Positive Discipline for Toddlers – a beginners guide

Positive discipline or Gentle discipline, means believing that no child is bad. Yes, they have bad and good behaviors, but those are signals to us the adults. We are to guide them and help them do better during those moments when they ‘misbehave’ or do not behave as we would like.

Now, providing this parental guidance with calmness, respect and firmness too, when your toddler is acting irrational, or silly -that’s the hard part, in my opinion. And that’s what positive discipline asks us to do!

If you choose this method of discipline, you will need to dig deep, often, to find your patience, and to keep your cool when your toddler is pushing the limits.

But the benefits that keep me interested are:

– teaching your child how to respond in crisis, something many of us still struggle with, (for example anger is not a bad thing in itself, it’s what you do next that matters)

– not damaging a child’s confidence and self esteem during the disciplining process

– removing shame from the discipline process (I feel shame is used to hold women (& some men) down in many ways. It becomes a huge part of our narrative and it starts from a young age).

 

The options for us adults to use as tools during positive discipline are as follows per wiki:

• Positive reinforcement, such as complimenting a good effort;

• Negative reinforcement, such as ignoring requests made in a whining tone of voice;

• Positive punishment, such as requiring a child to clean up a mess s/he made; and

• Negative punishment, such as removing a privilege in response to poor behavior.

Now I share with you some notes from my experience with using gentle discipline when my child is not behaving in a way I would like. With emphasis on the last couple of weeks (age 3), below.

I’m that hands-on Mum because I have flexible working hours since I work for myself, but also out of choice. I believe anyone – stay at home mum, working mum, etc can be a hands-on mum if they choose. It’s simply making a decision to be intentional about the way you raise your children.

I have just spent a month alone with my toddler – miss3yo and baby. Setting limits and reinforcing them has been at the core of our daily interactions:

⁃ to maintain some order,

⁃ for her own benefit (yes, I’ve read that they actually want limits)

⁃ also for my sake. When there is a battle of wills between mum and child it can feel very frustrating and tiring – I have experienced this and honestly my aim is to avoid it. It’s important to own the adult role and if possible do that in a way that feels positive for mum and child

I’m using these tips daily myself and it’s constantly being tweaked and I’m constantly learning. I don’t have all the answers. I have days when I call friends for over-the-phone reinforcements and tips too. But after getting through the difficult days, I vowed to share with others, what I’m learning. And that’s what I’m doing below!

Ok let’s get into it:

1. I have realized that the secret ingredient to positive discipline is ME. Let me explain: I cannot control my child’s behaviour (they can’t control it either sometimes, either), but I can control my behaviour. How I react. I must work on my responses and that starts with my thoughts and my energy levels. Being rested as much as possible helps. Reminding myself that my child needs my help navigating this period, also helps.

2.I use positive reinforcement. I was reminded recently that we often give more attention to the behaviour we don’t like in our children and that actually sends the wrong message. For example when I do this cheeky thing, I get Mums attentions I will do it some more today! We are encouraged instead, to find the positives daily and explain why we are pleased by the behaviour. High five for bringing baby’s nappy. I am proud of you for tidying up without being asked etc

3.Don’t be so surprised if your toddler does not behave well all the time. We don’t even behave well all the time as adults. They will have good and not so good moments since they’re just learning how to regulate their emotions and express themselves correctly. Expect that. Honestly, I wake up in the morning knowing I will need to put in limits and guide etc. I prepare myself mentally.

4.If you truly understand what they can and cannot do at this stage, it will help you be more realistic and manage your expectations for their behaviour on a daily basis.

For example, a 2 year old will likely not be able to fully tidy up to the levels an adult would. There will be some things left here and there. With you coming down to their level you can help, but disciplining them for not fully ‘completing’ tidy up to your adult standard, without your help, is highly unfair. Your expectations were too high.

5.Take it easy on yourself. There will be hard days. Speak to your significant other or friends. Get some alone time when you can. Take some minutes at the bathroom to get yourself together, if you need to.

6.Try to prevent the so called ‘bad behaviour’ if and where you can. Is your child hungry, over tired? Feed them and get them to sleep. This one is particularly relevant for during the holidays when we go visiting or guests come and stay late at our homes, delaying bedtimes or causing us in our enjoyment of company to miss our children’s hunger or tiredness cues.

7.What about naughty corner/time out? I am still trying to understand fully how gentle discipline says this should work. I know we are not to lock them away because we want to avoid shaming them and actually during these moments we do not want them to feel like we’re pushing them away. So face the wall, for example would not be advised under positive discipline. Sometimes they are seeking our attention for a reason, sometimes it is not logical for them, either.

Time in, means we kindly or rather calmly invite them to sit in a separate area not too far from us, ideally where they can still see us. We wouldn’t usually talk to them during this time. Not as punishment, but to give them some time to cool down or removing them from hurting themselves/or others. You can say that I’m just giving you time to cool down and when you’re ready I am here to talk to you. We should do this calmly. And then when time is up re connect with them.

8. Give warnings and use consequences.

So if you do that again, then there will be a consequence (you can say what the consequence would be). If done for second time, you give another warning. If done for third time – well it’s time for the consequence – you won’t go to your friends house to play tomorrow.

That’s how positive discipline is panning out for us these days. The points I can remember anyway.

Maybe with practice one gets to the point where doing all this is easy, I can put my hand up and say I am not there yet. I am still very much taking baby steps with gentle discipline, everyday. Sometimes I feel it’s working, other times, my Nigerian parenting finds a way to slip out. I just try to start again the next moment of discipline. One thing I will say is, I believe in the principle. Lol. I don’t feel guilty during difficult interactions and it seems logical.

If you feel guilty after spanking or you’ve noticed your child look scared as you move toward them when they do something naughty or you just want to do things better. I urge you to be open minded and pick what you can as a starting point for positive discipline. You won’t regret it!

Feel free to leave comments below or DM me on Instagram if you have questions. Also we started a daily Positive Discipline Journal, to help us track how we’re doing. Join on Instagram using that link highlighted.