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6 Simple Discipline Do's and Don'ts for Toddlers...

I will admit I am mother to only one child, a spunky little 1 1/2 year old. His natural curiosity has sent me back to the days I was in college enrolled as a Human Development major. Back then I worked as a teacher at my college's on-campus preschool. My little 'student's' became my guinea pigs for testing out parenting techniques I learned in my classes. I admit I was quite skeptical of some of them. I thought my preschool class was the perfect place to test them out. And guess what, some of those techniques actually worked. Here is a list of the ones I have found to be most beneficial and that I have implemented as I guide my own little free spirit:

1- Have realistic expectations. Seriously- this is the most important place to start. Read some child development books (text books, books from the library, searching on the internet- any will do). This will help you to see that your 7 month old who just learned to crawl and insists on opening up the same cabinets and pulling everything out day after day is normal. Or your toddler climbing up onto the table right after you pulled him down is normal. Does that mean the behavior is o.k.or even safe? Not always- but at least you will know it is right where your child should be.

2- Instead of saying 'no', say the behavior you want your child to do. For example, your baby insists on throwing his food on the floor when he is finished eating (or maybe he throws it the second you put him in the high chair...) Either way, instead of saying no, tell your baby "Our food goes in our mouths. (point to his mouth). If your finished, we can put your food in the sink." Then have your baby 'help' you put his bowl in the sink. I started doing this with my son when he was 9 months old. You can start this at any age. Another example: your child insists on climbing on your dining table, coffee table etc. Tell him 'our feet go on the floor. Let's climb down.' And then help your child. Be specific. Too often we tell our children no without any further guidance. We have to remember this thing called life is new to them. So be patient and be specific.

3- Redirect. You catch your toddler coloring on the wall with crayon. Get him some paper or a coloring book and show him where the right place to color is. This can also work great when your child is bugging younger siblings- instead of telling your child to stop teasing so and so- give them a task to do. This works so much better, as teasing sometimes is done out of boredom.

4-Repeat. Be prepared to repeat the same things over and over. You may feel like a broken record, but it's actually really reinforcing and comforting to your child. Children like to have boundaries, even though they are constantly testing them. So even though you've told your son 7 million times that our food goes in the sink when we're finished eating, be prepared to say it 7 million more. I've found that keeping a neutral voice also helps. If you get angry over something your curious one year old did, they will pick up on that and too much attention on negative behavior could reinforce it.

5-Let consequences of inappropriate behavior be natural. Anytime you have to discipline, it is best the let the consequence be one that is directly connected to the inappropriate behavior. This helps children to see that our actions and consequences are connected. For example: Even after following the above suggestions, your 1 year old still throws his food on the floor when he's finished eating. In a neutral tone say' Oh, I see your finished. We put our food in the sink when we're finished. Since you choose to throw your food on the floor, let's clean it up together.' Obviously a 1 year old can't clean up his mess, but help him to pick up one or two pieces of food and put in the sink. Also, pointing out that he choose to throw his food helps kids learn at a young age that they are responsible for their actions. Another example would be if your child scribbled on the wall. Try giving him a warm washcloth to help you clean up. This is great bonding time and allows your child to learn correct behavior in a loving environment.

6-Connect with other parents, your spouse, your friend, your sister etc. Venting can help you think clearer and also realize that other people are going through the same challenges.

These tips can also work with other children, teens and even husbands :)

One book I would suggest every parent read is:

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman
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