Thinking About It Thursday: Postive Discipline
My baby is all grown up!! The toddler years are upon us and I am about to have a hernia stressing on the decisions involved with disciplining my son. My mind is a whirlwind of options. I’m really counting on you guys to comment here if you have suggestions, tips, tricks, questions, or sage advice of any kind! Here are the things I think are important as far as discipline goes:
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. As I embark on this journey, I want to confidently start with the big picture of my discipline plan in place. Nothing loses a kid’s confidence more than inconsistency, idle threats, and lack of follow through.
- Flexibility is important. As Miles grows and develops, I fully understand that the discipline strategies will have to adapt. Like most things with kids, what works today is not guaranteed to work tomorrow.
- Expectations are better framework than rules. In the last 8 years of teaching, I learned that high expectations and active discussions about good choices are much more useful in molding respectful, capable kids than a laundry list of rules and DONTs.
In true nerdy mom fashion, I went to the library to get my mind around some discipline strategies for toddlers. (If you haven’t noticed from many of my posts including the one on sleep training and the one on soothing, I’m a bit of a reader). This time I turned to: Positive Discipline, The First 3 Years. Since you may not have to time read the whole thing, here are the 6 main take aways that I’m working on right now. Please don’t forget to leave me comments with your best toddler discipline tip!
6 Tips for using Positive Discipline with a Toddler
- Be firm, but kind: Kids shut down when you are too hard or unreasonable, but they also spiral quickly out of control when you are too lenient or wishy-washy. Firm and kind is the way to go.
- Teach confidence through purpose: Maybe the Puritans were on to something in some small way when they said that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Giving Miles little jobs around the house keeps him busy and out of trouble and also teaches him that he is a valuable member of this family. Right now, he just turned one so his jobs are: to push the laundry basket from the laundry room to the living room, count the coffee scoops, and stir dinner. He loves doing these things and takes great pride in them. Hopefully this sets up a norm for later chores and responsibilities. Do your kids do chores as part of your positive discipline strategy? How does that work out?
- Distract: Trouble in the grocery store, the church pew, the waiting room, or the kitchen while mom is cooking? Instead of getting frustrated while expecting a toddler to sit still and “act right”, plan distractions in the forms of small toys, games, or songs that will pass the time. It is not reasonable from a developmental perspective to expect toddlers to sit still and quiet for a long period of time. We alternate at the grocery store between holding the dry pasta for mama and playing a game where we put both hands in the air like we’re on a roller coaster whenever I randomly count to 3.
- Redirect: “No” is a somewhat abstract concept for young ones. We have to say no when something is dangerous, inappropriate, or unacceptable for whatever reason, but with toddlers it is good to say no you can’t do this, but you can do that. For example, instead of just saying “No, you can’t play in the trash can and slapping his hand”, I try to say “No, you can’t play in the trash can, but mama will sit down with you and play with this special toy over here”. For me, the “no, but” strategy works well with young kids and with older kids I like to explain using “no, because”.
- Offer limited choices: Empower kids with making choices, but make sure that they are limited so that as a parent we are still in control of the situation. It makes sense to ask a child, “do you want to color at the table or play with blocks on the rug?” It doesn’t make sense to ask, “do you want to go to day care today?” Don’t ask an open ended question that can easily lead into a power struggle or defiance situation.
- Allow safe exploration: Autonomy develops by allowing kids to explore their world and try new things in a safe environment. Autonomous kids feel confident and competent without having to act out for attention.