Loving Discipline for Babies and Toddlers

Scolding and timeouts don’t work for most babies and toddlers under 36 months. So what can you do?

Distract them with a song, story or more interesting object or activity.

Redirect their attention by bringing out a new or favorite book or toy.

Role-model the desired behavior while using a word to describe it. (“Fluffy loves gentle touching.”)

Modify the schedule.  (Shorten playdates, run fewer errands in a row, go to bed earlier)

Modify the environment.  Move the delicate objects until your child is at least three. Use baby gates. Put away toys that are misused until the child is old enough to use them properly.  Keep a bag with some toys in the car. Always keep those toys in the car rather than bringing them into the house. Good car toys?  Pipecleaners, simple vehicles, toddler-safe Playmobil figures.  Bad for cars?  Crayons, permanent markers, anything sharp or requiring supervision.  Books on tape or CD are also good, especially with books that go with the recording.

Modify the stimulation.  Turn off the electronic signals, turn off the TV, slow down the pace.

Modify the materials. Give your toddler one crayon at a time.  Make putting the cover back on the marker part of the game.  Not old enough to put the cap back on?  Too young for markers. If your child uses a water squirter on you or the cat, take the child outside and let her squirt water on the plants.

Modify adult behavior.  Talk on the phone later.  Simplify meals. Simplify your routines.  Plan ahead.

Teach words for feelings. Using words to express feelings is a precursor to using words for problem solving. Children who can use words are less likely to hit or bite.

Practice desired behaviors such as practice stopping at the curb.  Make a game out of stopping at the curb and putting toys away.

Positively reenforce behaviors while they are being learned but then reduce the enforcement once the behavior has been learned.

I do not believe in corporal punishment. It teaches a child to use physical agression to get their way.  It also teaches the child that it is okay for their parents and caregiver can love them and hurt them.  Physical punishment does not teach the child what behavior is desired.

Key idea:  Loving instruction and thoughtful planning are the most effective forms of discipline for babies and toddlers.

About melodymlowmanma@gmail.com

Melody Matthews Lowman, M.A. has a background in both psychology and education. Her biopsychosocial approach allows her to be a resource for behavioral and educational problem solving for children, teens and adults.
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