Which discipline techniques work best for toddlers?
Real Mom Problem
“I feel so lost & overwhelmed. It feels like I'm doing everything wrong. How do I gain back control?”
- 1. Research specific discipline methods recommended by the moms of CafeMom such as 1-2-3 Magic or Love and Logic to find a good fit for your family
- 2. Be consistent no matter what discipline style you choose
- 3. Reward and praise positive behavior
- 4. Set clear expectations and rules of behavior
- 5. Remove your toddler from a problem situation and redirect them to another activity when necessary
- 6. Explain what you want your child to do instead of focusing on what you don't want them to do
- 7. Set your child up for success by not putting them in situations where they're likely to misbehave
Real Mom Solutions
While there's no one-size-fits-all approach to discipline, the moms of CafeMom agree that there are some basic rules that can be applied with success, regardless of your discipline style. See how moms like you put these strategies into practice and make them work for their families.
Consistency is Key
For my 3 year old, we are very consistent with what we do. We usually just have to have a simple conversation with her, explaining to her what she is doing wrong and what better choices might be. That usually works. Other times, she has "one of those days" and refuses to listen all day. That's when we do 1-2-3 Magic. I have a very well behaved girl who has never thrown a temper tantrum at home or in public.
As a kindergarten teacher of children with learning disabilities, I can tell you that from the very beginning a parent must establish routines for their child and be consistent with expectations and consequences. If your child is defiant now, he/she will be more defiant as he grows. As a young mother, I needed to sit myself down and decide what I would allow and what I would not allow my child to do. I also wrote down consequences for breaking my rules. In this way, I was able to eliminate a lot of emotions that often surround misbehavior. It is tough and exhausting being a parent, but if you do the hard work when your child is small, the rewards will come. Don't Yak just Act.
I'm consistent. They know the rules and if they chose to break those rules for whatever reason, they know that there will always be a consequence.
Consistency is the MOST important thing when it comes to discipline. For toddlers, time outs usually work, but all kids are different. What ever you do, just make sure you are consistent. I also find that it helps to explain why they got into trouble and to give examples of good behavior. Part of consistency is doing what you say you are going to do. If you threaten something, make sure you follow through with it.
You have to find what type of discipline works for your child. My oldest responded best to time outs and my youngest responds best to having privileges taken away. If whatever a person is using isn't working, I suggest trying different approaches until you find what your child best responds to. Consistency is key with every form of discipline though.
Make Sure the Boundaries are Clear
First, we have reasonable age appropriate expectations. The boundaries are clear and consistent - the rules, while few, do not change. We view discipline as teaching.
We are always clear about what is expected and he knows he will be removed if those expectations are not met. Example: eating at a restaurant, you will stay in your seat until mom and dad are finished eating (most of the time he complies), if he tries to crawl out or gets loud, one of us will remove him and take him outside and sit in the car until he can calm down. Rarely happens, but works.
Adjust Your Language
I show them what to do, rather than what not to do. Example of what not to do: Don't use your fingers to eat. Example of what to do: use your fork to eat please.
I invite them to cooperate instead of ordering them around: "let's pick up our toys now" instead of "pick up your toys now!"
I make sure I tell him what I want him to do, and not focus on what we do not want him to do. I think if you are saying don't pour water out of the tub, they hear "pour water out of the tub" when they are little.
Praise Good Behavior
Use sticker charts and let the kids put the sticker on themselves (this is a reward itself) when the kids do something good.
Try rewarding positive behavior with a pom-pom jar or sticker chart. When you catch him being good, fill the jar with a craft fuzzy pom-pom and when the jar gets full, he has earned his favorite activity. Something simple, but special.
I always praise my son for minding with, "GOOD minding! You're such a big boy; you make mommy happy when you mind." Now, when he's doing something minor, instead of having a big frou-ha-ha about it, I can ask him, "Are you minding?" and he'll usually correct his behavior.
I give TONS of positive encouragement. I remind her when she has good manners or follows the rules. I tell her how proud those things make me. When she isn't listening, I CALMLY tell her that we need to follow the rules or watch our manners. Then I tell her specifically which rule or manner I expect her to work on. I ask her if she understands and she knows to repeat back to me what she needs to change. I do this while I am ON HER LEVEL - eye level. I do not yell. I do not spank and VERY rarely need time outs.
Prevent Problems Before They Start
I try to know what sets them off and avoid it if possible. Like, I know my daughter gets cranky when she's hungry, so I always try to have some sort of snack in my purse or bag. I know my son gets aggravated when his routine changes, so each morning while waiting for the bus I go over the plans for the day. But I'm always careful to let him know that "things happen" and sometimes life doesn't go as planned.
First we try to set up the environment for success. We look for ways to prevent issues. Then we move on to redirection and distraction. And last but not least is using logical consequences.
Avoid trouble. Don't put child into a situation where he/she will have trouble (like shopping during what should be naptime).