7 Ways to Discipline Your Toddler Without Spanking

Ndidi Adekunle

Children are known for their endless energy and stubbornness. Now, it’s not as though our ‘angels,’ particularly set out to be mean. Let’s just say they’re ‘testing their boundaries’ and are in the process of learning, by trial and error, social norms by which to relate in this vast world. In our part of the world, most techniques for toddler discipline revolve around either or a combination of spanking, shouting, and threatening, in no particular order, and without guidelines, per se. What variety of techniques or methods do we then use and what are the guidelines attached to each to help us properly adjust our style in order to get the results we seek? Here are 7 ways…

  1. Diversion Tactics: This is when just before a situation gets out of hand or you suspect your toddler is just about to throw a tantrum, you quickly nip it in the bud by looking for something adequate (real or made up), and of interest to distract her . You can quickly dash to the window and announce, “See, it’s raining outside!” Your toddler is likely to pick an interest and come by to the window to see, and then you can quickly add by singing the song, “Rain, Rain, Go Away…!” and on goes the story until he’s totally forgotten about the tantrum. This requires some creativity every parent or guardian is expected to have.
  1. Praise and Rewards not Bribes: You’re probably wondering, “What’s the difference?” What’s advised here is that you reward your toddler for good behaviour without having discussed the planned reward earlier with him. This is different from bribery where the child is in with you on the plan. See the difference now? Rewards are productive while bribes could be counter- productive and your toddler learns not to do anything positive unless there’s a reward attached to it.
  1. Selective Deafness: Toddlers can be naughty for different reasons. Most often however, they behave badly just to get attention. For a toddler, a negative response from a loved one is better than no response at all. So, they will whine, ask endless questions, and generally misbehave just to get your attention, positive or negative. It therefore stands to reason that if you’re the sort of parent who gives too much attention to the child’s whims, you can trust that your toddler knows just how to ‘press your buttons’ and ‘get you going,’ all for his own entertainment. What you should do is to pretend to hear and respond only to the behaviour you want from your toddler, and pretend not to hear, or completely ignore and disregard any behaviour that is aimed at annoying, irritating, or to merely seek unnecessary attention.
  1. Time Out: Again, this is a good technique for those times when you’ve had it ‘up to your chin’ with your toddler, and you’re just about to lose control. You then separate the ‘warring parties,’ – you and your toddler. Note that the separation for both parties to ‘cool off,’ is the main objective of this technique and is not necessarily punishment. For this to work, you hold your child firmly, and matter of factly (rather than angrily), and lead him to his room, while you go away in the very opposite direction, way out of earshot, also employing the ‘selective deafness’ technique. If for instance, he comes right out immediately, don’t fuss, just pick him up and take him back in each time until he tires out and stays in. Ensure that you don’t lock the door and the handle is within your toddler’s reach for him to freely let himself out when he’s calm. Chances are that he will not come out until he’s calmed down, and you are too. This works for indeed very many parents, you may find that all you need is a slight modification to your own situation.
  1. Take Immediate Action: Ensure that whenever you want to administer discipline to your toddler for defaulting, it must be immediate and not delayed. Don’t ‘wait till daddy comes home’ for instance, or your toddler would have long forgotten what the discipline is for, and won’t be able to connect the two in order to amend his behaviour. It then becomes counter-productive and feels to him more like ‘abuse.’ Punishment for toddlers should always follow the bad behaviour immediately for the intended lesson to ‘sink in.’
  1. Communication: Do not assume that your toddler knows right from wrong for every situation when you’ve not taken the time to communicate to him and instruct him on what to do and what not to do. The general rule here is where there is no law, there is no sin, hence no basis for punishment. First take your time to communicate your rules and what is expected of him. Do note also that children learn by repetition so, by all means, say it repeatedly. With toddlers being known to have a very short attention span, your instructions should not be complicated. Let instructions be brief, clear (using pictures if possible), and easy to remember. Having done that, you will then be justified to take action when your toddler does not stick to the limits you have set for him.
  1. The Firm, Cuddle Method: Here, after you’ve punished your toddler for behaving badly and he’s crying, you allow him to cry for a while, say 2 to 3 minutes, after which you can make up. You must explain again the reason for her punishment for her to fully understand. Repeat the rules loud and clear, and if she’s learnt to say a few words, have her repeat your simple instruction. Once that is done, give her a make-up hug. The aim here is to let the child know that she is still loved, only that she has to learn to do the right thing.
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