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Learning About How to Discipline Your Toddler

What are some tips?

Discipline may seem like a big word for a small child. But loving discipline teaches your toddler good behaviour.

Here are a few ideas you might try.

  • Make a plan.

    Family, other caregivers, and teachers may have different ideas on how and when to discipline a toddler. A plan helps everyone know what to do and what to say to help your child learn. Share your plan for discipline with everyone involved in your child's care.

  • Try parenting classes.

    "Effective parenting" classes are offered in most areas. You'll learn how to encourage your child's sense of responsibility, nurture self-esteem, and strengthen your parent-child relationship. Ask your doctor or call area schools for more information.

  • Set limits, and be consistent and calm.

    Setting limits helps your child have a sense of security. Make sure you're consistent as you set rules. This means that no matter how tired you are, the rules still apply. Example: Your family has decided that candy is off-limits. You're tired after a long day. You make a quick stop at the store. Your child starts screaming for candy. But you stay calm and firm even in the heat of the moment.

  • Notice the good and focus on positive behaviour.

    If your toddler only gets your attention when they're behaving in ways that are not okay, they may continue these behaviours because they need you to notice them. When you focus on your child's positive behaviour, you're likely to see more of it. Be specific, such as saying something like, "Thank you for putting away your toys. Now no one will trip or hurt themselves." This will have more effect than a simple "Good job!".

  • Treat your child with respect.

    Think about what they’re trying to do, listen to their point of view and help them learn what to do next time. This is how they learn to treat you and others with respect.

  • Explain and repeat.

    When your child does something that is not okay, tell them what they did, why it's not okay, and what they can do next time instead. Let your child know that you accept their feelings, even if their behaviour is not okay. Know that your toddler won't remember things you've told them before. A toddler's brain is still forming connections in the thinking part of the brain. You may have to repeat what you say many, many times for those connections to get strong enough for them to remember.

  • Spanking is not recommended.

    Physical punishment such as spanking isn't a useful way to manage behaviour. It teaches a child that physical force is the way to resolve conflict. It can embarrass your child. And it can make your child resent and not trust you. Many years of research on physical punishment has shown that it has no positive outcomes for children.

  • Use consequences.
    • Logical consequences. This means that the discipline fits the action. If your child writes on the wall with crayons, have the child help you wash it.
    • Natural consequences. These are results that happen naturally and are safe for your child. For example, if your child throws ice cream on the floor, they don't get to eat the ice cream.
  • Redirect your child's behaviour.

    Distract your child when they misbehave. If your child has trouble sharing a toy, show them another toy.

  • Build your child's self-esteem.

    It's important to reassure your child that it's the behaviour that is not appropriate, not them. Catch your child being good, and encourage that behaviour.

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