Parenting: How to teach discipline to a toddler

By Alison King

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How do you discipline your child?
How do you discipline your child?

What do you do when your child starts to bite you? Do you bite back or do you respond differently?

This question came up for me quite recently and garnered a variety of answers (and could have got quite heated had we not already been of the opinion that different parenting styles are just that: different, not wrong).

It got me thinking about how I will discipline my boy.

At 19 months he's starting to get mischievous but only in terms of discovery; discovering his own limitations as well as what his behavioural boundaries are.

So how do you discipline?

I asked this question on the Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page and we received many different answers ranging from a naughty corner or step, through to "a little smack on the hand and a stern no".

What stood out was the term consistency.

"Do it and be consistent!!" wrote one reader.

"Be consistent, firm but fair, wrote another. "Also be realistic in your expectations. They are only little. And model the behaviour you wish to see. Little people are like sponges and will imitate you! Be kind, be patient."

Another parent responded with "tackle the behaviours with consistency, and not the child".

So what have we done?

To be honest not a lot, but what we have done so far is be consistent. Mum and Dad will not be played off against each other and whatever we say, will go. But that's not to say we will be the strictest disciplinarians in the city.

When it comes to behaviour we have tried to promote behaviours we want to see in our boy as he grows up.

He knows that if he hits the cat, or pulls his fur then he's not going to like the consequence, hence he no longer does this and instead strokes the cat nicely.

He's the same with dogs, even though we don't own one and he doesn't have regular contact with canines.

He has hit us in the face, pulled our hair and tried to yank at my glasses.

Through all of this he has never received a smack, or been yanked away into his room.
Instead, we have given him a sincere "no" and made it clear that his behaviour has hurt - looking shocked and saying "ouch" has an impact on a mind so young.

The PhD in Parenting website has a great page on disciplining a toddler and describes discipline as a path, not a quick fix.

It also makes clear, and this is something that I think many people do get confused about:

"Discipline is about teaching, not punishment".

"Just as you wouldn't punish your toddler for not being able to read as soon as you explain the concept of the ABCs, your toddler also isn't going to understand right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, safe and unsafe, the first, the second, the third or even the ninety-ninth time that you explain it.

"I think of toddler discipline as a process. Kind of like 'wash, rinse, repeat', except that you're never really done."

The author of the blog, known only as Annie, a mother of two, said she likes to use a three-step approach involving the three R's - Repetition, Reaction and Reassurance.

Repetition is to:

Explain what they shouldn't be doing. Not just a simple "no", but actually describing what they shouldn't be doing to ensure that it is clear what you are talking about

Explain why they shouldn't be doing it, in plain, simple language

Suggest an alternative

Reaction is to be on the ball. Watch "your toddler carefully enough that you can react and catch them before they get injured or destroy property".

Equally, it also means to control your own reaction. Staying calm and being patient is key, Annie says.

The final R is Reassurance - toddlers need their parents to reassure them that everything is going to be okay.

"They are learning and developing fast and that can be overwhelming. Part of reassurance is also ensuring that your toddler knows what to expect and what is going to happen next."

PhD in parenting can be found at here

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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