If you have ever been in a power struggle with a toddler you will know that there are seldom any winners. Both you and your child are exhausted and upset by the end of it. All of us need a certain element of control in our lives, and kids don’t get much of that. Discipline is more about teaching and guiding your child in their behaviours rather than the imposition of your will over theirs. So, when disciplining your toddler, try to balance boundaries and rules with some basic choices and you will find those power struggles settle pretty quickly.
Managing toddler behaviour means strategically setting you both up to succeed and having a consistently firm approach when the boundaries are overstepped. For examples, when going shopping, plan the shopping trip for after a nap and after your toddler has eaten something healthy . That way you won’t have an over-tired, over-stimulated child who is hungry and wanting everything in sight. Should your little one, despite your best efforts, throw a tantrum in the shopping centre, be prepared to leave things as they are and promptly walk out with her to go sit in the car where she can calm down.
This sort of strategic behaviour management can easily be generalised to most situations. The aim is to pre-empt where the problem lies and take steps to overcome it. Allow your child to feel as if she is making some of the decisions, whilst you set the parameters of those decisions. Make sure the rules and expectations are clear and your toddler is aware of them. When they are broken respond swiftly, and firmly but keep it brief! Often the best response is to end the current activity and remove your toddler to a space where they can calm down, making it clear that the behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in that space.
Once you have helped your toddler identify what behaviours are not appropriate, set up opportunities for them to do the “right” thing. They may need some more guidance from you with this. When your toddler demonstrates behaviours you do want, make sure you point it out to them and acknowledge their efforts. This will increase their desire to do the appropriate behaviours next time.