Is Your Toddler A Terrorist? Try Positive Discipline!
What is positive discipline?
Positive discipline is a method of shaping your child’s behavior that’s simple, respectful, and effective.
With positive discipline, you can improve your child’s behavior without using shame, timeouts, or other traditional punishments. Oh yeah, and contrary to popular belief, using positive discipline doesn’t mean that your child will get away with everything. With positive discipline, you can respect your child’s feelings without letting them do whatever they want.
Positive parents are:
· Firm, but kind
· Flexible, but consistent
· Respectful, but authoritative
It’s a tough line to walk, but the tips outlined in this guide will help you manage your child’s behavior more effectively without sacrificing your relationship. Keep reading to learn how to turn your good intentions into results!
How To Get Started With Positive Discipline
The first thing you have to do to get started with positive discipline is change your mindset. Discipline should never be seen as an opportunity to “win” a battle against your little one. Instead think of positive discipline as a chance to work with your child to find a solution to the problem – together.
Maybe the problem is that your toddler just bit another kid in their playgroup. Or maybe they throw a tantrum every single night at bedtime. Whatever’s going on, there are a few key principles to keep in mind when it comes to managing your toddler’s behavior, like:
1) Say yes when you can, and no when you need to
Pick your battles. Kids who hear “no” all the time will start to tune it out eventually. And that won’t play out well for either of you.
At the same time, say no when you have to. Your toddler can’t climb up the bookshelf, run out into the street, or stay up all night. But try to say yes when you can, even if it’s not your first instinct. Maybe little Jenna can wear her ballet tutu to the grocery store today – why not? Or maybe you can find time to take a quick trip to the park later.
Try to save your no’s for the big stuff – the things that impact her health, safety, or wellbeing and work on saying yes more often.
2) Don’t negotiate with terrorists
Toddlers throw tantrums. It’s what they do – they’re still new to this whole being a person thing, their emotions are intense, and they’re learning the often complicated rules of the world around them. It’s not easy.
That being said – and this is one of the most important things to be consistent about as a parent – you need to teach your toddler that tantrums don’t work. That means that when your precious angel cries and screams for you to buy them that toy that caught their eye in the store, it’s so important to say no and stay firm every single time!
Well, toddlers are brilliant social scientists. They will test you to see what actions get them what they want and which ones don’t. If asking for something calmly doesn’t work but throwing a fit does, what do you think they’re going to try the next time they want something? Yeah, they’ll scream until you give in. So, if you remember one thing from this post, make it this: Tantrums = a hard “no” every single time.
But that doesn’t mean that your child’s tantrums are always a calculated effort. Sometimes you need to –
3) Help your child cope with their emotions
Being a toddler can be frustrating. Toddlers’ emotions are intense and they don’t have a solid understanding of their feelings yet, let alone the coping skills they need to manage their emotions effectively.
That’s where you come in.
When your child is experiencing an intense emotion, remember to:
· Stay calm: Your child will pick up on your reaction and feed off of it. Staying calm will help your child calm down more quickly.
· Be flexible: Your child may want you to hold them or give them a hug while they calm down. Or they may want you to leave them alone for a minute. Stay close by, but try to offer your child what they need from you – whether it’s affection or space.
· Model coping strategies: When your child is ready, model healthy ways to deal with their emotions. Some coping techniques you could model might be deep breathing, asking a caregiver for help, or distracting themselves with a fun activity.
4) Use natural consequences
The problem with traditional punishments like timeout is that toddlers don’t learn to associate their actions with the punishment they receive. Sure, they hit someone, then they had to sit in a chair facing the wall for a few minutes. But they don’t necessarily understand that those two things are related.
In order for any kind of discipline to work, your child needs to understand that there’s a relationship between their behavior and the punishment. Enter natural consequences.
Natural consequences are:
· Relevant to the situation
How do natural consequences work?
If your child throws their plate of spaghetti on the floor, then they help you clean up the mess. Because the consequence is related to the offense, your toddler learns, if I make a mess, I have to clean it up. As a parent, it can take some practice to start using natural consequences effectively, but once you figure it out, you’ll see a drastic improvement in your child’s behavior.
5) Prevent problems
Not all behavioral problems are preventable, but you’d be surprised how much toddler drama can be prevented with a little preparation and consistency. These are my favorite tools to use with toddlers when it comes to preventing behavioral issues:
· Rock-Solid Routines: Stick to a consistent daily schedule with your toddler, including mealtimes, naps, and other regular activities. This will (1) prevent your toddler from acting out due to tiredness or hunger and (2) help your child know what’s going on each day, which will make for a calmer, more agreeable toddler overall.
· Transition Warnings: Give your child frequent warnings before transitioning from one activity to the next and let your child know what that transition will look like for them. “In 10 minutes, we’re going to start getting dressed to go on a walk. You still have 10 minutes to play, or we could read a few books before you get dressed.” Rinse and repeat at the 5, 3, and 1 minute marks.
· Child-Choice: Offer your child a choice whenever you can. “Do you want to wear your pink bear shirt or the blue polka dot one today?” Keep it simple – just two or three choices, depending on your child’s age. And make sure you’re okay with whatever they choose – don’t offer them a choice when there’s only one “right” answer.
6) Embrace the magic of redirection
When all else fails, use redirection to stop your toddler from doing something you don’t like – like painting a crayon mural on the living room wall – and get them working on an acceptable activity – like coloring on paper.
Why does redirection work so well with toddlers? Well, telling your child what they can do is way more effective than just telling them what they can’t do and hoping for the best. Here’s what you need to know to use redirection effectively with your toddler:
First, read your toddler’s behavior & redirect appropriately
· Address your child’s needs. Why is he acting out? Say little Graham is throwing his blocks in the living room. What does he need?
· Maybe he’s feeling energetic and needs to find a different way to move his body. In that case, you could encourage him to throw a ball outside, or toss beanbags into the laundry hamper.
· If he’s throwing blocks out of frustration, he might need a different form of redirection. In that scenario, you could help him take a break and try an activity that will help him calm down, like reading a book or stretching.
Then, redirect your child to an activity they want to do
· If your kid is climbing up every surface in your home, redirecting them to a quick nap might sound tempting – but it isn’t your best bet.
· Successful redirection has to involve an equally appealing alternative to your child’s chosen behavior.
· So, maybe your toddler can’t scale the kitchen counter anymore, but they can go play on the climber at the playground. Your child gets to work on their climbing skills and you get to keep them safe. Win-win.