Anyone else have that recurring nightmare where you have a baby throwing a fit because you took away your phone, and now he is laying face down in the carpet screaming? Oh wait that happens when I'm awake? Right. Today we're talking toddler tantrums and if it's possible to really discipline your 1-year-old effectively... Or effectivelyish.
Disciplining toddlers is going to be a personal thing for each parent, because our personalities and relationships with our children are going to be unique across the board. What works for one, will probably not work for another. What I really want to talk about in this post is using positive discipline as a way to help teach toddlers how to manage their emotions, use their words to express frustration, and recognize when certain behaviors are unacceptable or inappropriate. And for all those nay-sayers out there who say that my toddler doesn't know the difference between right and wrong, just come to my house and watch him look me dead in the eye as he puts the fifth piece of dog food in his mouth...after being told not to five times. Trust me! He knows. It's important not to expect a child who is one and a child who is four to be disciplined the same, but across the board I hope these tips will help to make your home a little happier.
First off I think there's an important thing that we all (yes, myself included) need to hear: The word "no" will not always save you. We have all had the days where it feels like "no" is the only word that comes out of our mouth. When it comes to teaching my toddler not to touch things like the electronics, light sockets, or cleaning products, saying "no" and removing his hand or him from the area is what helps to reinforce what I'm saying. If you feel like your child is choosing not to listen, then the "no" method isn't working. You can try lightly tapping their hand, or another method I have used in a school setting was shouting loudly "STOP!" or "NO!" The shout will usually scare the child into stopping, which works as an effective discipline. Keep in mind that the shouting technique won't work as well if you are constantly shouting. No judgements over here, I promise. Try only using this method for the things that would hurt your child or another child, to make sure they understand why you're getting upset.
Another method that can often work for young children is stressing that they take a break. This is just a nicer way of saying, "you're in a time out!" The reason I like to use the word break is it helps the child to understand they need to take a break from the situation and take a break to calm down. It can even be looked at in a positive way. A good rule of thumb for taking a break is one minute for each year. So if your toddler is one, they take a one minute break, if your child is 4 they take a 4 minute break. Depending on your home set up you may want to have your child sit with you on the stairs for their break, or even have them be in their room. The whole point is to remove them from the tantrum site, and stress to them that they are acting inappropriately so can return when they have calmed down. Setting a little timer can also help to let them know how long they have left in their break, and once the timer goes off be sure to explain to them a better way to react next time.
A great way to discipline a young child (and please don't roll your eyes) is to ignore the behavior when possible. When your toddlers biting another child at the splash pad this is probably not a good time to use the ignore method, but for tantrums at home or even in public places like the grocery store, ignoring a child can often be just as effective as a reaction on our part. Do your best to tell your child that you hear them, but that you don't listen to sad, mean words. Or that you'll be able to listen once they calm down. With my toddler, I will often say, "Mama will wait to hear sweet words." Which is my way of saying I'm not reacting to your behavior. Now if you have a thrashing toddler on the ground at church you will have a tough time standing by and not making eye contact. But where applicable or appropriate try your best to wait it out.