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Toddlers and Discipline
by Rebecca Garland

When you have a toddler, you soon realize that gentle reminders and warm smiles aren’t going to work all of the time – especially when your little one realizes that it is much more fun to break the rules than go along with them. Young toddlers present a particular challenge however, as they are too young to have the kind of consequences we think about – time outs, thinking chairs, etc…but still need to have some sort of recourse when they try to climb on the kitchen table or refuse to come to you when you call.

Typical Toddler Behavior
It is important to realize that most young toddlers act in certain ways that are extremely frustrating to their parents. Tantrums, obstinate behavior and deliberately doing something they know is wrong while smiling at you knowingly are designed as tests to discover their limits and their surroundings.

They want to know what will happen if they run away instead of running to you when you call them sternly. In many cases, they think it is a terrific game to have mom or dad run after them toward the street calling frantically. It is the parents’ duty to find a way to communicate to your child that certain behaviors are not acceptable, but to do it in a way that makes sense with the child.

Redirecting – For the challenging behaviors, you gain more by redirecting your child than you do battling it out with them. The child isn’t an unruly teenager hell bent on breaking your spirit. You’re just dealing with a toddler who stole the remote and won’t give it back. Until your child can understand punishment for not returning something, you would do well to redirect the child and recover the lost remote.

Grab a favorite toy or a special, interesting object and make a big deal about it. Your naturally curious toddler will be interested, too. Simply take the remote and hand her the new object. Thank her for the remote and go on about your business.

Rewards – Punishing a young child before the age of two can be tricky. Immediate punishment, such as having something taken away makes sense to a child, but a system of counting to five, explaining consequences, offering a warning, having a time out and then apologizing is beyond their grasp.

So rather than go through the full punishment gambit, help your child fix the situation and praise her when she does what you want her to do. This teaches her limits just as well as punishment by showing her what you expect, perhaps it teaches her even better. For example, the child that spills her drink on purpose might simply have her cup taken away. When she protests, hand it back and help her to hold it correctly all the while praising her lavishly.

Mantras – Your young toddler is learning the ways of the world and she’s almost desperate to please you. This is the time to gently affirm what she needs to know by using what amounts to mantras for the day to day. Phrases like, “We always hold hands crossing the street,” and “We always wash our hands after playing outside,” will make lasting impressions in your child’s mind and cause far fewer battles down the road.

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