Sunday 11 July 2010


Discipline (12-18 months pre-toddlers)

We are getting more and more challenged with the issue of discipline. J, 16 months, is now capable of knowing when he’s doing something he’s not supposed to do*. He will look at me with the glint in his eyes. Here are some ideas suggested by books that I will be trying out to deal with it:

1. Give instructions, not suggestions

Avoid asking whether he like to go to bed. If it is bed time, put him to bed with all the kisses, hugs and prayers and leave. It is not the child’s option. Neither is leaving the playground, coming to the highchair or lunch or wearing shoes in a rough yard. Give your instructions or correction in firm and calm tone. Don’t yell, as he is likely not to even listen due to fear. Don’t use “ok” to end your instructions. Say, “J, we are going to be leaving the store. I want to hear a ‘Yes, mommy’”.

2. Use the child’s name, require eye contact and yes mommy

Do not give instructions without first getting your pre-toddler’s attention. Start around 12-14 months of age. When you are face-to-face with your child, take his chin in your hand, look into his eyes, say his name and give him your instructions: “J, place your hands on the side of the high chair please” or “J, do not drop your food.” This will help him to focus on your instructions. The child who is allowed to look around while mom or dad give instructions will often struggles with compliance because his attention is divided. When your child he is about 16 or 24 months of age (depending on when he learns to talk), pause after calling his name, require a “yes mommy” response from your child, then an eventual “yes mommy, I am coming, etc.” after you give instructions.

3. Be consistent and resolved

The child who is corrected consistently when he fails to obey is better adjusted than the chld whose discipline is inconsistent or incomplete. “Stop” must mean stop, “No” must mean no, “Do not touch” must mean do not touch, and “Do not move” must mean do not move. Attempting to reason with a pre-toddler or toddler is not commendable. Lead, direct and guide him in the confidence of your wisdom.

4. Get him involved in daily tasks

This helps to defuse some of the most common tantrum-provoking situations. For example in the supermarket, hand him a box of item you are purchasing and let him drop it behind him into the cart.

5. Validate child’s feeling, then deliver discipline message and re-direct

Show understanding before delivering the discipline message. For example, J snatches a toy car from another’s toddler. Echo what he seems to be thinking and feeling by saying, “You want the truck”. This validates his feelings and helps him to calm down. Once he is calm enough to listen, deliver the discipline message, but stripped-down version: “Don’t snatch, don’t snatch, it is Erik’s turn. You do not take Erik’s toy, that is unkind. You can have this block instead”. Return the toy car to the other kid and substitute another toy for J. If J repeats his tantrum, repeat the whole process again and make sure that you mean business.

6. Don’t try to talk your child out of tantrum

You may be encouraging him to throw more tantrum by rewarding it with attention. To be effective, he needs a sympathetic audience. When he is at the point of throwing tantrum, he is not listening to anything you say anyway. So stop talking.

7. Loss of privilege

The child that drops his toys on the outside of his playpen will learn soon enough that it does not come back.

8. Isolation and time-out

If he is disruptive in his play group, isolate him in another room. If at home, isolate him to his crib, bed or high-chair. With tantrums, isolate him to his crib or bed. He may get out of isolation when he is calm and happy. J would grunt when he didn’t get what he wanted. He would point to the object and ask again, and if the answer was still “No”, he would throw a tantrum. Put him in his crib to get self-control at the first sign, and the tantrum won’t follow. If tantrum follows before isolation, isolate him to the crib or in the playpen until he calms down, which may take 10 minutes or longer.

9. Praise him when he is behaving well

Tell him, “It’s great that you stopped playing with your toy car in the balcony. This means we have more time to play with water-can and containers during bath time”.

10. Nap

If nothing works and your child continues to be difficult, it is most likely that he is tired. It is not discipline that the child needs, but rest.

I should not feel discouraged. According to Toddlerwise, obedience for this age-group (up to 2 years old) means that a child complies with your instructions at least 60% of the time. This means that you are working towards total compliance 60% of the time. The walking, talking and exploring toddler is in process and he cannot give you 100% obedience because he is not capable of doing so.

* Book says that often around first birthday or “between 14 and 40 months, a toddler’s intellect matures sufficiently to allow meaningful interaction with adults and other children. The transition between action and understanding is what makes the toddler years so hectic for young moms” – Toddler-wise.

Pre-Toddlerwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

Toddlerwise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

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