Dis­ci­pline with­out the whin­ing

Want to set those all im­por­tant bound­aries for your tod­dler, but just can’t face the grous­ing? Here’s how to lay down the rules with­out the power strug­gles

Your Baby & Toddler - - Front Page - BY ED­U­CA­TIONAL PSY­CHOL­O­GIST CARA BLACKIE

Bound­aries are vi­tally im­por­tant for your tod­dler, even though it may be tough as a par­ent to en­force them. When ad­e­quate bound­aries are in place a child feels safe and sup­ported. Th­ese guide­lines also help your tod­dler learn what so­cially ac­cept­able and un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iours are, and he’ll walk away with self con­trol and self dis­ci­pline after it all – even set­ting lim­its for him­self in the fu­ture. But all too of­ten this ex­er­cise ends up in a to­tal tod­dler melt­down, mak­ing you won­der if it’s even worth all the work. The truth is that set­ting th­ese lim­its is cru­cial, es­pe­cially for a solid, grounded child in the fu­ture – and they needn’t be a night­mare to lay down.


It’s very im­por­tant to un­der­stand your child’s de­vel­op­men­tal age and what rules are im­por­tant at that age. Be con­fi­dent in your de­ci­sions and pick your fights care­fully. For ex­am­ple, if your tod­dler does not want to get dressed in the morn­ing be­cause he wants to watch TV, rather set the limit where no TV is watched in the morn­ing at all, as this pre­vents con­tin­ual ar­gu­ments. But when it comes to choos­ing what child-friendly show he watches dur­ing his al­lot­ted TV time, it’s not ac­tu­ally worth ar­gu­ing, is it?

Try to note when your tod­dler tries to push the bound­aries. If it’s at the shops or around friends, think ahead and plan strate­gies to try re­duce the amount of fight­ing or whin­ing. It’s also im­por­tant that any be­hav­iour that places your child or oth­ers in harm’s way is con­trolled im­me­di­ately – a non-ne­go­tiable.


Tod­dlers want to be in charge of their lives, but the re­al­ity of be­ing in con­trol is also quite fright­en­ing and over­whelm­ing. By giv­ing your lit­tle one choices and not just re­spond­ing with a “no” to his re­quests, you are al­low­ing him some con­trol over his life. This also has an ef­fect on his fu­ture in­de­pen­dence. If you keep telling your tod­dler what to do, how will he learn for him­self what the right thing is? The best way to let your tot feel like he has con­trol with­out giv­ing him free reign is to let him choose be­tween two op­tions. For ex­am­ple, let him choose what to have for break­fast, but make sure he only has two things to choose from (so, he can have ce­real or fruit with yo­ghurt).


Ever no­tice how your tod­dler of­ten only plays with things for short bursts of time? That short at­ten­tion span comes in es­pe­cially handy when your tod­dler is hav­ing a tantrum or is at risk of hurt­ing him­self or oth­ers, where he may not be able to con­trol his be­hav­iour. Re­move him from the sit­u­a­tion – pick up your tod­dler and place him far away from the item or per­son caus­ing him dis­tress. Even plac­ing tod­dlers in time out can as­sist them to move away from the up­set­ting sit­u­a­tion so they can try to calm them­selves down.


Tod­dlers just love to push the bound­aries, and are watch­ing you to see how you re­act. Sooner or later you will get angry and you will want to shout at or smack them. Try to re­sist this im­pulse, though, as it is never good to dis­ci­pline in anger.

Rather get down to your child’s level and talk to him in a warm, firm tone about his be­hav­iour. But don’t ex­plain the rea­son for the rule you made or why his be­hav­iour has been un­ac­cept­able more than once – re­peat­ing your­self only adds to your frus­tra­tion and gives your tot the op­por­tu­nity to try and con­vince you oth­er­wise. Sim­i­larly, it is point­less to try to rea­son or ar­gue with your tod­dler. It’s im­por­tant to not ex­plain the rea­son for the limit more than once. Just about no one would make an ef­fort to be­have ap­pro­pri­ately if they were con­tin­u­ously rep­ri­manded for what­ever “bad” be­hav­iour they’d done. So in­stead of fo­cussing on what your tod­dler is do­ing wrong, point out what he’s do­ing right. Ac­knowl­edg­ing the pos­i­tive changes in your tod­dler’s be­hav­iour can go a long way to so­lid­i­fy­ing the trend. Re­ward charts are help­ful, but should only be used to ac­knowl­edge pos­i­tive be­hav­iour in the few rules he’s still strug­gling with. Other than that, there’s no bet­ter re­ward than your love and en­cour­age­ment. YB

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