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Toddler Parenting and Discipline

Updated on October 30, 2015

One of the biggest challenges new parents face has to be disciplining their toddlers. After all, early discipline will have an impact over the way your kids develop and how they will face challenges in life. However, as important as discipline is, it has to be one of the hardest things for parents to do mainly because they will be dealing with little people who cannot communicate properly quite yet and tend to be extremely stubborn. Indeed, parenting and disciplining toddlers can be a long, arduous, and sometimes frustrating task but experts agree that it is better to go through the pain and hardships of exerting early discipline on your toddlers rather than have them—and you—pay the price later on.

What to Expect

Your baby may be a soft and gentle bundle of happiness right now. But as the baby grows into his or her toddler years, you can expect your toddler to test and bend your rules and your parenting in ways that you did not even know were possible. Toddlers are quite inventive when it comes to circumventing rules. Wait until they reach the age of three and you will have a master negotiator in your hands. Toddlers will question your every rule and every move, and they will plead. They will beg, cajole and coax if they want to get their way and you can also expect them to make promises they have no intentions of keeping. When all their wiles fail, they will turn to the big guns which involve tears, tantrums, and weeping no matter what kind of disciplinary tactics you employ.

What is a Parent Supposed to Do?

Most parents who are faced with such persistence and profound creativity will be tempted to back down and just let the toddler have their way. After all, what harm can come from giving in to the little tyrant especially if you are having your seventh argument in just a couple of hours? Some parents may feel bad even as they give in to their kid’s tantrums and demands and you might feel the same way with your own dealings with your kid. There is a silver lining though and it will be a very relieving news for you—when it comes to disciplining your toddler, it is actually okay and even important to let the toddler have his way at times.

Why Give In?

You might feel a failure as a parent every time you give in but what you need to know is that allowing your kid to have his way sometimes helps him build a sense of independence and gives him an improved sense of self. It is nice to have well-behaved kids who do everything you say but it is even more fulfilling to have kids who know who they are and know the consequences. The big question here though is when do you give in and when do you not give in? As a parent to a toddler, it is very important for you to pick your battles and fight the ones that are worth fighting.

Check out common toddler battle zones below. They will give you a good sense of when it is okay to give in and when you need to stand firm by your laws.

• The Battle: Safety and Health

Does your kid hate the car seat? Does he want to cross the parking lot on his own to get to the car? If these are the kinds of issues you and your toddler are butting heads over then you need to know right now that these are battles that you should never back down from. You need to make it clear that when it comes to his health and safety, things should go your way and the highway is not even an option. Let your kid know that you will do whatever it takes to make sure that he is safe when travelling and crossing roads and that you will go to great lengths to get that strep medication down his throat and you do not care about his screams of tears. To make things simple, when it comes to the health and safety of your kids, it is a no-negotiation zone. This is one of those battles that are worth fighting so make sure that you stand your ground and make your kid realize that you will never, ever give in.

• The Battle: Fashion Choices

As a new parent, you will often see little fashion plates parading around in perfect little ensembles and it is tempting to do the same with your kid. However, toddlers tend to be very opinionated about what they want to wear and when they want to wear it. This might frustrate you especially if you want your very own fashion plate but before you insist on what you want your kid to wear, find out why your kid is choosing that odd ensemble he dug out of his chest. For example, if you are wigging out because your kid has chosen a tank top to wear when there is a chill in the air or say he wants to go barefoot in the park, it becomes a health issue and you already know the stand on that: no giving in. It is perfectly acceptable to tell your kid that if he doesn’t wear shoes then he doesn’t get to go to the playground. But it might be better to allow him to wear the tank top (bring extra clothes) and let him find out for himself why it is a bad idea. He will just come running to you once he realizes that it is just too cold. Take out the pants and sweater so he realizes on his own why the tank top was a bad idea and you will likely not even have to waste your breath on a lecture.


However, if you are simply frustrated that your kid wants to wear a grubby and faded pirate costume to the store when you have a nice, new outfit picked out, you might as well conserve your stress and breath for other bigger battles. After all, no harm is actually going to happen although you might get annoyed because this is not one of those things that you want to argue about.

• The Battle: Manners

Letting your child know that learning how to be polite to each and every person he encounters is a great way to teach him to be considerate. For example, if you let your kid know that every adult he is introduced to needs to be greeted politely, he will know the value of treating people with kindness. The best way to spell this out to your child is to let him know what you expect of him such as saying, “When we get to the party, say ‘hello’ to all the adults and you can go out and play until it is time to eat.” As long as you make it clear to your toddler what he needs to do and what he will get, he will definitely be amenable to your rules. One thing you need to remember though is that while saying “hello” is reasonable, you do not want to force your little guy to hug and kiss everyone since that might make him feel like his privacy and personal space are being invaded.

Is Spanking OK?

There may be times when you are tempted to spank your kid or at least give him a good shake. Should you? The jury is still out in this one since some groups say a little corporal punishment is okay but in some laws, it is not legal. You really need to discuss this with your partner or at least talk to your child health specialist before you decide to do it.

Disciplining your kid is crucial and isn’t something to take lightly. You don’t have to be shrew about discipline but you do want to make sure you stand firm on important issues.

In your opinion, is spanking okay?

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    • profile image

      Danyon 2 years ago

      It's imetrapive that more people make this exact point.

    • kgmonline profile image
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      Geri Mileff 2 years ago from Czech Republic

      That's right, @Danyon. We agree. :)

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