OH, BE­HAVE

Steer your angsty tod­dler in the right di­rec­tion with th­ese dis­ci­pline strate­gies. By EVELINE GAN

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

Which dis­ci­pline strate­gies work best for your tod­dler’s tantrums? Here’s what you must know about the dif­fer­ent types.

Your two-year-old bites, re­fuses to take a nap and seems bent on test­ing your nerves. Wel­come to tod­dler­hood, where an­gry out­bursts and open shows of de­fi­ance are not un­com­mon.

While you would not want to stifle your tod­dler’s in­nate cu­rios­ity to ex­plore and ex­per­i­ment, dis­ci­pline – the act of teach­ing your child the right be­hav­iour as well as cor­rect­ing the un­de­sir­able as­pects – is in­te­gral to rais­ing a suc­cess­ful child.

How you in­ter­act and en­gage your child while dis­ci­plin­ing her can af­fect her psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional de­vel­op­ment, as well as your re­la­tion­ship with her, says par­ent­ing coach Donus Loh, a con­sul­tant psy­chol­o­gist at W3ave.

“Dis­ci­pline is not just about get­ting your child to be­have in a ‘cor­rect’ way,” says Donus.

Rather, it helps your child make sense of her feel­ings and emo­tions. Dis­ci­pline also fos­ters un­der­stand­ing of the bet­ter ways to ex­press frus­tra­tion and anger, and pro­vides more pos­i­tive so­lu­tions or al­ter­na­tive strate­gies for your child to ex­press her­self, shares Dr Tzuo Pei-Wen Sophia, di­rec­tor of Emile Preschool.

So, when’s the right age to start? Based on in­ter­na­tional stud­ies, par­ents can start dis­ci­pling their chil­dren from the age of two, says Dr Tzuo.

How­ever, Donus says it is pos­si­ble to start ear­lier too, from the time your baby can re­spond to vis­ual and sound cues.

“For in­stance, we can elicit smiles and giggles from our ba­bies through smil­ing and us­ing high-pitch coos, and thus re­in­force ‘good’ be­hav­iour. And when we are un­happy with ‘bad’ be­hav­iour, we tend to show an un­happy face and deepen our voices,” he ex­plains.

Here, the ex­perts share some dis­ci­pline tech­niques that may help steer your feisty tod­dler to bet­ter be­hav­iour and how to use them in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions.

POS­I­TIVE DIS­CI­PLINE

In­stead of yelling, scold­ing or nag­ging, pos­i­tive dis­ci­pline fo­cuses on the plus points of her be­hav­iour. Pro­po­nents of this dis­ci­pline method be­lieve that it is pos­si­ble to re­in­force good be­hav­iour in a kind, en­cour­ag­ing but firm man­ner.

The child also learns to prob­lem-solve and han­dle sit­u­a­tions more ap­pro­pri­ately. But note that this ap­proach is not a quick fix, say the ex­perts. It takes time, pa­tience and con­sis­tency for it to be ef­fec­tive, adds Dr Tzuo.

SIT­U­A­TION 1

My two-year-old re­fuses to share her toy

Tell your lit­tle one that it is okay if she is not ready to share that par­tic­u­lar toy, Donus says.

“Some toys are more ‘im­por­tant’ than oth­ers, so find out how im­por­tant that toy is to the child. And see if there are other ‘less im­por­tant’ toys that the child is able to share and en­cour­age her from there,” he says.

A par­ent who uses pos­i­tive dis­ci­pline will also model good be­hav­iour. Fos­ter the cul­ture of shar­ing in your daily life and be a role model, Dr Tzuo says. “For ex­am­ple, tell the child that Mummy shares with you, and you can also share with Mummy.”

SIT­U­A­TION 2

Ev­ery nap­time is a bat­tle

Es­tab­lish a pos­i­tive rou­tine with a fixed se­quence of typ­i­cal daily ac­tiv­i­ties be­fore nap­time. Praise your child when she achieves each step of the rou­tine, Dr Tzuo says.

Find out why your lit­tle one does not want to nap. For ex­am­ple, if she wants to play, you could al­low her to do that, but spec­ify a time limit.

“Put a five-minute timer on and say once the timer rings, then play­time ends and you will have to go take a nap. But first, you have to en­sure your child is agree­able to this com­pro­mise,” Donus says.

There may be other pos­si­ble rea­sons why your tot does not want to sleep, some of which may not be dis­ci­plinere­lated – for in­stance, they don’t feel tired enough to sleep be­cause of a lack of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, or they may be eat­ing too many sweets that make them feel hy­per, Dr Tzuo says.

SIT­U­A­TION 3

My kid bites or hits when­ever she doesn’t get her way

Un­der­stand why your child is bit­ing – is she an­gry or fear­ful? – and then model the proper be­hav­iour and/or lan­guage to ex­press her feel­ings in a more ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner, says Dr Tzuo.

“For ex­am­ple, you may teach your child to say ‘no’, call a teacher or walk away rather than bite or hit,” she says.

An­other hall­mark of pos­i­tive dis­ci­pline is to also help the child un­der­stand how it might feel to be bit­ten or hit. A way to do this is to through read­ing and story-telling. As you read the story, help your child un­der­stand how the dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters might feel, Dr Tzuo adds.

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