disciplining todllers

They did something wrong, but now they’re looking at us with big and sad eyes: Is there anything harder than disciplining toddlers?

No parent likes to get angry with their children, or to reprimand them, but it is sometimes necessary. Setting boundaries is important so our little ones grow learning what is acceptable and what is not, and so they learn important values that will allow them to be a part of society.

It is possible to teach them with love, but it is perfectly normal for our children to do something wrong, at some point. They can’t always have what they want, and it is important that we learn some discipline for toddlers so we can teach them to take a “no” for an answer. Whether we (and they!) like it or not, they will have to accept a “no” many times in their life, and if we don’t teach him that that is a part of life as well, they will have to deal with lots of frustration in the future. And this is one of the main reasons why disciplining toddlers is important.


Disciplining toddlers: The importance of setting boundaries

Boundaries are essential for children: Otherwise, how would they learn what’s right and what’s wrong? But that’s not the only thing why boundaries are important: They will also make our toddler feel secure, since they will constitute a set of guidelines for life, something they can count on. Besides, those boundaries will also give them some freedom to behave: They will teach them what they can and can’t do, so they will feel more secure to decide what to do within those limits.


Disciplining toddlers: Choosing our methods, and sticking to them

Of course, we can’t be too strict when disciplining toddlers, and we can change strategies if the ones we’re using are not working with our little one. However, we do need to stick to what we say, otherwise our toddler will be just lost.

For instance, let’s just think of the following situation as an example: We’re going to the supermarket with our child, who threw a real temper tantrum last week, when he wanted some colourful but unhealthy cereal we refused to buy. We don’t want that the situation repeats itself, so, before leaving, we explain to him that we won’t get the cereal for him, or anything else: We’re just going grocery shopping and we will buy only what we will need to eat this week.

But once we arrive to the supermarket, he wants a humongous bar of chocolate and starts showing the beginnings of a tantrum. Of course, we don’t want for it to happen again, but we do need to stick to our decision: If we first said no and now we say yes, our “no” will have less value, and it will be more difficult for him to understand. Same thing if we didn’t explain that we wouldn’t buy anything before leaving, he asks politely for the chocolate bar and we refuse. If he starts throwing a tantrum, we’ll have to stick to our “no” anyway. Children also try to set their own boundaries, and we can’t give in to them – otherwise, they’ll know what to do to get what they want! 

This example of disciplining toddlers can be applied in many situations. Our children need to know that they cannot climb on to the table; if we let them climb on to it sometimes and some others not, how will they understand that that is not acceptable behaviour? Disciplining toddlers is difficult, because it also means that we will have to discipline ourselves. We won’t always have the energy to fight a tantrum in the supermarket, and will be tempted to buy the cereal or the chocolate bar. But that will just make things more difficult to us in the future.


Disciplining toddlers: How to get them to understand a “no” 

There are a few techniques that can help us say “no” to our little ones without triggering a furious tantrum. You can try the following, and see if they work with your child or not:

  • Don’t yell at him: Say things without reprimanding them, being calm is always more effective than yelling.

  • Say what you’re saying no to: Especially when they are very young, it’s always good to specify what you’re saying no to: For instance, say: “No, don’t bite the settee”, instead of saying just “no”.

  • Explain why: Your little one may not understand why they’re not allowed to do what they wanted to do, so, when disciplining toddlers, it’s always better to explain. “Don’t take your coat off, you could catch a cold” is always better than just “don’t take it off”.

  • Make it positive: A good and productive way of disciplining toddlers is to turn a real “no” into a positive. For instance, if your little one asks you to ride the bike in the garden, but you’re about to eat, it’s better to say: “Of course, right after lunch you can go ride your bike” than just “not now”. The outcome will be the same one, but the effect and the perception of your little one will be different, and more positive.

  • Give him a choice: Let’s take the same example as before. Your little one wants to ride a bike, but it’s raining lots, so it’s clearly not the best option. Instead of just saying no; you can say the following: “It’s raining outside, what about playing with your train instead?”.

  • Make them take a time up: Sometimes, children seem to go completely crazy and go from one forbidden thing to another. It can happen sometimes! A good option in this situation is to tell your toddler to take a time out. It will give him sometime to calm down and it will give you a rest.

Some studies have proven that toddlers who hear “no” too many times a day show less language skills than those toddlers who have been raised in a more positive way. This is why it’s important to get creative when disciplining toddlers! Besides, saying no too much can end up being negative. Do you know how a word seems to lose its meaning when you repeat it too many times? Well, it can be the same when disciplining toddlers! If you say “no” too much, your little one will end up not caring about it.

How to discipline a baby

But does all this mean that we only have to star disciplining toddlers when they are actually toddlers? Absolutely not. Babies are babies, and children are children, and we need to let them be that – but boundaries need to appear as soon as our little ones start doing unacceptable things – and this may start before the toddler phase. Our baby will probably start crawling around 8 months, and they will be able to paint all over the walls or break stuff. We need to tell them that that is not OK.

However, how can we be sure that, being so little, they will understand what “no” means? It’s not recommendable to yell at them, but they will be able to understand that “no” means something different by how your voice sounds. Still, try not to overwhelm your baby with too much forbidden things and “no’s”. They may not understand, and it may make them feel uncomfortable with their new crawling ability, and it’s better for them to enjoy it.

The best thing to prevent them from touching what they’re not supposed to touch is to put it out of reach – baby proofing the apartment is a must when that little rascal is moving around! Another thing you can do is distract your little one with something else instead, or replace the thing they’re focused on touching or grabbing with one of their toys.

As you can see, there are many different techniques for disciplining toddlers. Do you have any other tip or trick? Don’t forget to tell us in the comments!


Need help? Ask other mummies in CaptainMums' forum!


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