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