Every parent reaches a point where their little one suddenly isn’t just their cute and helpless baby anymore, but is now a bouncy toddler. So what happens when she’s suddenly climbing coffee tables, yelling no at you (even if she means yes), and having tantrums because you won’t ride that escalator one more time?
Realizing the need for discipline
It seems to always come as a shock for new parents when their little one, who was barely sitting up alone and drooling 6 months ago, is suddenly running around like a maniac. It’s even more shocking when ‘toddleritis’ sets in and you hear her yell ‘no’ for the first time, or see the first tantrum. It’s a heartbreaking moment for parents when they realize that maybe it’s time to start disciplining their child in order to break bad habits early.
Can you even discipline a toddler?
Now that you know your toddler may need some discipline, where do you even begin. I was curious and started asking around and contacted friends, doctors, online message boards, and even my own mother. The truth is, no, you can’t really discipline a toddler. Studies show that children don’t really understand the point of discipline until they’re at least 3 years old, and even then, they struggle with the concept. I’ve personally tried time-outs, taking away a favorite toy, and speaking sternly, and nothing seemed to phase my daughter.
So what’s a parent to do?
The first thing a parent should probably do is come to terms with the fact that disciplining a toddler before the age of 3 is probably a lost cause. Once you are resolved to that fact, it’s time to think about how to get around that, because obviously, you can’t allow some behaviors to continue.
Is it worth the battle or not?
One major question you should ask yourself as a parent: should you really pick this fight? Because honestly, that’s how it feels when you’re trying to discipline a toddler. But some battles are definitely not as important as others. For example, if she’s picking books off her shelf and throwing them over her shoulders, is it worth to start hollering about the mess she’s making? The answer is probably no, because most toddlers are just looking for attention, and if you give them just that (even if it’s negative), they’ll most likely continue their activity because it’s working for them. However, if she’s climbing furniture or reaching for the stovetop, intervention is definitely a requirement.
What options are there?
There are a few options for parents with young toddlers. For instance, if your toddler is climbing things, explain calmly that it’s dangerous and that you don’t want her to get hurt. Then pull her down from the piece of furniture. But if she continues to try to climb, try redirecting her attention to something else and get involved in her play. After all, she may be acting out that way to try to get your attention anyway. And distraction is a very important tool for the very young.
Another option is get her out of the situation entirely. For instance, if she’s playing with her brother and starts claiming that everything in the room is hers, then maybe it’s time to move the kids to another room entirely and change the environment.
Is the ‘N’ word really that bad?
I’ve heard comedians make jokes about how much we use the word ‘no’ when we become parents. And we’re constantly told by specialists on toddler behavior that it’s best not to use the word (since it doesn’t really mean much to a toddler). But is it always a bad thing?
In some cases, not really. And it all depends on tone of voice as well. If you make it almost playful, it tends to resonate with your child and they remember that something is off limits. For instance, my daughter just LOVES torturing one of our cats by pulling on his tail. But I used the word no to make up a silly little rhyme that she tries to sing every time she goes towards him and I remind her not to be mean. (And for those of you who are curious, the rhyme goes, ‘No, no, no….let him go’.) Silly? Sure, but it works!
When to seek help
It’s pretty normal for a young toddler to start acting out and testing boundaries. It’s even normal for them to look you right in the eye and do something they just KNOW they’re not supposed to. But all that aside, if you really feel like something is just off, and feel that your child has behavioral problems that you can’t handle alone, by all means, see a pediatrician. A parent should always follow his/her instinct when it comes to their children.