Toddler Discipline

Susie McGee

No parent wants to think about toddler discipline.

Remember when you could easily soothe your crying infant by rocking or feeding her? She'd snuggle into your arms contentedly and gaze into your eyes. Today, she is a rambunctious toddler, searching for new adventures and relishing her increasing independence. Don't get in her way! She'll let you know if she needs you! However, while your toddler is learning new skills every day, she doesn't always know what is best for her. She doesn't have many fears, and she thinks she can do almost anything. How do you discipline your toddler?

Reasons for Toddler Discipline

Many parents will testify that the first word out of their baby's mouth was an emphatic "No!". This may be true. After all, as your toddler becomes more mobile, she'll probably hear this word a lot from you. Part of the reason she uses the word "no" so often is because she has become a little parrot, mimicking every word she hears. The other reason has to do with her ever growing sense of independence. She is learning that she has a mind of her own, and she won't listen to anyone else! Can you reason with a toddler? Not really. So, you'll have to rely on toddler discipline.

The Problems

Power struggles are common among toddlers and their parents. A toddler thinks he should be able to do anything he feels like doing, whether it is pulling the lamp off the table or eating dirt. When you tell him no, it frustrates him. He doesn't understand why you don't think that the activity that he is doing is as much fun as he does!

Toddlers also want to do things by themselves. This may mean that when you try to take his hand to cross the street or walk across a parking lot, he immediately tries to pull away or falls to the ground like a limp rag doll.

Bedtimes may become a struggle because your toddler believes he is missing out on something wonderful as soon as he is put to bed. He may howl in protest, or later in the night cry for you to come and get him out of his crib, or he may leave his toddler bed.

The Solutions

How can you practice toddler discipline if you can't really reason with him? As your child grows and matures, you will eventually be able to reason with him, giving him explanations for why he can or cannot do a particular activity. Until then, you'll have to be more creative in your disciplining.

One of the most important points to remember is to choose your battles. This will hold true for your child as he becomes a toddler, and it will continue to hold true all the way through his teenage years. Try not to continually tell your child "no". Obviously, there will be reasons why you must use this word repeatedly, especially if you are trying to prevent your toddler from being injured. Go ahead and explain why you are telling him no, even if he doesn't understand you. He will soon.

There are some advocates who maintain that spanking a child is the best form of punishment. How far can the spanking go, however, and just what are you really teaching your child? Swatting him on the hand and telling him "no" when he reaches for the oven knobs might be all it takes to stop him from this action, but what if firmly taking his hand, looking him in the eyes and saying "no", then removing him from the scene worked just as well?

Distraction can go a long way towards removing the power struggles that occur between you and your child. If there is something your child wants and can't have, tell him no, then distract him with another activity.

As your toddler matures, she will better understand what a loss of privilege means. Timeouts are a great way to discipline. If your child isn't playing well with other children, remove her from those children, place her in timeout, and be sure to tell her why. If she continues to misbehave, tell her that she can no longer play and leave.

Who's In Charge?

Your toddler needs to understand that you are in charge, not she. Once she understands this, many of her behavior problems will disappear. You should be fair and consistent in your disciplining. If she can't act right in the grocery store because she wants a toy, don't buy her that toy, instead take her home. How you react to each situation will govern how that situation will play out. Remember, you are the parent, and she is the child!

Toddler Discipline