Spanking and other physical punishments — like shaking, pinching, and hitting — don’t teach children how to act.
Spanking hurts children. Physical punishment, or the threat of it, doesn’t teach children to control themselves. In fact, it may teach them to be sneaky, aggressive, and afraid. It can teach them that hitting or hurting others is OK.
Threats don’t help. It is harmful to punish a child by telling him you will leave him or stop loving him. Your toddler may feel he can’t trust you or that he is not important to you. He may feel insecure and less willing to do what you want.
- Tell your toddler what he should do instead of what he should not do. “Carry your coat this way,” not “Don’t drag your coat on the ground.”
- Tell, don’t ask. If you want your child to act in a certain way, tell him what you want; don’t ask him. If you need to take him to the doctor say, “Now we are going to the doctor” not “Do you want to go to the doctor now?” If it’s time to put toys away say, “Let’s put the toys away now,” not” Do you want to put your toys away?”
- Set things up to guide good behavior. Within reason, remove things you don’t want your child to touch. Limit visits with other children if you expect fights. Be sure your little one gets enough rest to avoid being cranky.
- Help your little one want to do what he needs to do. If you want him to pick up his toys, make it a game that you play together. If he doesn’t want to take a bath, tell him a story in the bath to make it more fun.
- Catch your toddler being good and praise him. Praise will help him understand which of his actions you like. Don’t let him think that you will only pay attention to him when he is acting badly.
- Plan ahead. Take toys and books along on trips. Keep surprise toys or snacks in a separate bag for hungry or fussy times.
- Offer other solutions. “You can pour water in this sink — not on the kitchen floor.” “You can throw the ball outside, not in the house.”
- Give choices. “Will you put your toys away in the basket or in the box?” or “Are you going to wear your sweater or your jacket when you go out to play?”
- If you find yourself getting angry at your child, take time out. Put your toddler in a safe place; tell him you are upset and that you need to be quiet for a few minutes. Then, relax. After this, it will be easier for you to guide him calmly. If you must discipline your child, have your little one spend 2 minutes alone in his room so you can both take “time out.”
“Mine! Mine!” Sharing is a hard thing to learn. We don’t expect children to be able to share until they are about 3 years old, but you can begin to teach sharing now. If there are other children in your home, your child may need to learn sharing faster.
Children learn best by having many good sharing experiences over time. Talk about what’s mine and what’s yours, what’s daddy’s, what’s mommy’s, and even what’s doggy’s.
Set a good example. You’ve just cut an apple in half. You can say, “I have a red apple, and I will share my apple with you.”
Have some things that are just for your toddler— that she does not have to share.
Your toddler will need a lot of help to learn to share. Be patient and don’t expect true sharing until your toddler is older.
Mealtimes are a time to talk and relax together.
- If your family can’t eat together every day, choose one or two times a week to have family meals. Write the time on your calendar.
- Eat at the table. Toddlers get distracted easily. Sitting at the table, without the television or other distractions, helps focus. Set the table before the meal. Seeing the dishes on the table helps your child learn to associate the table with dinner. As your child gets older, she can help set the table.
- Serve “family-style.” Put the food in serving containers on the table, and encourage your child to put some food on his plate. Serving himself helps your child learn how much food it takes to fill up. At first help him by saying things like, “Just take one piece and if you need more, you can have it after you eat what is on your plate.”
- Handle spills in a kind way. Toddlers’ motor skills are still developing, so eating with a fork or spoon is hard. When spills happen, be calm. Say, “Everyone spills sometimes.” Let your child help clean up the spill.
- Talk with your toddler. Talk about what he did during the day. Ask questions that he can answer. Show how to talk with the rest of the family.
- Your toddler may be finished eating after a few minutes. Remember toddlers have short attention spans. Encourage him to sit with the family for a few minutes, but let him get up and do something else when he starts squirming. He can play nearby while the rest of the family finishes the meal.
- Do it the same way every day. Toddlers learn routines by doing them over and over. Your child will learn what to expect, and the routine will make her feel more comfortable and secure.
Children learn best when parents share simple tasks with them like cooking and cleaning.
- When your child tries to help you, remember to look for ways you can make helping fun for both of you. That way, your child will enjoy helping and will want to help more.
- Children can learn how to sweep the floor, pick flowers, and hang up clothes.
Toddlers spend a lot of their time just watching and listening to you.
- They’re learning how to copy the things you do.
- When you let your toddler help you, you are giving him a chance to practice what he has learned.
Be gentle with mistakes. He will make mistakes of course, but don’t yell at him for these. Instead say, “That was a good try. Maybe it would work better if you did it this way.”
Take time to help him succeed. Later he will be able to do more things for himself and for you. This is time well spent for both of you.