The word discipline is most often associated with punishment. However, the definition of discipline also means instruction, or training that corrects a behavior. When it comes to your toddler, isn't that what you're doing after all? You're instructing them, or training them to follow your directions. At age one, our children are taking a huge, wobbly, step toward independence and that requires a lot of guidance from us. The good news is, you can help your baby toddle into independence with discipline strategies that aren't a punishment to anyone. In fact, they're KIND.
Keep it simple. Your one-year-old isn't quite ready to reason or make complicated decisions. Right now she is driven by discovery and impulse. When your toddler does something she shouldn't, she isn't trying to be naughty; she is discovering her world, how she impacts it, and just how far you'll let her go. Instead of trying to reason through unwanted behaviors, simply say, "no and redirect your little one to a more acceptable behavior. Saying "no all the time can get discouraging to both parent and child, so learn to pick your battles, and notice things that could be prevented.
Identify possible causes. Often times we can prevent unwanted behaviors before they happen. Sometimes it is as easy as removing something that could be potentially dangerous. Other times it is simply considering your daily routine. If you haven't experienced the one-year-old tantrum yet, you will. One minute you are cuddling your sweet little angel and the next she is flinging her head and arms, arching her back and screaming. Although the tantrum is frustrating for you, it is completely normal, and is actually a sign of frustration in your child. Stop and think about why she might be frustrated. Is it getting close to naptime? Could she be hungry? Does she usually take a certain toy with her when you run errands? Considering your toddler's normal routine may help stop a tantrum in its tracks or avoid an unwanted situation all together.
Notice good behavior. It is important to identify the things that may cause your child's unwanted behavior, but it is equally important to recognize your child's good behavior. There is nothing more wonderful to your one year old than knowing that she has made you happy. When she does something good, show her. Clap for her, cheer for her, or give her a kiss and a hug and tell her that you like what she is doing. When your toddler sees that you like her behavior, she'll try and repeat it. In order to really encourage good behavior, try not to overreact to negative behavior. By noticing good behavior and giving less attention to unwanted behavior, your tot will quickly learn which behaviors you favor.
Define safe spaces. Some days you feel like you've said "no a million times. You know your child is well fed and well rested, and yet you're finding it hard to notice any good behaviors. On these days, it is important to have places in your home that are child proof and safe. Your toddler needs a room, part of a room, or even a play yard where she is safe to explore and does not need constant supervision. You need a safe place to put her when she is cranky or throwing a tantrum and you know you're about to lose your patience. Defining a safe space in your home allows your toddler some freedom and allows you a few moments to yourself when you most need it.
Raising a child involves discipline on both sides and no matter how well behaved she is or how patient you are, you are both going to have difficult days. As your one year old grows, there will be plenty of opportunities to set rules and explain rules. For now, discipline should focus on keeping your child safe and supported; and it should always be KIND.
@ by Rachael Miller
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