Welcome to the toddler phase, where you, may or may not, begin to second guess everything you had learned during your child’s first two years of life. Suddenly, all the things that worked fine when your child was a baby no longer apply to the tot standing in front of you.
Let’s face it: your toddler is now their own person. It’s a good thing because now, your child is developing their own personality. They are at a point where they are beginning to understand what they like and don’t like. And they are not afraid to tell you so!
On the other hand, now, you are also starting to learn why they call this phase “terrible.” In defense of little toddlers, they are not really terrible, just assertive. And curious. And fearless!
And prone to throwing temper tantrums.
Then again, your toddler is not rolling on the floor crying just to see your reaction. Your toddler cannot control their emotions because they are still too young to understand the big feelings that they are having, and they need your guidance.
In other words, it is up to you — the mature adult — to learn how to handle your toddler and guide them through this overwhelming stage. One of the ways to do this is through proper and positive discipline. Here are 7 toddler discipline tips to get you started!
1. Listen to your child.
Your toddler may not be able to communicate that well — yet — but trust us when we say they are always trying to tell you something. Train your ear to be sensitive when your toddler is trying to tell you something that concerns or worries them.
Prevent toddler tantrums by addressing these concerns — as long as they are reasonable — before your child erupts. If the concern is not reasonable (if they want to rearrange the cereal aisle, for example), explain to them gently that the grocery store has rules that everyone needs to follow. If possible, offer other options.
2. Model correct behavior.
Your toddler is probably the most observant human being inside your home right now, and it can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Little children learn best by observing other people’s behavior — your behavior — and copying them.
With this said, you should be paying more attention to what you are doing than what you are telling your toddler to do. For example, instead of just telling them to avoid shouting, you should avoid yelling yourself and put more thought into the words that you use.
3. Set reasonable expectations.
Even with the right positive discipline techniques, your toddler isn’t going to turn into a mature child overnight. Your toddler is a toddler, and even the most well-behaved tot can be triggered into throwing a tantrum or doing bad behavior.
Prevent triggers from happening by making sure your child is fed, well-rested, and just has the right amount of stimulation. If triggers cannot be prevented and your toddler begins throwing tantrums, talk to them gently instead of immediately yelling and scolding.
4. Be consistent with rules and consequences.
Babies thrive on consistency, and so do toddlers! When they are little, children benefit a lot from having regular routines as well as consistent rules. Whether it’s good behavior or bad behavior, you should respond consistently to avoid confusing your child.
For example, if you practice screen time rules, don’t make exceptions and let your toddler use a gadget for longer just because they are crying. Similarly, if you have always taken away a toy to stop a misbehavior, do it regularly to help them understand the lesson you are trying to teach.
5. Call out the behavior, not your child.
Expect your toddler to misbehave at times. It’s bound to happen and there is no toddler in the world who remains well-behaved 24/7. But when it happens, remember to call out the bad behavior, not your child.
Talk to your toddler and tell them that what they just did is bad, but never tell them that they are bad. Enforce the lesson by telling them that you love them but what they just did is not right. Explain why it’s bad and why it should not be done again.
6. Enforce time-out for broken rules.
For many children, the best method for positive toddler discipline just might be enforcing time-outs. Hitting and shouting are not only negative but also ineffective. Your toddler will not understand why you are hitting them or yelling at them, but they may think that it’s alright to hit and yell at other people.
If your toddler has broken a rule, remove them from the situation. This “time-out” will make your toddler understand that they have done something wrong. And because they are removed from the triggering situation, the timeout may also help them feel calmer. As a rule of thumb, give timeouts at 1 minute per year of age (for example, 3 minutes for a 3-year old).
7. Reward good behavior.
It’s important to call out misbehavior, but it’s also equally important to acknowledge good behavior. If you are always disciplining your toddler for bad behavior, it may result in them thinking that they are inherently bad. But balancing it out by rewarding good behavior will sweeten the bitter taste of discipline.
You don’t have to give your toddler sweets or toys as rewards. In fact, you don’t even have to give them anything at all. You can effectively reward good behavior by telling your toddler what they did that was good (saying out loud that they did a good job by keeping their toys after playing, for example) and hugging or kissing them. Plus points if you are able to acknowledge good behavior in front of other people!
Toddler discipline is tricky. You have to control bad behavior but avoid telling your child that they are bad. You have to prevent bad behavior triggers from happening, but if they do happen, you have to be prepared. And you should never forget to acknowledge good behavior, too! But don’t worry; all these become easier with time and consistent practice at home and in public.