Disciplining Toddlers – Six Top Tips

Wondering how to navigate through the terrible-twos? Take a look at our six top tips for disciplining toddlers effectively and find out what works best.

The terrible-twos are called the terrible-twos for a reason: disciplining toddlers can be incredibly testing for parents to say the least. However, there are some tried and tested methods to shape your child’s behaviour which will make enforcing discipline that much easier.
Problems with toddlers principally arise due to difficulties in communication. They will understand the word “no” and can see when you are angry, but do they understand and respond to discipline? The trick is to tailor your discipline to them in a way they will understand.
Here are six tips to keep in mind:

  1. Connect Before You Correct
    The most important thing while disciplining toddlers is to show them that even though it’s never okay to do what they did, you still love them. This will make them much more receptive to what you have to say. Do this by first making a physical connection. For instance, put your arm around them and try to empathise by saying “Wow, you were really angry, weren’t you?” See whether they can explain why they misbehaved / why they were angry. Then ask them what they could do next time or give them alternative actions. Act out more suitable ways to behave.

  3. Be Your Child’s Role Model
    Children are observational learners: they will imitate everything they see you do. Therefore, showing is often more effective than telling. If you wait patiently for cars to stop at a zebra crossing, your children will learn to do the same. Try to practise good behaviour modelling as often as you can, and you will notice that their behaviour will begin to align itself to yours.

  5. Redirect Their Attention to Avoid Trouble
    If you sense that a problem is about to arise, redirect your child to another activity. This is a great method for toddlers. If your child can begin redirecting themselves, as they get older, they will be more prepared to avoid many problems of adolescence.

  7. Practice Makes Perfect
    Explain to your toddler that everyone needs to practice things to get them right. Hold practice sessions for anything, such as a trip to the supermarket, a meal in a restaurant or calming down after a tantrum. Give your full attention without any other children around and rehearse situations. Make practice sessions a fun experience.

  9. Count To Three
    Toddlers find it difficult to understand ‘if…/then…’ comments, such as, ‘If you continue to do this, then you will sit on the naughty step’. They will, however, understand a counting system. You will be able to start using the ‘counting to three’ system when they are about 18 months old. If your child argues back when you tell them they can’t have a cookie before dinner, say, ‘That’s one.’ If you get to three, your child gets a predetermined consequence. It might take a week or 10 days for a toddler to understand this method, but your child should soon stop the bad behaviour at count one or two.

  11. Avoid Yelling and Spanking
    Evidence has shown that yelling and spanking do not increase positive behaviour or decrease negative behaviour. It often only makes things worse. Spanking causes pain, and while it interrupts a bad behaviour at that moment, psychological research does not support its benefit as a parenting strategy. People don’t learn while in pain. The only way people learn is when they feel safe. Furthermore, spanking can lower your child’s self-esteem, academic achievement, peer relationships and conflict resolution.

All things considered, remember that as you discipline your toddler, that the most important point of discipline is education.

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