Every parent has been there….found themselves in deep negotiation with their 2-year-old over whether he can wear his cookie monster shirt 5 days in a row? What parent has not, at one time or another, taken a “walk of shame” out of the grocery store when their child throws themselves to the floor with a tantrum? Toddlerhood is a hard time for many parents because this is the age at which children become more independent and discover themselves as little people that are independent. BUT – although they may be able to communicate well, many have limited ability to reason.
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Here are some secret tactics I gathered from various moms on how to discipline your toddler:
1. Think Like a Toddler
Toddlers aren’t mini-adults. They have trouble understanding many of the things we take for granted, like how to follow directions and behave appropriately. Try to see the situation from your child’s perspective and help prevent a tantrum.
Giving choices also shows that you respect your toddler and recognize your child’s feelings. In a way, this can make your child feel as though he or she has some control over the situation while you remain in charge.
2. Avoid Stressful Situations
By the time children reach the toddler stage, you’ve spent enough time with them to know what can set them off. The most common ones are:
- Being tired
- Quick changes in location
With a little advance planning, you can avoid these potential “meltdown” scenarios and keep things relatively calm. If you can, try to make sure your child is home at naptimes, bedtimes, and mealtimes. If you are out, always keep food on hand in case of a sudden hunger attack.
3. Try Distraction
Fight the urge to raise your voice at your child when he or she acts up, because your tone will either make your child distressed or curious. Instead, quickly and calmly get him interested in another activity. This is especially a good tactic for toddlers who fall down and get a “boo-boo.”
4. Be Consistent
You and your spouse also need to be on the same page when it comes to family rules. Sending your child mixed messages about whether she’s allowed to get up from the table while everyone is eating or splash you in the bathtub will only confuse and frustrate a child.
Try to keep to the same schedule every day. That means having consistent nap times, mealtimes, and bedtimes, as well as times when your toddler is free to just run around and have fun.
5. Keep It Positive
If you say the word “No!” to your child all the time, he may start to tune you out — or worse, begin using it himself when he doesn’t want to do something. “Save ‘No!’ for situations when safety is involved.
6. Praise Good Behavior
Sometimes, toddlers act out because they lack communication skills — and it’s a surefire way to get your attention. That’s why you should always let your child know you’re pleased whenever he does something that you like or remembers to follow one of your rules.
7. Know When to Give In
Certain things in a toddler’s life are nonnegotiable. A child has to bathe, eat, brush teeth, and ride in a car seat. Hitting and biting are never OK. Pick your battles.
8. Do the Best You Can
Finally, know that it’s OK to feel stressed out by your toddler sometimes and that you do the best you can. There are good days and bad days, but as long as you parent consistently, you are doing all you can.
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