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Discipline Tips for Toddlers

Updated on May 16, 2009

Discipline Tips for Toddlers (Part 1)
Creating a Structured and Nurturing Environment

Toddlers are notorious for being difficult to parent. When a baby transitions to this stage, the parent reaches a new stage as well. They find themselves spending more time chasing, cleaning up, shouting, and listening to the loud cry and screams of toddlers. The toddler stage is challenging to parents, but can also be most rewarding.

The terrible two’s or three’s is a trying time for parents. Though it is a normal and healthy stage of emerging independence, many parents find themselves unprepared for the many battles this stage can bring. The good news is that the child begins to learn to dress, climbing playground equipment, feed and clothe themselves, the bad news is how strong willed some can be. A toddler will battle to the point of meltdown or tantrum. Most of the time these tantrums occur when the toddler is tired, stressed, frightened or hungry. It can unnerve the best of parents. But, there is much a parent can prepare for within themselves and their environment which is the first line of defense in preventing the meltdown.

The toddler (ages 13 months through 24 months) is experiencing a time when they are
realizing that they are a separate individual from others. They begin to know that what they feel may be different than what others feel. They are also now more able and mobile to explore their world which is both liberating and frightening for a toddler. The toddler has little self control. They want what they want when they want it. They are only beginning to learn about empathy and have a while to go before learning to control emotion, not to mention being able to verbalize what they’re going through.

When a parent takes into account the stage a toddler is in, they realize that new steps need to be taken in order for both the child and parent to have peace in the home. Parents begin to learn that prevention and preparing of their environment aids in disciplining their toddler more than just raising their voice and spanking and that parents actually have much control over this compared with controlling a child in meltdown mode.

All parents can create a more structured environment for their child. Good preschool teachers run their classrooms with routines and order. This same idea can be carried into the home without the home becoming “school-like”. Some families create play rooms in their home out of a second living area. This article explains how one family did just that. If the family’s home is smaller, a corner of the living room works just as well as long as toys are placed in a small child-sized bookshelf with plastic bins.
The toddler can experience security and gives them somewhere safe to explore.

Keep in mind is that to a toddler “less is more” and that play is a child’s work. I’ve been to many homes that look like toy stores. A large amount of toys is overwhelming to a toddler and can contribute to stress and misbehavior. Many times in this environment, a child will just grab toys and throw them around. It’s almost as if they’re not sure where to begin, so they run from item to item in a disorganized fashion. Quality playing can not exist alongside chaos.

There is a better way and it is possible for a toddler to learn to stay at a task and build real play skills. It happens when their environment is in order. Try organizing your toy area by placing like toys in plastic bins with a lid keeping 3 to 4 bins out at a time. The rest can be stored in a near by closet and switched out from time to time. Also, de-clutter by storing outgrown, but cherished toys and donate the rest.

My favorite toys for play areas are child-sized kitchens complete with plastic dishes and food, living- room sized climbing toys, small trampolines, and child sized table with chairs; all excellent choices for a toddler’s play area. Though these items are large and at times pricey, they are worth far more in the value of play than the many light up electronic gadget toys. Plus, a toddler will enjoy the larger toys for several years, whereas the latter are often given up after a month. A good second hand children’s store is a good place to find the larger toys in good condition at a great price.

Another helpful idea for the play area is to keep a list for parents and grandparents of toys which you collect for your play area. It’s ok to tell people that your toddler collects dinosaurs or jeeps or different size balls or books. When you receive like toys, a bin with a lid will be the home for these toys.

Next, after creating order and more structure in the environment is to do the same with the events of the day. Keep in mind that your little bundle of energy is in fact still in need of a regular routine which helps them to get a good amount of sleep It can be 8 hours or 16. The key is to know your child. Some children will outgrow naps early, but others will need naps until the age of 5 years old. At times a cranky, challenging child is simply tired.

When the weather permits, make sure to include a regular outing time. Toddlers need structure and order, but also variety within their week. Some parents wait until after nap-time followed by sack for their regular outing. This ensures a rested and fed toddler. Other parents wake, eat breakfast, dress and go out for the day, leaving the afternoon spent taking naps and playing at home. This doesn’t need to happen daily, as it can become hectic to get toddlers ready for outings. I know a mom who picks a certain day and calls it the errand day. The child know that when mom says, “It’s errand day, that the day will be different than the norm. Be creative and include names for other types of days, i.e. park, library, grocery day.

Another area of focus is nutrition. Toddlers do eat differently than adults. They need to eat more times in the day than adults. It’s much easier for a toddler to be cooperative if they are eating breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. They may eat very small amounts, but this will go a long way in helping regulate their emotional well being. Eating small amounts throughout the day will help them to keep up with the demands of the day. Keep a healthy snack and drink with you throughout the day if you will be running errands.

Understanding toddler’s needs and stages helps parents take control over a difficult, but exciting time in their journey of parenting. Parents will enjoy the parenting journey more when they are prepared for what’s ahead. Creating positive and nurturing environments for their child while maintaining order in their day leads to a more emotionally stable toddler. Meltdowns will decrease and battles of control will be minimized when a child feels secure and has a safe place to explore and learn.


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