weakness, they stop taking you seriously and tend to test your already tin patience even more.
Number Seven: Control Your Emotions
Stating calm is never easy when you have a toddler screaming and crying and throwing themselves on the floor for the tenth time in an hour. By getting angry or upset, your emotion will block the message. Be calm, firm and straight to the point when tackling bad behaviour.
We have learned with Amelia that if we try to soothe her or get frustrated and tell her off it just makes the situation a whole lot worse. The only way to stop her tantrums are to distract her with something new.
Always remember that discipline needs to be carried out straight away after an action that displeases you as a parent. If you wait then a toddler will forget what they have done wrong and will think they’re being told off for the last thing they have done which may not actually be bad.
Ages & Stages
You can get an idea of effective disciple for each stage your child here:
- 18 Months Old – Curiosity is key. This age group is fearless and doesn’t understand that actions have consequences. Are able to follow simple instructions but unable to communicate needs effectively.
- 2 Years Old – Motor skills are developing and he is using these to test limits. Children of this age group are prone to become easily frustrated when they struggle to get their point across. Expect lots of tantrums but don’t expect him to share.
- 3 Years Old – You may find your child at this age is a real little chatterbox and loves to be with other children. At this age your toddler will have loads of energy, understands right from wrong and that actions have consequences. As a parent you can give more detailed explanations when disciplining at this stage too. As a way to release all of this extra energy you find yourself having to keep up with every day, try taking him to classes such as karate or boxing or dance – even swimming lessons.
We are planning to take Amelia to attend some gymnastics and ballet classes a few days a week in order to use up some of her energy. She already has so much but her attention span is nil so she wont really be able to join in at this age. I’m really excited to see how Amelia deals with having to take authority from a stranger and I think this will be a good transition into school life.
What age and stage is your little one at, and how do you effectively discipline your toddler?