Try these 15 dis­ci­pline tricks

Dear par­ent, you will be tested by your tod­dler. You need a strat­egy to pass the many tests that lie ahead. We put Me­lany Bendix on it:. Here’s the plan...

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

1DON’T: RE­SPOND IN ANGER

You’re wast­ing your time and mak­ing things worse, ac­cord­ing to tod­dler wran­gling ex­pert Ann Richard­son. Ann, who is a spe­cial­ist nurse prac­ti­tioner, par­ent coach and au­thor of Tod­dler Sense (2011, Metz Press), ex­plains that tod­dlers who are “mis­be­hav­ing” are too caught up in the emo­tion of the mo­ment to take in any­thing, so it’s best not to re­act in anger no mat­ter how an­ger­ing their be­hav­iour may be. “Try to take a big breath and stand ab­so­lutely still or turn your back and walk out of the mo­ment,” she sug­gests.

2DON’T: HIT

“This will only teach your child that hit­ting is a way to be­have and to re­solve con­flict,” stresses Ann (see “To smack or not to smack” over­leaf for more on why it’s not a good idea).

3DON’T: EN­GAGE IN CON­FLICT

A back-and-forth “fight” be­tween you and your tod­dler is never pro­duc­tive. “Re­mem­ber, you are the adult and your child is look­ing to you for bound­aries and guid­ance,” says Ann.

4DON’T: EM­BAR­RASS OR HU­MIL­I­ATE

This can be any­thing from shout­ing at him, drag­ging him out of a shop­ping mall or im­i­tat­ing his tantrum. That doesn’t mean you have to stand by and do noth­ing, notes Ann. Only that you need to act in a calm, non-ag­gres­sive way: for ex­am­ple, in­stead of drag­ging him out, carry him out calmly and talk to him gen­tly while do­ing this.

5DON’T: BRIBE

A bribe is re­ward­ing your child for stop­ping un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour (for ex­am­ple, “If you stop scream­ing I’ll buy you an ice-cream”). It’s a bad quick fix that will cause prob­lems in the long run. As Ann ex­plains: “Brib­ing teaches chil­dren that there is al­ways some­thing for some­thing, no mat­ter whether they have been ‘good’ or ‘bad’.”

But be care­ful not to con­fuse brib­ing with re­ward­ing your child for pos­i­tive be­hav­iour us­ing meth­ods like star charts and bean jars. This type of in­cen­tivi­sa­tion is a pos­i­tive and ef­fec­tive dis­ci­pline tool, es­pe­cially among older tod­dlers/preschool­ers who bet­ter un­der­stand de­layed gratification.

6DO: LAY DOWN THE GROUND RULES

Chil­dren need clear, firm bound­aries in place in or­der to feel se­cure, so don’t be shy to lay down the law! Cape Town­based child and ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­o­gist Anel An­nan­dale be­lieves it’s im­por­tant not to have too many rules to obey oth­er­wise chil­dren get con­fused, so try not to ex­ceed 10. “Keep the rules sim­ple and dis­cuss them with your child reg­u­larly so that he knows what to ex­pect and also what is ex­pected of

KEEP THE RULES SIM­PLE AND DIS­CUSS THEM WITH YOUR CHILD REG­U­LARLY SO THAT HE KNOWS WHAT TO EX­PECT AND ALSO WHAT IS EX­PECTED OF HIM

him,” she ad­vises. “Also make sure that ev­ery­one in­volved in rais­ing your child – from grand­par­ents to nan­nies – knows firstly what the rules are and se­condly what the con­se­quences are for dis­obey­ing the rules.”

7DO: EN­FORCE THE RULES

Con­se­quences need to be im­ple­mented ev­ery time and im­me­di­ately, stresses Anel. “Telling a tod­dler that he will be dis­ci­plined later in the evening for a rule dis­obeyed in the morn­ing has no im­pact. Even if you stick to your threat and dis­ci­pline the child later, he will have for­got­ten about his un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour ear­lier and will feel that you are be­ing cruel and un­fair,” she ex­plains. “He is also likely to con­tinue with this un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour in the fu­ture as he has not fully made the con­nec­tion be­tween his ac­tions and the con­se­quences for these.”

8DO: BE AU­THOR­I­TA­TIVE

“Be the voice of au­thor­ity: it makes chil­dren feel safe,” says Ann. Be­ing au­thor­i­tar­ian, how­ever, isn’t help­ful. What’s the dif­fer­ence? Au­thor­i­ta­tive means you set clear bound­aries and are con­sis­tent in re­in­forc­ing them, but you are also com­pas­sion­ate, sup­port­ive and em­pa­thetic to your child’s needs and emo­tions. Au­thor­i­tar­ian means what you says goes, no mat­ter what. Think of it this way: au­thor­i­ta­tive means guid­ing your tod­dler down the right path; au­thor­i­tar­ian means march­ing your tod­dler down it, mil­i­tary style.

9DO: POS­I­TIVE EN­COUR­AGE­MENT

Tod­dlers like to feel im­por­tant, help­ful and proud of their achieve­ments, so you’re go­ing to get a lot more out of prais­ing pos­i­tive be­hav­iour than zoom­ing in on the neg­a­tive. It also helps to phrase in­struc­tions pos­i­tively by telling them what they should do as op­posed to what they shouldn’t do. For ex­am­ple, say “Show me how you stroke the cat softy with gen­tle, golden hands” as op­posed to, “Don’t be so rough with the cat!”.

10DO: EN­SURE A GOOD EAT­ING & SLEEP­ING ROU­TINE

Be­ing tired, hun­gry or sug­ared-up can have a huge im­pact on your tod­dler’s mood. Stick­ing to a healthy bal­anced diet and a reg­u­lar sleep rou­tine can head off tem­per spikes. “Avoid­ing su­gar is a good idea,” sug­gests Ann. “If you don’t buy the junk then they won’t ex­pect it, be­cause they haven’t seen you buy it, store it or of­fer it.”

11DO: LEARN TO SPOT OVER­STIM­U­LA­TION

Over­stim­u­la­tion is one of the big rea­sons chil­dren have melt­downs. If you know what your tod­dler’s overstimulated signs are (such as ear pulling, eye rub­bing, ir­ri­tabil­ity, whin­ing, ag­gres­sion), you can re­move her from the sit­u­a­tion be­fore she reaches the tip­ping point. “Each child has a unique per­son­al­ity – you can’t change that,” notes Ann. “But you can change the way you help her to man­age in her world.”

12DO: CRE­ATE CALM SPA­CES

Ann says she has seen time and time again how hav­ing a calm, safe space to go to when your tod­dler’s feel­ing overstimulated can bring his tem­per down from boil­ing point to room tem­per­a­ture. Here’s where a time-out can come into play. Used cor­rectly, a time­out is a tool to help your tod­dler calm down and self-reg­u­late his emo­tions. It’s also one of the few dis­ci­pline tools that pro­vides a good al­ter­na­tive to a smack while giv­ing the par­ent a chance to calm him­self or her­self down.

13DO: VALUE THEIR EMO­TIONS

Hav­ing a full-blown melt­down be­cause you pushed an­other child on the swing may seem ridicu­lous to you, but re­mem­ber that your tod­dler’s emo­tions are very raw, real and pow­er­ful. Al­ways value the in­ten­sity of his emo­tions and don’t scold or pun­ish him for sim­ply hav­ing neg­a­tive emo­tions such as jeal­ousy or anger.

14DO: EMPATHISE

Try to un­der­stand what your child is feel­ing and ac­knowl­edge that feel­ing (“I know you are cross right now”). How­ever, Ann cau­tions against con­fus­ing em­pathis­ing with ex­cus­ing un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour – the two are not the same and you need to make this clear and fol­low up with the con­se­quence. For ex­am­ple, “I know you are cross right now, but that doesn’t make it okay to hit your sis­ter. You need to have a time-out now.”

15DO: IG­NORE TANTRUMS

“Eas­ier said than done, I know,” sym­pa­thises Anel, “but ev­ery time you re­act to your child’s tantrum, be it by giv­ing in or by be­com­ing up­set your­self, you are re­in­forc­ing this be­hav­iour.”

“Rather stay calm, look at your child and say in a sweet, low voice ‘Honey, I can’t un­der­stand you when you scream like that. Once you have calmed down I will lis­ten to you,’ and then sim­ply walk away or carry on with what you were do­ing,” she ad­vises. “Your child will prob­a­bly scream even louder the first few times, but even­tu­ally he will be­gin to re­alise that he is sim­ply not get­ting any re­ac­tion from you and will aban­don this method of at­ten­tion seek­ing.” YB

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