Forget rocket science and brain surgery– motherhood is the world’s most difficult job. The intricate science of childhood discipline is probably the most passionately debated topic relating to child-rearing. As the mother of a spirited, gifted, and at times challenging toddler, I often struggle to find effective discipline techniques that are both effective and emotionally beneficial to my daughter.
Here are a few positive discipline tips that I’ve learned. These work well for my spirited toddler.
1. Teach– don’t punish. In contemporary culture, the word “discipline” is used almost synonymously with “punishment,” but it doesn’t have to be this way. The word discipline actually pertains to education, not consequence. Just as teachers discipline their pupils, it’s your job to discipline your toddler. Make a point of explaining the reason for every rule you enforce. Instead of putting your toddler in time-out for running with scissors, use a paper doll to demonstrate the utensils’ dangers. It will be more effective and will create less of a power struggle.
2. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. How would you react if your toddler hit you? Although some parenting experts encourage parents to remain stone-faced and calm, I’ve found it better to react dramatically. Act hurt. Cry. Say that your child has hurt your feelings. Your toddler won’t learn empathy by seeing no reaction when he acts unfairly. A dramatic, emotional reaction will teach your toddler far more effectively than a poker-faced call for a time-out.
3. Keep it nonviolent. Even as someone who opposes corporal punishment, there are times that I’m tempted to spank. There is a firm consensus among pediatric, legal and psychiatric organizations that corporal punishment is both ineffective and harmful to a child’s moral and emotional development. If you must impose consequences because of your toddler’s actions, keep them violence-free. Your toddler will be more likely to comply and less likely to be violent toward his peers.
4. Fight boredom. Many cases of toddler misbehavior are related to boredom. A toddler’s mind needs near-constant stimulation; otherwise, he will inevitably turn to trouble as a method for entertaining himself. If your toddler is trying to fingerpaint the walls, don’t let him– but do provide him with a clean canvas and some washable paints. Provide your toddler with guidance so that he understands the difference between acceptable and unacceptable games. Enable him to find safe, mess-free methods to occupy his mind.
5. Praise the right things. Try to avoid praising your toddler for things that she can’t control, such as being cute or smart. Instead, remind her of your approval when she does something that demonstrates good character. Be specific when you do this. Instead of chirping, “Good sharing!” at a play group, say, “I saw how happy Ben was when you let him play with your truck. That made me proud to be your mommy.” This type of positive reinforcement that creates an environment conducive to learning and moral development.