If discipline isn’t punishment, what is it then?
Discipline aims at training your child to recognize what is right and acceptable. It also involves creating boundaries, self-control and opportunities for communication with your child. Discipline is a process that needs to be initiated in your child’s infant stages. You don’t have to wait because the longer you wait, the harder it will be for you to instill discipline and self-control.
Perhaps you have a toddler who has a habit of pulling your hair, poking your eyes and doing other things that may be brushed off as childish. Instead of laughing it off, you need to nip such habits in the bud before they get out of hand. Unlike what some parents think, disciplining your child doesn’t mean you don’t love them. In fact, failing to discipline them will, in the long run, translate into failure to fully love them!
Toddlers are naturally curious about everything and want to feed their need for satisfaction. They constantly explore and seek to know what is okay and not. Rather than put the kibosh to their world of discovery, we ought to encourage their curiosity in a healthy and safe environment.
As they lack the necessary cognitive and language skills to identify and keep to boundaries for their own good, well, we define this for them, with these few tried and tested ways.
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“To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.”
~ Josh Billings
How can I discipline my 15 month old toddler?
At 15 months, your child is able to understand simple instructions. In fact, it starts way earlier than this. This being so, you need to set clear boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. This needs to be done with simplicity, firmness, and consistency.
Always be consistent in your actions taken and words said. If you say ‘No hitting Mommy’ today, should they repeat, your response should be the same. Every time without deviating. This is a clear simple instruction that they can remember and follow.
When consistently applied, it eliminates any confusion for your child, in understanding and behavior. You will grow weary of repeatedly saying ‘No’, but the eventual benefits will be worth it.
- Praise your child for good behavior
We don’t want our toddler identifying ‘No’ with their every action. ‘I like when you tidy up your toys’ or other praise and recognition of good behavior, should follow, where needed. Appreciating them for good behavior reinforces the deed, and helps them recognize and (eventually) understand the difference.
Top Tip: Keep it Simple
A short firm instruction of what you expect, works well. Since toddlers have a short attention span, a one minute ‘talk’ on desirable behavior is enough.
- Setting clear boundaries
When you identify an undesirable behavior in your toddler, deal with it immediately. At this age, repetition forms character, and if we let a tantrum or a food splash on the wall go uncorrected, chances of repetition are guaranteed.
- Time Out
This is not the traditional time out of isolation. It is an act of removing your child from an undesired activity. A 15 month old has a short attention span, so isolating them, or expecting them to be still for a few minutes, yields more undesired behavior.
We remove the toddler from an undesired activity, or vice versa, such as pouring food on the floor, or tasting the dog food, long enough so they can either calm down or be safe. You should be within eye view, but uncommunicative, so the child understands isolation, without feeling abandoned. This is a good way to teach the child acceptable behavior, without resorting to a tantrum yourself.
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“There’s nothing that can help you understand your beliefs more than trying to explain them to an inquisitive child.”
~ Frank A. Clark
Top Tip: Reassurance
After a discipline action, always reassure your child with a hug, or kind words of affirmation. Your toddler needs to know that it is their unacceptable behavior that is frowned upon, and not themselves.
- Avoid situations that catalyze unacceptable behavior
Remember how you feel when shopping on an empty stomach, or haven’t had enough sleep since your young one came long? Well, running long errands when he is hungry will pique him, and understandably so. Removing items and situations that cause unnecessary temptation of toddlers behaving badly, is a peace deal. So for starters, crystal on the coffee table, or mummy’s glasses on the kitchen counter, is a no- no.
Top Tip: Save your frustrations for the right person
Do not vent out your frustrations with your spouse, relative or landlord by punishing your child.
- Be calm
Never get upset or angry when disciplining a toddler. Toddlers are also very perceptive of those close to them. Should they identify what gets your attention, whether good or bad, be sure they will press that button. Consistently. You should not punish your child to vent out your frustrations with your spouse, relatives or landlord! Have an explanation and reason for enforcing any form of discipline. Don’t do it simply because you are the boss.
7. Don’t spare the rod
Spare the rod and spoil the child, so the Bible says in Proverbs 13:24. When you fail to enforce discipline, your child fails to recognize that misbehavior comes with consequences. Failure to discipline a wayward and unruly toddler will cause your child to grow accustomed to getting his own way.
Having the appropriate ‘rod’ to enforce discipline is an age old practice that has never failed to produce results. However, ensure you exercise caution and use the right ‘rod’. With time, your child will know that actions have consequences that get punished. As they continue growing they will continue adopting acceptable behavior that will bring you pride, peace of mind and joy.
“If we don’t shape our children, they will be shaped by outside forces that don’t care what shape our children are in.”
– Dr. Louise Hart
Discipline enables you as a parent to encourage your toddler’s curiosity to learn, understand and appreciate the environment in a healthy and safe way. It is therefore important to start the process of disciplining your child when they are still tender in age. Things like biting your nipples while breastfeeding, pulling out your hair or poking your eyes should not go unpunished. Remember, discipline isn’t punishment.
Discipline enables your child to:-
- recognize what is right and acceptable
- create safe boundaries and environment
- acquire self-control and opportunities for communication
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