Discipline for Toddlers
For a lot of parents of toddlers, the difficulty in saying no or setting limits is in dealing with their child’s strong emotions and behavior. The goal is in being able to tolerate and contain the toddler’s feelings, but still maintain the limit. The challenge is to be able to reflect back to the child how much you understand their disappointment, anger, frustration, or sadness, without giving in or punishing them. As much as toddlers rebel against limits, they desperately need them in order to feel safe. Through you, they learn to internalize their own set of boundaries that will direct their behavior for the rest of their lives.
Even though it’s a challenge, this phase of development can be a wonderful opportunity to help your child learn to respect and depend on you to protect and guide them. The hardest part is to keep from responding to their intense feelings in a negative way, or letting your own reactions get out of control in frustration. As difficult as it is, they are depending on you to keep yourself in check, and not be too emotionally reactive to their strong feelings and behavior. Remember, toddlers are still babies, with limited cognitive abilities. At times they feel omnipotent, determined, and completely absorbed in their own world. They may not understand their own limitations, but they do understand the word no.
Positive re-enforcement for good behavior is a great way to teach a child about how their actions create consequences. And redirecting your toddler can be very effective in keeping their frustration level at bay, and yours.
But don’t forget that most toddlers have a very short attention span and are experiencing very intense emotions regarding independence verses dependence. You’re ability to navigate this tough developmental phase can have long lasting effects on your child’s emotional growth, as well as on their ability to cope with a similar developmental phase … the teens.
Dr. Pam Wilson, Psy.D.,MFT
27001 La Paz Rd. #430C
Mission Viejo, CA 92691