Mom of two toddlers here! I love my little 2 and 3 years old boys. I have no problem playing with them, teaching them and loving them. However, I have a tough time disciplining them. I want to discipline my children in a productive manner that can encourage them to do better next time, but doesn’t lower their self-esteem.
Raising children is very difficult, but one size doesn’t fit all and every parent needs to figure out which discipline method works best for their child. Here are six tips to follow when trying to discipline your toddler.
1. Time Out
My three years is terrified of time out because he knows that means he has to sit there for 2 minutes and not play with his toys. So, time out is how I discipline him. While he is in time out I don’t just make him sit there crying and feeling bad about himself. I go over to him and talk to him. We discuss why he did what he did and how he could have handled it differently. Thankfully my three years old has amazing communication skills, so we can have an in-depth conversation about the mistake he made.
The “time out method” certainly doesn’t work for all children. My two years old thinks it is hilarious to go to time out. He will laugh and giggle and he proudly walks over to the corner and then he smiles the whole time. On top of this, he doesn’t communicate very well yet and so we can’t even tell him what he did wrong. The corner does NOT work for him. The corner isn’t meant to humiliate or to punish your child. The time out corner should be used for everybody to take a moment from the situation. They shouldn’t be treated like they are in exile. Talk to them the whole time they are in the corner of why they are in the corner.
2. Tell the Kids What They Should be Doing
Sometimes children aren’t trying to go against their parents. They aren’t trying to break the rules. Kids want to follow the rules, they want structure and they really want to make their parents happy. However, there are a lot of times while children are learning that they don’t know what they should be doing instead. It is very easy for us to scream “NO” as our child takes a step off of the curb and onto the busy road. It is easy for you to scream “NO” every time that your toddler pinches you to get your attention.
You have to remember that children don’t understand common sense as we do. They don’t know what’s wrong with stepping out into traffic. Why can’t they walk out onto the road? Why is a mom so mad about walking across the street? These may seem obvious to us, but not to toddlers. Sit down and explain to them why going out into the street is dangerous and why staying onto the sidewalk is safer. Tell them what they should be doing instead of what they shouldn’t be doing.
3. Pick Your Battles
Look, I know you want your children to be perfect little angels. I would LOVE to have my children do everything right all the time. I wish that they always got along with each other, they loved to read and play outside, they loved to eat their vegetables and they thrived on picking up their toys and keeping the house cleaned. Wow, that is life! However, they are children, they are people, and they aren’t perfect. They WILL make mistakes!
Although you may want them to do everything right all the time, they won’t. As a parent, it is your responsibility to pick and choose what is most important to you. Pick your battles. People may say this is lazy parenting, but it effective parenting. What if somebody followed you around everywhere you went and nagged at you while you made random mistakes? You would start having low self-esteem, you would feel frustrated and you would maybe feel like nothing you did was right! You might act out! This is how your children feel when you nag them all the time.
For me, my children have to use their manners. If they don’t use their manners then they don’t get to have what they want. They must use their “pleases” and their “thank you’s” but I am not going to force my children to give hugs. I am not going to get mad at my child for not giving somebody a hug if they don’t feel comfortable. Forcing my child to give hugs to people they didn’t want would be such a headache and would cause many tantrums. Think about all the things that you should just let go. Just let the kids be kids sometimes.
This is my hardest part of disciplining. Some days I am having a really hard day and so I let more things slide, because I don’t have enough energy to fight it. I hate when my children watch television for more than an hour a day… However, on days that our day isn’t going so well and the kids start crying and throwing fits because they want to watch a show I just give in and turn on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. This is not good for children, they just learned that they can throw fits and get to watch a show. Kids have a really tough time if one day you are okay with something and then the next day you get upset with them. They won’t understand the difference.
5. Stay Positive and Don’t Get Emotional
Being a parent is very difficult. Trying to avoid getting emotional when you need to discipline your child is sometimes impossible. It is hard to not get angry or be extremely tearful when your child has broken the rules once again. I am a stay-at-home mom, so I am alone with my children for 8 hours a day. When my husband gets home I am emotionally drained from chasing around 2 toddlers around all day.
By Thursday or Friday, I am so tired and my emotions sometimes get the better of me. I start disciplining with more anger rather than compassion; I start getting upset with tears rather than understanding. I have way better communication skills when I take a deep breath and talk to the child in a calm tone. Nothing gets done if I just scream at them. Screaming at my two years old literally does nothing and then he just gets his feelings hurt.
6. Let Children Be Independent
Parents are too busy trying to parent their children instead of just letting them be kids and grow! If your child wants to dress themselves, let them! Don’t spend 15 minutes fighting with them because you don’t think they should be wearing those pants with that shirt. It is important to let them be themselves and let them learn. They will never learn unless you let them. If you are always doing things for them then they never have the opportunity to learn how to do that activity.
I know several parents who are still pouring their 10 years old children’s milk because they are afraid that they will spill. Often, parents punish their children for wanting to do things themselves. We should be encouraging them to be independent and allowing children to feel in charge sometimes. It will actually improve your relationship and you will have fewer tantrums.
Discipline is all about listening, understanding and communicating with your children. Discipline should never spank your child, grab them by the arm and throw them in their room to let them cry by themselves. That solves nothing other than making your child fear you, have low self-esteem and have less trust for you. If your child is acting up, there is always a deeper issue and it is your responsibility to figure out the reasoning of their tantrum.