Discipline is often viewed as a form of punishment or a solution for handling a troublesome child.
Because it means to teach, discipline should not be perceived only as a way to dissuade a child from an undesirable behavior, but to teach the child the correct action or behavior for the next time they are in the same situation.
Discipline can be tricky with toddlers, as they have a limited understanding, and are very impulsive beings. Here are some tips to help:
Keep rules simple: choose only three rules that can be easily followed, such as: use kind hands; couches are for sitting; food stays on the table.
Use positive statements when correcting a toddler’s behavior. These statements should describe the type of behavior that you desire to see, such as: “we use kind hands;” “we share our toys”; “we eat our food.”
When there is a safety issue at hand, use “no” to reinforce the rule. Parents can say, “No running near cars; we hold mom’s hand” or “no climbing on furniture; we keep feet on the ground.”
If you use time out, the child can sit in a chair, stand by a wall or be placed in a playpen. Use the same method each time. One minute for the age of the child is appropriate – a 2-year-old can do two minutes of time out.
Choose wisely the battles you wish to pick. Toddlers are still learning about their world. They will test their boundaries – it’s a healthy part of development. Be firm and consistent on the rules you choose to enforce. On other issues that don’t matter as much, choose to be lenient.
Give the child chances to be good – and catch them being good. Positive praise for good behavior goes a long way in preventing the undesirable behavior.
Keep routines predictable and consistent.
Use logical consequences. If your child doesn’t want to change from pajamas into daytime clothes, tell the child that pajamas are for sleeping and put the child in their crib until they agree to change.
Create an environment that is conducive to being good. If the child’s play area is full of objects that they are not allowed to touch, they will be constantly told no as they explore and learn. Instead, move those types of objects to a different room so that the child isn’t tempted.
If you have to take an object away from your child, exchange it for something else instead of taking it away entirely.
Make sure that you are calm before disciplining your child. This will help to avoid yelling at your child.
-Mary Cannon is a program manager with the Arizona Partnership for Children (AzPAC) program, Parents As Teachers. AzPAC is a partnership between Catholic Charities Community Services and Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Arizona that provides family support through home visits, group connections, screenings and assessments, along with needed resources. Catholiccharitiesaz.org