All parents have been there - standing in the supermarket with a full basket and a small person, who belongs to you, lying screaming on the floor. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, we’d be happy to bet that it will! While we are all in the same club – it doesn’t make it any easier.
The toddler stage can be tricky to navigate, your child is starting to realise that they are their own person separate from you and that they can have opinions of their own. They enjoy trying out these new opinions on everything, but they still haven’t got the language skills to explain to you and they will have a limited understanding of your explanations and reasoning. When paired with a general lack of self-control, it makes for a difficult combination.
Here are a few simple toddler discipline strategies to help make life easier for your whole family when your self-asserting toddler needs direction.
1. Consistency is key
Just like when you were trying to establish a sleep routine, toddlers thrive on routine too. Knowing what is going to happen during their day, gives your child a feeling of safety. This in turn often makes children better behaved because they recognise the pattern and know what is coming next.
As much as your lifestyle allows, try to stick to roughly the same schedule every day. Following the same pattern of mealtimes, nap time, playtime, and bedtime.
Of course, there will be times when a change to the schedule is necessary, it’s best to talk to your toddler about this in advance and explain what is going to happen. If you are going out, then tell them, and let them know who will be babysitting that evening. This could prevent a meltdown just as you are about to go out if a babysitter turns up, and your child wasn’t expecting this.
You also have to maintain consistency when it comes to discipline. If you say “no hitting” the first time your child hits someone, then you have to say it every time. You might feel like a broken record, but eventually, they will get the message.
2. Avoid Stressful Situations
Most toddlers have some triggers that can cause trouble. The common ones are hunger, being too tired and having to stop doing something they were enjoying. If you know what these triggers are, you can anticipate what could happen and then (hopefully) avoid a meltdown.
If your toddler is tired, then maybe now isn’t a good time to nip into the supermarket, the odds are that it will end in a tantrum, and nobody wants that. If you can, try to let your toddler nap in a consistent place, like their own cosy bed. If you are out and about, keep some snacks in your bag for emergencies.
3. Let them win (sometimes)
There are some non-negotiables such as not hitting, holding hands when crossing the road, and not eating junk all day, every day. But you could find areas where your child can make the decision and feel that they have some autonomy. Maybe you can turn a blind eye to a fashion disaster or let them choose between apple or banana for a snack.
4. Practice the Art of Distraction
Once you get the hang of this one, it can get you out of a whole lot of tricky situations. Toddlers have a short attention span, which can come in handy.
If your child spots the sweets in the supermarket and trouble is brewing, distract them. Quickly exclaim, “Wow, look at how many oranges are in this box, can you help find three nice ones to buy?”
If your child is doing something you don’t want them to do, rather than telling them off, find something you do want them to do and make it sound more interesting.
5. Praise all the good stuff
Even if the day has felt like a total disaster, there will still be plenty of things you can praise. Providing positive reinforcement is very important to make your child feel good about themselves and they won’t feel the need to do something negative for attention.
If they eat all their lunch, praise it, if they help you tidy up, even if they only put one thing away, praise them. That warm fuzzy feeling they get will feel addictive and they will want more of it.
Finally, and most importantly, give yourself a break. There will be good days and bad days. Hopefully, these tips will help you outweigh the bad with the good.
We’re all just doing our best – and that is good enough!