Once children begin walking and talking, it’s time to begin the early stages of discipline. Between the ages of 12 and 18 months is a good time to start disciplining your child, using simple techniques that focus on teaching your child acceptable behavior.
Preventing Behavior Problems
Discipline for toddlers should focus on prevention, not punishment. Prevent behavior problems by creating an environment where your child can explore and play safely. Remove breakable and potentially hazardous objects and give your child an opportunity to throw, bang, and pound indestructible age-appropriate toys.
Create a Schedule
Establish a routine so your child’s body grows accustomed to regular eating, sleeping, and playing times. Plan your errands and community adventures according to your child’s schedule. A well-rested and well-fed toddler is more likely to behave when you’re in public.
Redirect Your Child’s Attention
Redirection is a wonderful discipline technique that allows you to use your toddler’s short attention span to your advantage. For example, if your child bangs his toy on your antique table, give him a pillow to safely bang on instead. Redirect his energy and attention by giving him a more acceptable alternative.
Provide Praise and Positive Reinforcement
Children begin responding to praise and positive reinforcement at an early age. Whenever you catch your child being good, use your words and your body language to cheer him on. Clap, celebrate, and show him how pleased you are with his efforts. Such positive attention encourages good behavior to continue.
Give Short Explanations
Give your toddler short explanations about why his behavior needs to change. For example, rather than giving a list of reasons why biting is bad, say, “No biting. Biting hurts.” Skip the long lectures and stick to the facts.
Apply More Complex Discipline Strategies
Discipline strategies need to change often to keep up with a child’s development. Once your child understands cause-and-effect relationships you can begin implementing consequences, such as time-out. Prior to the age of 2 or 3, most children won’t grasp the concept that their behavior is linked to a consequence.
Once your child develops an understanding of consequences, begin adding other discipline strategies, such as removing privileges. In the meantime, focus on safety issues and prevention. Remain consistent with your rules and responses to lay a firm foundation for future discipline efforts.