Unfortunately, young toddlers do not have much of a conscience. It hasn’t begun to develop quite yet. So what do you do when your toddler bites or hits you? Or throws your iPhone in the toilet, or throws a clay potted plant down the marble staircase?
Before I share some thoughts on discipline for young toddlers or infants, let’s first consider deterring naughty behaviour in the first place. Positive reinforcement of good behaviour goes a long way to assist in encouraging our young ones to feel a healthy pull to look for guidance from caregivers and eventually learn to make decisions on their own on how to behave well. Young children require parents to teach them what good behaviour is. Children love to accept praise for behaviour displayed and therefore repeat acts based on the feedback parents and caregivers provide.
Ok, this is a good premise for an older toddler who has the capacity to wonder about consequences or rewards in advance. Positive reinforcement warrants a whole separate post. For now, I will focus on practicing positive reinforcement and insisting on consistency.
Tips: How to Discipline One and Two Year Olds
As our babies turn into toddlers we begin to think about discipline. No wonder; they start to get into everything at an alarming rate! We want to keep them from harm and also begin to teach our little ones what is right and what is wrong.
Unfortunately, young toddlers do not have much of a conscience. Conscience hasn’t begun to develop quite yet. So what do you do when your toddler bites or hits you? Or throws your iPhone in the toilet, or throws a clay potted plant down the marble staircase?
From the time around your baby’s first birthday, he is capable of understanding what the word “no” means. Your command of “no” may only be accepted at that very moment and may be forgotten later on. With repetition, your wishes will be absorbed, slowly, and your little one will understand in days, or weeks, or maybe even months. Consistent repetition is key. Say, “mommy doesn’t like that,” or “not allowed, dangerous,” or “that is not allowed, but you may have this, what does this do?”
Babies are mostly in favour of cooperating on a level they may not even know yet, but he is not ready for hard consequences and doesn’t understand your anger. Your child is not quite able to learn anything useful from your punishment so even if you are infuriated with your little one’s behaviour, if you are running late and he has decided to run and play chase, or even if your smart little person has figured out how to take his seatbelt off and you are on the freeway, yelling, harsh scolding, any loss of temper or even hitting of any kind will have no bearing on him. He does not understand any of your eruptions or relate the outbursts from you to any bad behaviour that you deem happening.
At this young age it is better to be clever and have a win-win scenario with your toddler. You can create the scenario. Tantrums are better to be avoided, if you can, until wee ones can get a better handle on understanding their emotions. At this stage, life can be very frustrating and everything is so very new to your infant. I recommend that you DO NOT try for absolute control and pick your battles. Perhaps life issues can be organised so that it seems like your little one makes a choice you can accept.
Foreseeing possible obstacles and areas that may bring you to the “red zone” with your toddler and instead leading him or her to the result you want and guiding him into behaving as you want him to behave can be achieved. See the rocks and steer around them. How do I do this? Distraction. Healthy distraction. I do not promise treats, nor do I give in to things I do not want to offer. No sweets, no extra time on electronics, and no, he cannot have everything he wants. I am armed and ready with alternatives.
For example, I know that getting my little one to leave the park is sometimes difficult, so I am prepared with his favourite blanket and a bottle of milk. I go to the park almost daily a couple hours before his nap. He is ready to leave the park and volunteers to sit in his stroller to enjoy his refreshment. It has worked so far and is a routine that is comfortable. He is tuckered out and welcomes the wind down.
Another example; after playing with numerous toys from my son’s toy boxes there is a massive mess to contend with. I want to teach my son to help me and pick up his things when finished playing. If I insist that he pick up his blocks, he will not. If I make a game of it and be creative, I can start to instill the habit of what comes after play and what behaviour is to be expected.
There is going to be trial and error, there are going to be lapses, moodiness and defiance. With calm, yet stern guidance and clever “manipulation” on a very consistent basis, you will find battles lessening and your child will grow up learning lessons quickly. Be prepared to repeat the same instructions in very few words as possible and let the little things go at this point.
- If we are late for work, late for the cinema, or late for ANYTHING, it is not our child’s fault and our toddlers don’t understand that they need to provide extra cooperation and quit taking the shoe off you just put on.
- If we throw all sorts of toys around and muck around dumping out crayon boxes or blocks on the floor, it might be that our little one may throw spaghetti on the floor, as curiosity does get the best of toddlers as part of their discovery and learning.
- Monkey see, monkey do. If you yell obscenities at the driver in front of you for having absolutely no skill behind the wheel, whisper under your breath or try and just think what you’d like to say as your little one will be quite proud to learn a new word.
- Keep at it – you will start to see results and the payoff is priceless! You are doing amazing!
- If you get very frustrated and are overwhelmed – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is ok. It will pass. Walk away. Take a breath and tell someone how you are feeling, when you can. Let your toddler get upset and cry. Just keep them safe and take a minute if you need. Do your best and learn from each situation.
- You and your son or daughter will have a lifetime getting to know one another through the changes that are life.
Growth is Important
Let your child have this time, and times to come after, to learn and develop. We can provide a healthy, nurturing environment. I wish to teach my child to ultimately think for himself and learn what is right and what is wrong. When it comes time for your child to decide when to be good and when to be naughty on purpose, which one he decides will depend largely on how he feels about the adults who are special to him and have power over him. If at the next stage of growing up he or she feels that you as their caregiver and parent are loving and approving and on his side, he will want (for the most part) to please you and he will behave as you wish (with lapses). Of course, do not mistake unhealthy giving – in and lack of discipline a way to show love or approval. It is in the best interest of the child. Be gentle, and compromise where it makes sense, however, never feel badly about a decision to say “no” where you need! You are the boss and as a leader you can listen and be attentive, AND make a final decision for the good of the toddler.