5 Tips to Discipline a Toddler

Attempting to discipline a toddler can be a difficult task.  It can be difficult to know how much they truly understand and it is important to stay within the realm of their emotional development. Using a positive discipline method will help children to develop their own self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation, and problem-solving skills.  It is important to remember that punishment and discipline are two different things and punishment does not work.

  1. Be kind but firm

When you discipline a child, it is important to be kind but firm.  You want to be respectful of his or her feelings and encourage them to meet your behavior expectations. Remember that being kind is not being permissive.  Being kind means that you show respect to the child and to yourself.  Make sure you validate their feelings but have faith that they can get over a disappointment.

Many people mistakenly believe that being firm means the same as punishment or giving a lecture, but this is not so.  Being firm goes hand in hand with being kind.  Acknowledge the feelings of the child but still set the limits that you intend.

Phrases that are kind but firm:

  • It will be your turn soon.
  • I know you can help to think of a solution.
  • I know you can say that in a way that is respectful.
  1. Make the child feel connected

Children want to belong and feel significant.  Punishing a child for their behavior will not give the child a sense of connectedness with you.  Children will behave better when they have a sense of belonging because they are learning to respect you and the limits that you have set.

Children thrive when you can show empathy without condoning bad behavior.  They want you to understand how they feel in a situation so show empathy and share your own feelings and perceptions.  Help the child to find a solution so that that will have an idea of how to deal with similar situations in the future.

  1. Make sure it will be effective long-term

Punishment may have an immediate effect but the lesson will soon be forgotten, and the punishment can cause long-term damage to the child.  Punishment simply teaches children that misbehavior is ok, as long as you don’t get caught.  Positive discipline helps a child to grow and develop empathy while solving his own problems.

  1. Teach valuable social and life skills

Explain to your child that it is okay to make mistakes as long as a lesson is learned from them.  It is a life skill to be able to recognize that a mistake has been made and then apologize for it and work on a solution.  Children who are punished as opposed to disciplined are not learning the social and life skills that they need to behave appropriately.

  1. Time out

A time out can be a useful tool if you first teach a child the value of having a period of reflection and time alone to sort out feelings.  Time out should not be sitting in a corner but rather a time to go and sit and do something reflective.  Allow the child to choose a time out spot and a quiet activity as a way to wind down and refocus.

Remember that toddlers are just learning the skills it will take to interact with others and show empathy.  You can help teach them these skills through the use of positive discipline and help them grow and develop into a kind and caring contributor to society.



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