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Parenting Advice

Toddler Discipline 101

Written by Mindy White

Photography by Photo by Jo Frances

One thing we know: Toddlers are tough. So, how do you properly discipline without becoming the “bad guy?” There are clever ways to teach your kid to obey without seeming like you’re forcing them to do anything. We’ve gathered a list of ideas below that you can use to help your children live an learn without losing their cool in the process.

Set Limits. Children love to explore, and although we want them to, boundaries offer protection during those adventures. If you firmly set limits to an activity or confined area, allowing the child to play or explore, they will feel as though they have the freedom they crave. Children also seem to have a since of pride in knowing and reciting the rules, so make sure they are well aware, and praise them when obeying.

Be Consistent. Kids feel safe and secure with a routine, this means it’s your job to keep them on schedule for mealtime, nap time, bedtime, and even playtime. This way, kids will expect the changes and not fight you when it’s time to go nite-nite. It’s also important to be consistent with discipline. You aren’t a terrible mommy for using (and meaning) the word “no.” Use it every time your little one does something she isn’t supposed to, and explain why. This way, she learns that mommy makes the rules, instead of the other way around.

Respond Accordingly. A lot of times, toddlers have meltdowns because of the way that we respond as parents. Take for instance, your little one grabs something dangerous or messy, and you want to stop them before it ends up in a disaster. Make eye contact and divert the child’s attention to something else they’d like, and trade off. If it’s a food or toy item that they’re wanting, ask them if they’d like help opening it. Once they see that mommy is there to help, they will learn to ask before doing it themselves.

Be A Role Model. How we act is what our child learns and becomes. If you respond anxiously to a problem, they will too. If you get mad and act out, they will too. Remember that everything you do is being watched and repeated, so focus on keeping calm, using patience, and staying positive.

Pick Your Battles. If you’re always saying “no,” kids can start to want to rebel. You have to make them feel like they’re winning, even if they’re not. If your little one makes a mess, instead of shouting “no” at the point and time, tell him that he will be using his playtime to clean up his mess, unless he does it now. Decide what’s most important to you, set rules, and follow through with discipline. Ease up on things that are less important and more just annoying, which are habits that your kiddo is likely to outgrow.

Follow through. When your child decides not to listen to your rules, you must reprimand him or her, and do it immediately. If you wait, the child won’t remember what he or she is in trouble for. Decide what punishment is fair for each problem, and stick to it. If you notice that kids don’t listen even after being punished, you haven’t made the consequences strong enough. Learn what things will make your child listen, including losing privileges, taking away toys, or sitting in time-out. Remember that kids should also always know to apologize after being reprimanded.

Praise. Kids love to know when they’re doing a good job. One of the best ways to enforce rules is to follow up with heavy praise–for instance, if you catch your child sharing a toy with his or her sister, staying away from “no touch” items in the house during play, or apologizing after doing something “naughty.” They will learn that they don’t have to misbehave in order to grab your attention.

Know The Triggers. Finally, you should make it as easy as possible for your kiddo to make the right choices. Try to avoid putting your child in situations that make him anxious, like surrounding him with things that he can’t touch, or taking him on long shopping trips when he’s tired or hungry. You don’t want to spend the whole day saying “no” and wearing out the word. This way, you’ll minimize his chance of getting into trouble.

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