Welcome to part 2 of Toddler Discipline! In case you missed it, click to read part 1.
I’ll be honest, this one is my kryptonite. I know that if I can just stay calm and think things through, that I am very good at dealing with toddler behavior problems. However, once I lose my temper, that’s when I start yelling and giving consequences that are completely ineffective. (ex. Since you spilled that milk, you can never drink milk again for the rest of your life. Ever!) Okay, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, just stay calm. If you need to walk into another room and take a deep breath or a couple deep breaths, do it. It is much easier to discipline a toddler when you have a clear head.
Toddlers want to do things all by themselves. They love independence. There are so many choices in a toddler’s day that they don’t get to make (bedtime, what to eat for lunch, where they are going in the car, what time they can play, etc.). When you are doing something that your child doesn’t have a choice about (like bedtime) try giving them something they can choose. Like this, “Would you like to wear your socks to bed or your slippers?” Or, “Do you want to choose the book we read before you go to bed?” Toddlers want to be independent, so give them lots of choices throughout the day. It will help to mask all of the choices that you are making for them. ;)
Whatever discipline method you choose (natural consequences, time outs, etc.) just be consistent! That also means that you get your spouse on board with you. Make sure your kids are hearing the same things from mom and from dad. If your spouse gives a consequence a little differently from you, be supportive of it in the moment. Later, (after the kids are in bed or you know they cannot hear you) talk to your spouse about the consequence and discuss how you might want to change it in the future. Be consistent with your method and be consistent between parents. Remember how I said kids love to test boundaries(see part 1)? If you are inconsistent and your kids get different results when they test a certain boundary, they will just keep breaking the rule (or testing the boundary) until they get consistent results.
Know Your Child’s Limits
When your child is too tired to think, they will not behave well. Try letting them take a nap before you give a consequence. If they are hungry, try feeding them. You know your child better than anyone. If you can tell his or her limit has been reached, then don’t expect perfect behavior. Usually the best thing to do is to let them take a nap, or feed them, or give them whatever they need. However, there are times when you can’t do that or when you have a good reason not to do that. A few years ago, we went to Disneyland as a family. My kids were getting way less sleep then they normally did, their meal times were off the schedule they were used to, and they were tired from being in the hot sun. I knew that if one little thing set them off, it would all go downhill from there. So, I did my best to keep them happy at all costs. They got a bit more sugar than usual and they got a bit more privileges than usual. But you know what, they had a blast. They were spoiled a bit in Disneyland because I did everything I could to keep them happy. However, once we got home, things went right back to normal and they didn’t expect the same kind of treatment at home as they got in Disneyland.
Check back on Friday for part 3 of Toddler Discipline with the final four ideas!