It was impossible to think about your precious newborn ever turning into a sassy, defiant toddler, but we all know it happens-even to the sweetest, most congenial children. Hey-we all have our off days, right?
When your toddler begins this type of behavior, you may as well resign yourself that you are in for these episodes every now and again until they reach the age of…being out on their own. And then they still won’t listen to you all the time (take it from a mom who knows). Don’t despair, though. There are effective and age-appropriate ways to handle their misbehavior in such a way that they will think twice before repeating the offense. Okay, so maybe it will take a third, fourth or fifth ‘think’ before they catch on. The point is that they do eventually catch on…as long as you handle their discipline or punishment appropriately.
First of all, a baby under the age of 10-12 months should never be disciplined beyond the repeated ‘no’ and slap on the hands to teach them the necessity of not touching breakables, things that can burn or harm them in other ways and not putting things in their mouth that could possibly choke them or be poisonous.
Once they reach that toddler stage, however, you will need to be prepared to discipline your child. You need to remember, though, that a toddler’s defiance is usually the result of another problem. They may be scared, ill or simply do not understand what is expected of them. They may also feel overwhelmed at their surroundings. And then, yes, there are those who are simply testing their boundaries because that’s what they feel needs to be done.
For whatever reason, the first step toward discipline needs to be deflection. Try to deflect them away from the situation by drawing their attention to something positive. This will work much of the time, but when it doesn’t try one of the following:
- Remove the toddler from the situation
- Gently, but firmly holding them on your lap; speaking to them calmly, reassuringly but firmly stating what is expected of them
- Short periods of ‘time out’-one minute for every year old they are
- Taking away the item (toy, book, etc.) that is causing the problem
Once your children reach their preschool years, they are more aware of right vs. wrong and can be held accountable for their actions. Again, the discipline should be age-appropriate and fit the ‘crime’.
It is also important to remember that children this age are eager to copy your actions and will oftentimes do things like mommy and daddy (putting on makeup, going through the tool box, cooking, mopping the floor, etc.) to be helpful (or so they think). At times like this, it is better not to discipline or punish. They honestly didn’t see any wrongdoing in their actions.
The behaviors of a preschooler that need disciplinary action include:
- Not sharing
- Lying, cheating
- Talking back and arguing
Proper discipline for a preschooler’s misdeeds include:
- Talking with your child about their misdeeds: why it was wrong; what they need to do to make retribution and not repeating the offense
- Time out
- Removing your child from the situation
- Withholding a favorite toy, TV time or another privilege for their misbehavior
Elementary aged children
- Elementary aged children are beginning to think for themselves more and more. And with this thinking for themselves comes a fight for independence.
It’s important to allow them a certain amount of independence, but at the same time, you need to teach independence within boundaries and with respect for those boundaries and authority. This is done by allowing them to spread their wings a bit via overnights with friends, earning an allowance and allowing them to spend part of it as they choose, making choices in regards to what they wear, what activities they participate in (within reason) and to pursue a hobby of their choosing.
When your child does act out, however, the appropriate disciplinary measures include:
- Loss of privileges
- An act of kindness for every act of unkindness or disrespect
- Additional chores
- Verbally expressing their acknowledgement of their wrongdoing and asking forgiveness
Tweens and Teens
As your children grow and mature, their need and desire for independence, expressing their own thoughts, feelings and discovering who they are is both natural and important. But this time of discovery, like every other phase of their life, needs to be handled with lots of firm but gentle love and care.
It is important that you allow your children to grow their own passions and interests, that they are allowed to grow and mature at their own pace-as long as it is within the boundaries and expectations of your household.
When they do need discipline, the most acceptable forms of discipline include:
- Loss of privileges
- Loss of allowance
- Extra household chores
- An act of kindness for every act of unkindness
- Withholding items that are near and dear to them: IPOD, computer, etc.
Remember what discipline is
Discipline is meant to teach appropriate behavior and to instill the fact that: for every action, there is a consequence. Discipline is not meant to humiliate, cause pain nor is it to be used as ‘payback’. In other words, discipline is firm and gentle love and with the intention of teaching your child how life is to be lived rather than using it as a control mechanism.
READ: How to discipline your baby: 8 Things to keep in mind
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