While we often think of discipline as necessary for older children, no rx the truth is that parenting gets easier when we start early with a clear understanding of how to handle toddlers. With many parents turning to the internet for help when dealing with child discipline problems, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the pure volume of the advice and input. Some of it is good, but much of it is bad.
Bad Ideas For Toddler Discipline &
How To Avoid These Toddler Mistakes!
Bad Idea #1: More Toddler Behavioral Challenges Mean More Talk
As soon as young toddlers begin to respond to language, we tend to start using more and more words. This makes sense, of course.
This exchange of language and words allows for a complex learning process to unfold, and mastery of many practical, as well as future academic tasks.
The mistake we make with toddlers often unfolds when we begin to see that our discussions and words do, at times, get attention and a response. Again, this is great.
The problem emerges when we start to seek more discipline and influence over their behavior. If you happen to have a very challenging toddler, this problem evolves sooner in life.
The common advice found in blogs, internet sites and some parenting books suggests the need for more talk, in response to behavior challenges. The advice seems to be this: If you are having troubles with your toddler, you simply need to talk to them more. Ask more questions. Probe. Question. Talk, talk, talk.
Yet, as a parenting coach I have worked with many thousands of parents. These are good parents, who are work hard to do the right thing. I find that most of these parents are well intentioned, concerned and engaged parents.
ALREADY, these good parents talk frequently to their toddler about good behavior. They talk with loving intent. They talk with a desire to help their child. They talk quite often, and have helpful, supportive comments (most of the time).
More toddler struggles equals more talk about the struggles.
This is a bad idea. The problem is not the talking. The problem is too much talking…particularly talking at the wrong time and saying the same things over and over.
Now I don’t’ mean that to sound as harsh as it appears, because talking to your toddler and having a great relationship with them is extremely important. It is just that talking is not the solution to a behavior problem.
When behavior change is needed, and a shift in parenting is required, all that TALK is actually making things worse…rather than better.
- Talk less when dealing with behavior challenges, and take more action. That’s the key.
Lead with your action, and follow with your words a few weeks down the road. This will make life easier, and your toddler learns that you words have meaning.
Yet when most of us have tried the talking and more talk approach, we get exhausted. We then turn to a second bad idea.
Bad Idea #2: It’s Time to Get Strict!
This is simply not true.
Here again it would be nice if a single, simple idea was the solution. It’s not.
Being “strict” implies different things to different people. However, for most of us it means harsh. Harsh attitude. Harsh words. Harsh consequences.
This actually doesn’t work well either, to teach toddlers about behavioral limits.
Yes, clarity about limits and consequences is needed. Consistency is needed. But harsh and strict are not the cornerstone of great parenting. For the more challenging toddlers, this approach will actually backfire!
Again, I find that parents who are struggling with toddler discipline issues have already tried the ‘strict’ approach. This approach doesn’t usually include a clear understanding of which rules really make sense, and which consequences to use under which circumstances.
- Define what you can ignore, and do so. Make no exceptions to this at the toddler stage.
- Secondly, define what limits you will consistently enforce in your home. Then, enforce them with action, not words.
The key to toddler discipline is simplicity. Honor these guidelines daily.
Limit your words WHEN DEALING with behavioral issues. Ignore everything that is possibly ignorable. And set clear, pre-determined limits on acceptable behavior. Then, enforce those limits with action on your part…not more words!
Bad idea #3: Your toddler will just grow out of it.
Well, it’s true. Your toddler will grow out of much of the small problem behavior. We see it all the time.
But for the big stuff, the ugly tantrums, the horrible whining and defiant not listening… most challenging toddlers WILL NOT grow out of it. They grow INTO it more.
When dealing with toddler discipline problems, there are certainly phases that children go through. As infants move into and through various toddler phases, there are many transitions. Most of these are obvious.
Thus, normal developmental phases are not a concern. Toddlers move through these, and behaviors come and go. Your pediatrician has likely prepared you for these, and you have no reason to worry.
However, when behavior is more challenging, more defiant and more extreme…there is usually cause for concern. It would be a mistake to assume these challenges will simply disappear.
What is important is how you handle these challenges. It’s how you respond, that will teach your child.
Problem: The wrong strategy means you will have be battling for years.
Key Point: The right parenting strategy means these challenges will be just a toddler phase. What a relief!
The right strategy begins to bring lessons of reality into your toddler discipline. By this I mean that I would ask you to embrace the challenges that are there in front of you. If your toddler is defiant, then she is defiant. If tantrums are happening every day, then you have tantrums. If none of the children seem to listen, they don’t listen.
This is our starting point. NOT our finish point.
But if we can start with reality, regardless of how ugly it is, we can then lose some of our frustration and anger and embarrassment. Because if we don’t lose this emotional edge, then we are going to be in big trouble.
Because this is where we lose touch with reality. We get reactive. We get emotional. We take everything personally (when it’s not).
All of this removes is from good, solid toddler parenting. Good discipline demands that we keep our cool Good discipline demands that we have a clear game plan. Good discipline demands that we follow through consistently.
But we begin by realizing that the more extreme behavior will not disappear by yelling or screaming or using time outs a 1000 times. These are all pointers to a problem.
Bottom Line: Minor moments of behavior usually do just pass. The more extreme the resistance, the more severe the tantrum, the more out of control the defiance….the more likely you need a strategy that involves less talk, more clearly defined action and a resolve to take the serious behavior seriously!
- How will l respond to disrespect?
- How do I handle that whining and complaining?
- What will I say to the lying child?
- How will I discipline them when they fail to do their share?
- How will they find happiness if they expect me to keep solving what makes them unhappy?
- How will they grow out of it, if I don’t know how to create opportunities for them to grow and become more disciplined?
Many more great questions exist for us to ponder. Yet, all of the major lessons your toddler needs are contained in the way that you respond to a problem or challenge. Let’s call this the way you discipline. Rather than doing the same thing, and hoping your failing strategy finnaly works, it’s time to map out your action-oriented game plan.
If you have serious, challenging toddler behaviors, please don’t be deluded to think, “Oh…this will go away on it’s on.” If you child were sick, would you really take that risk if the sickness has already been there for 3 months…or 6 months…or for some of you, it’s been there for years.
No. You would go to the doctor. It’s time for a change in your child discipline approach. Please take this seriously. Here’s a great free opportunity to get more specific details. It’s like a free parent coaching session for your toddler, along with support for the next 60 days.
I encourage you to check out the parent coaching articles on child behavior and toddler discipline problems we have here at www.TerrificParenting.com.
For great videos on parenting, you may also want to subscribe to my YouTube Channel at DrCaleParentingCoach.
Thanks for being a part of our community. Take care now,
Randy L. Cale, PhD
A growing source of concern is the lack of creativity parents and teachers are observing at home and at school. I receive many questions from parents wondering what they can do to nurture creativity. Here are a few simple guidelines that can help you ensure that your child’s creativity will prosper.
Avoid activities that squash your child’s creativity.
Whether it’s constant TV watching, sale playing video games, regular trips to the theme park, or weekly shopping expeditions, kids are becoming more and more conditioned to expect entertainment. This is probably the most dangerous threat to your child’s creativity. If they are allowed to spend endless hours absorbed in passive entertainment, without active engagement, it is clear that their creative capacities will suffer.
Creativity is like a muscle: it has to be worked.
Kids come into the world with remarkable imaginations, and an almost endless capacity for creativity. In various ways, both obvious and not so obvious, kids are taught to stifle their creativity.
This begins in little ways, for example, when they are taught to color only inside the lines. Much of their learning involves replicating and duplicating exactly what is taught. If not careful, children experience a world where little value is placed on creative expression. If you want creativity to prosper, you have to work that muscle.
Expose kids to play that requires creativity.
Instead of TV and video games, fill your home with toys and materials that require creativity. Make sure that you have lots of blank paper and crayons, building blocks and LEGOs® as well as old-fashioned toys that allow for creating stories that endlessly change and evolve.
Engage kids in creative problem solving around the house.
As kids get older, invite them to creatively come up with solutions with you. When it’s time to plan a new garden, get the family involved in the garden plan. When it is time to decorate a room, invite your kids to be a part of this. When it is time to paint a wall, ask them to come up with ideas. When their bicycle chain keeps hopping off its sprocket, rather than fixing it for them…, invite them to come up with a solution that could fix the problem.
The common denominator here is to ask. Ask your children for input, ask them for a creative solution. And let them see that creativity allows for many options to be explored. You can keep “playing” in the creative possibilities…as you come up with solutions to everyday problems.
Keep them engaged in a home where creativity is a constant part of the cooperative problem solving that occurs.
Make sure that you notice moments of creativity.
Especially during the younger years, give energy to moments of your child’s creativity. Rather than ignoring them when they’re playing in creative ways or working their imagination, spend a few moments noticing them doing these activities.
You must give energy to the activities that you value … if you want those characteristics to grow. In the case of creativity, you can do your part by making sure that you catch your kids – while they are being creative. Don’t wait until the project is over; catch them while it’s happening.
In this way, you invest your energy in what you really value. This will ensure that you use every ounce of your influence to nurture those creative juices and to keep that muscle strong.
Be the person you want your kids to be.
As I have mentioned in other articles on my TerrificParenting website, you cannot escape what you model. If your kids grow up in a home where you model creativity and using your imagination, they can’t help but become a part of this.
Children emulate their parents. It’s just the way it is. You have remarkable influence just through the behavior you model every day to your kids.
Be willing to challenge yourself to remain creatively active in the evenings. Rather than sitting in front of the TV, help stimulate creative play with your kids. Paint. Write. Create a story with your kids. Work your own creative muscle… while you engage your kids.
How to Nurture Optimism!
Optimism and a generally positive outlook is perhaps the single best character trait to nurture in your children. Why?
Because optimism works like a shield to protect and buffer children (and adults) from the negative impact of difficult and painful life moments. More importantly, unhealthy optimism is a resource that leads to better problem solving, better relationships, longer marriages, more life success and ultimately—more fulfillments.
Four Keys to Building Optimism and Happiness
Many parents wonder how to best help their children to be happy and optimistic. Unfortunately, these are not traits we can just give to our children, any more than we can give them victory or success; they have to attain those things on their own.
But this does not mean we have no influence on their happiness or optimism! We can help to nurture these traits with the correct parenting choices. Here’s how:
Key 1: Walk the Talk of an Optimistic Parent
This is the starting point for most traits we want to see emerge with our children. We first must be that person we want to see in our children.
So…to nurture optimism and happiness…we need to make certain we don’t spend our time talking about what went wrong today. Instead, we need to show our children that we find the best in others, in difficult situations, and in most aspects of our lives.
If we do this, we now start on a very positive foundation.
Key 2: Invest Ourselves in Positive Moments
When our children are giggling, laughing and enjoying their lives…invest your time in these moments. Stop what you are doing, and add your smile, or laugh or giggle.
When your child smiles as they learn a new concept, make sure that moment is not ignored.
When siblings are getting along, these are the moments to catch with your attention — not the problem moments of bickering and arguing.
As we follow this approach, we actually use our attention to nurture those positive emotions that help to build a more optimistic outlook.
Key 3: Allow Moments of Frustration and Hurt without Constantly “Fixing It”
There is a growing tendency to try to rescue our children from their moments of pain, frustration and anger. When hurt, we want to make it better. This we all understand.
While the intention is good, the outcome can easily become disastrous. While some ‘coaching’ is useful to give children a sense of their options, you can be sure that things are headed down the ‘negative’ path if you consistently step in to help your child through their upsets. Why? Because this approach tends to teach your children that mom or dad is responsible for getting their happiness back! This creates a progressive dependence on parents for
begins to emerge. You children expect you to help them through these moments and become quickly ready to seek parent help through every little challenge.
Optimism cannot be developed in this atmosphere. To be optimistic, children must learn that they are central to their own happiness and finding positive outcomes in difficult situations. They cannot become more dependent on others for a solution to emotional challenges, and at the same time build their own optimistic outlook. It just doesn’t work that way.
We must allow children the chance to learn (over time) to become more resourceful and confident in their abilities to get through moments of upset and frustration. When we do this, they gradually learn to believe in themselves and their own natural abilities to find a way through it. This is a powerful resource in building optimism, and a key to many aspects of confidence and self esteem.
Okay. Summer is officially on… and the kids are on summer-time schedule.Read the rest of this entry »
Rules Establish Structure and Kids Need This
A well implemented set of simple rules establishes a structure and rhythm at home, that actually helps reduce anxiety and calm children. Children need to a have a clear sense that someone is in charge, who knows what to do.
Do they like rules? Do they ask for rules? Of course not!
Most will argue and fight about your rules. That’s their job! When you understand this, then you expect them to complain and argue about your new rules. Ignore this. Do not engage or justify your choices, when it comes to rules about the home.
Simply understand this: Your children cannot know what is good for them. If you let them choose, they will eat pizza every night, never touch a veggie and watch TV or play video games till they fall asleep.
Do not be deceived. Your child’s wishes are a barometer for what they WANT, not what they NEED. Repeatedly following our impulsive wants (i.e., the tendency of most children) will only make us overweight, lazy and, in the end, unhappy.
Most Rules Are Just Wishes: Avoid This Mistake!
The biggest mistake made in setting rules at home is quite common. You get frustrated, decide to change things, and sit the kids down to explain the ‘new rules.’ And then, you expect them to follow the rules.
1. My son, age three, cries over everything. One could clearly label him a “cry baby”. Is this something he will grow out of or can we teach him to not cry over the drop of a hat. I’m worried once he starts school, his peers will make fun of him.
Answer: The ‘sensitive child’ is often seen upset or crying over small things in life. We can talk to them, reassure them, or even punish them and none of this will help. But let’s be clear, and not dance around this behavior pattern. It does not tend to just go away. And, this will never serve them! Never! It will only make them vulnerable to the normal challenges of life.
2. What is the best way to teach young girls (8) to be assertive, stick up for yourself and still remain kind? My daughter is always afraid she’ll hurt someone’s feelings, even if they are clearly picking on her.
This is a great question, and a situation often worked with in my coaching practice. There are several ways we can address this. However, this is a lesson that takes a bit of time. Unlike the situation above, this is not resolved in days or weeks. We have to be patient, and let the lessons and methods unfold over time.
Answer: First, we must look at the primary role model your daughter is watching: mom. What are your tendencies, and proclivities? Do you tend to model the behavior you are asking of your daughters? Are you strong, assertive and clear with others, or are you a ‘people pleaser’ who tends to soften and give-in when you should stay strong?
If the answer is ‘people pleaser’ then this is the most important place to start. For some, this may be true. For others, this is not relevant. However, please just know that it is very difficult to escape the model you set for your child. All the coaching and tools won’t help if we fighting against the tide of our own parenting actions!