Now that we have touched upon tantrums, biting, and hitting, it seems appropriate to tackle the next important topic—discipline. In the toddler years, most parents not only have to ponder their feelings on discipline, usually based on their own experiences in childhood, but also actually put their philosophies into play with their young children. A toddler's developmental "job" is to explore the limits—to test her environment (meaning YOU) as far as it will go. This can really push parents' buttons.
Setting limits is critical for your toddler's understanding of working with others in the world. Though you may be tempted to give in to the wail or alligator-sized tears, be strong and pick your battles. Ultimately, setting limits that are consistent and predictable makes children feel safe and helps them progress in developing skills in self-control. Remember to give praise when your child follows the house rules accordingly.
What Does Spanking Teach?
Hand in hand with discipline is acknowledging the challenges and frustrations with parenting. It is very important for parents to find a means to express this frustration in a safe way for themselves and their children. We emphasize this need because for some parents, spanking is a response to this sort of frustration under the guise of disciplining a child. There are many reasons why parents spank. It may be a behavior that is ingrained in one's culture or be passed down through generations.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly condemns spanking as a discipline method. And many experts believe that swatting or spanking teaches children that disrespect, pain, and violence will get them what they want. A spanking alternative? Good 'ole communication.
Explain in a way that is appropriate for to your child's age what she is doing that is not okay and why she must stop. "When you pull the cat's tail it hurts her. You must be gentle. If you cannot stop yourself, I will stop you." If communication is impossible, try a diversion: "Look at the big blue bird out the window." When all else fails or your child is seemingly out-of-control, then try a time-out. Remove your child from the situation. The rule of thumb is one minute for each year of age. But try to avoid abusing the time-out; it is not meant as a punishment or to cause shame.
If you feel like your blood is boiling and you need a break from your child—place your child somewhere safe (such as a crib) and give yourself five minutes alone to calm down. This is a normal response in parenting—one that other parents certainly acknowledge and can appreciate.
More Development Help
As you're considering your child's development, keep in mind that all children are unique. Whether your child reaches milestones early or late, she has her own developmental path to follow. The dividing lines between these months are very fuzzy. If you have any concerns or questions about your child's development, please check with her healthcare provider.