The Toddler Years: Guidance and Discipline (Part 2)

Let’s continue looking for opportunities to help guide toddlers’ behaviors.

Teach Trading
Sharing isn’t really possible for most toddlers. To them, sharing means giving up their possessions without getting them back. Trading is a good first step to learning about sharing. If a toddler is trying to take a toy away from a friend, suggest he go find another toy to trade. Two things may happen. He’ll get interested in the new toy, forgetting about the one he wanted to take away, or the second toddler will be interested in the new toy and drop the toy he has.

Learn to Give Win-Win Choices
A win-win choice gives the child a choice, but whatever he chooses, you win, too.

  • “Do you want to get in your car seat yourself, or should I put you in?” The child chooses the method, but you win because she ends up in the car seat.
  • “Do you want to walk to your bed, or should I give you a piggy back ride?” Again, the child chooses the method, but you win because he gets in bed.

Be sure to give specific choices. If the child refuses to make a choice, say, “If you don’t want to choose, I’ll choose for you.”

Avoid Unintentional Choices
An unintentional choice gives the child a chance to say “no” when you didn’t intend that to be a choice! “Are you ready for bed?” “Can you help me pick up the toys?” A toddler will say “no” to these questions.

Many adults tack “OK?” onto the end of a command. “It’s time to go to bed now, OK?” “You need to help me pick up this mess, OK?” This implies that the child can agree or disagree. Adults develop this habit because they’re trying to sound kind instead of bossy.

Use Time Out When Appropriate
Time out is a short period of time, one to two minutes per year of age, away from people and activity for the purpose of gaining control after inappropriate behavior. The effectiveness of time out depends on the child’s age, developmental stage and temperament. For very young toddlers who won’t sit in time out, use a “self” time out. Look in your child’s eyes and say, “I don’t like it when you hit me!” Then break eye contact and walk away for a minute or two. Toddlers hate to lose your eye contact.

Begin Giving Names to Feelings
Toddlers need to learn about their feelings and how to respond to them. The first step is to learn names for feelings. Talk about your own feelings and talk about your toddler’s feelings. Call attention to the feelings of those around us and why they’re feeling that way.

Your child will express strong feelings. You’ll hear the dreaded, “I hate you!” Acknowledge feelings like this by saying, “I know you’re mad at me because I put you in time out. I love you too much to let you behave that way.” Then remember that using words, even strong words, is a step forward from hitting and kicking.

We have enjoyed this opportunity to share our knowledge of toddlers with you in this blog series. We hope that as your understanding of toddlers grows, so will your patience and tolerance. Embrace and enjoy this fascinating but fleeting stage of toddlerhood. We are available to discuss specific issues of toddler behavior at 605-322-3660.

By Betty and Doniese

Family Life Instructors at Avera McKennan

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