4 Positive Discipline Techniques to Use with Your Toddler
We've all been there – our kids are acting wild, cranky, out-of-control, or just plain not listening. It's enough to make a parent crazy. What many parents don't realize is that good behavior does not come naturally to young children. Rather, they need to be taught about what is expected from them and learn how to exercise self-control even when they really don't want to leave the playground, go to bed, stop playing with their sister's toy, etc.
Complicating things can be a child's naturally strong-willed personality, frustration with not being able to communicate their wants and needs, and inability to act rationally at times simply because their brains aren't yet fully formed. With a recent study showing spanking is ineffective and has long-term negative consequences for children, it is important to find alternate forms of discipline that not only work to correct the bad behavior, but do not have a lasting harmful impact on children.
According to Richard Peterson, CFE; Vice President of Education at Kiddie Academy it’s crucial for parents to recognize these limitations and also set up rules.
Peterson recommends a few key ways to correct negative behaviors that will help get your child on the right path for the future. Remember that these rules—including a parent’s or caregiver’s follow-up actions—allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (as well as what is not) appropriate behavior.
Use positive reinforcement.
Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior, or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things he or she is doing, so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. It's great to “catch” your child playing nicely, sitting at the dinner table, getting ready for bed without a fuss, etc. Children crave love and attention and are more likely to repeat the behaviors you praise.
Be simple and direct.
Give your child constructive feedback instead of simply telling them what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group. For example, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your young child, “We’re gentle when we pet the cat like this,” versus “Don’t pull Fluffy’s tail!” Remind children of expectations beforehand. For example, when going to a restaurant remind children before going in that we always use our inside voices when eating dinner or that chairs are for sitting on (not standing or climbing on). You can even promise a trip to the playground the next day where your child will be allowed to be loud and run around with a reminder that ladders are for climbing.
Don’t use the age-old concept of “Time Out”.
Many Kiddie Academy and other preschool classrooms have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. Sending a child to a “feel-good” area and emphasizing that they are there to have some alone time rather than as punishment removes the child from a situation that’s causing them distress, provides much-needed comfort, and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own. Alone time can involve playing with a favorite stuffed animal or looking for books. This helps teach children self-control and self-soothing, especially at times when they may be acting out because they feel overwhelmed or frustrated.
Use “No” sparingly.
When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying “no.” Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of the child taking note. For example, rather than shouting “No, stop that!” when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it’s more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, “Food is for eating. What are we supposed to do when we’re sitting at the dinner table?”
These methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for.
What kinds of positive discipline techniques do you use for your toddler?