5 steps to positively discipline your toddler

There are steps you can take to discipline your child without threats, bribes and physicality. Here’s how.


All children misbehave at some point and you’ll undoubtedly need to discipline your child. So, what’s the best way to go about this? Many experts agree that it’s best to refrain from threats and punishments as punishment can breed negative reactions like resentment and fear. Spanking should also not be an option. Several studies have found that spanking can have a negative effect on children, and that physical punishment encourages children to continue the cycle of abuse.

ALSO SEE: Four no’s for toddler discipline

The good news is that parenting doesn’t have to be a battle. There are steps you can take to discipline your child without threats, bribes and physicality.

The next time your little one misbehaves, try these strategies:

1. Understand the reason for your child’s behaviour

Is your child hitting her sibling or screaming and acting out while you’re on the phone? Ask yourself why she is behaving this way? Is she trying to get your attention, were you on the phone too long or did you perhaps ignore her (not on purpose) but because you were rushing to get chores done after work and get dinner on the table? When you identify the possible reason for her misbehaviour, look at what steps you can take to correct your own behaviour that will satisfy your child’s needs. “Once we know the valid root of the behaviour, we can easily remove the cause or heal the emotions, and the child won’t be driven to behave that way anymore,” says Naomi Aldort, the author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves.

2. Stay calm

It’s hard to keep your cool in the heat of the moment, especially if your tot is throwing mushy peas at you while yelling at the top of her lungs that she hates you. Don’t do anything in front of your child that you don’t want her to do. So, if you don’t want her to scream at the top of her voice, try and avoid doing this while trying dodge the mushy pea storm. Take a deep breath and count to 10. If this doesn’t do the trick, walk away to compose yourself before you go back to your child.

ALSO SEE: Healthy discipline alternatives to spanking children

3. Be consistent with your expectations

Don’t overlook a certain behaviour in the hope that it will pass. If your child hits or bites another child for example, hold her arm and tell her that this type of behaviour is not acceptable. Warn her that you’ll have to leave if she hurts someone again. If she continues with the behaviour, you need to remove her from the situation.

4. Praise your child for good behaviour

Children often misbehave because they want your attention, so sometimes it helps to ignore the bad behaviour. Your tot will quickly learn that she only gets your attention when she is behaving in an acceptable manner.

ALSO SEE: The difference between bribes, praise and rewards

5. Don’t bribe

It may be tempting to give in to your tot’s demands for that chocolate in the check-out aisle just to get her to stop screaming, or to promise her a toy if she behaves well at the shop. This is a definitive no-no. Bribes are harmful. Your child will cooperate only to obtain the indulgence, and will feel entitled to a treat for the most basic responsibility, like brushing her teeth. Eventually she learns just how far she can push you. For the sake of peace, you give in and your child has learnt a vice rather than a virtue. Stay strong.

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