Have you ever been in a store or restaurant and witnessed a toddler having a tantrum? Did you give a mental shake of the head and think to yourself what you would do if that were you? Did you silently criticize the parent for not having control over their kid? I have. I won’t ever again, because now I have my own child who might cry in a restaurant or store and then the shoe will be on the other foot. In fact, I am most certain that at some point I will be that parent, because my daughter has thrown a few temper tantrums recently that have rendered me speechless…and we are still 8 months away from the infamous “terrible twos”. In addition to tantrums, there is aggression. It is in those moments that I am grateful to have had her at a time in my life when my patience and self-control have been honed over many, many years.
Most of the time my toddler is a happy, hilarious, loving, joy of a child. She just has her moments, like every other toddler, when she is frustrated or upset and she expresses herself with crying or aggression. So how do I cope? At 16 months, she isn’t likely to understand a lecture or reasoning. She’s not yet equipped to empathize with the “other victim” of her aggression. I am not at all convinced that meeting aggression with aggression is even remotely helpful. What, then, is the answer? It’s easy to rattle off a simple solution like “just tell her/him no” or “spank his/her hands“, but is it that simple? I don’t think so. I absolutely think that effective discipline is necessary, because a lack of it will lead to larger problems later on. It is also true that the type of discipline we employ can either be character building or counterproductive and unsafe. I choose character building. Discipline that builds character requires three things. Patience, consequence, and consistency.
Keep cool. Be patient.
When my daughter is crying uncontrollably because she is angry or frustrated, I have learned to remove her from the situation, take her to a quiet place, and let her cry it out. Sometimes that takes a few seconds, and sometimes it stretches over several minutes. Either way, it takes patience because your first instinct is to want to quiet the crying right away. If you’ve ever been in that place where you just need a good cry, then you know how cleansing, calming, and exhausting it can be. It’s true for toddlers too. I think it’s best to let her cry out her anger or frustration. I cope by looking forward to her having a good nap when she’s done. It takes some super hero strength patience to say “no” over and over again until she gets it. In a perfect world saying “no” one time would be enough, but we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes it takes two, three or ten. I just have to be patient and stay cool.
Consequence is key.
As I mentioned above, when my daughter throws a tantrum she is removed from the situation. I will be applying that same consequence to her expressions of aggression as well. She’ll be removed from the situation with a quick explanation of why (i.e. no biting, pinching, scratching, hair pulling, hitting). At her age, it is pointless to try and explain to her why such behavior is unacceptable, I don’t think she will understand that right now. She does, however, understand consequence. For instance, she used to like to climb on to her chair and up into her crib, until she fell a couple of times (on to pillows of course, because I am here to protect her after all). Now she doesn’t do it anymore. She gets that if she does, she could fall. So at this point it’s about teaching her that certain behaviors will result in certain consequences.
She may not get it the first, second, or even the third time. However long it takes, through consistency, she will eventually learn right from wrong. She’ll eventually get that temper tantrums won’t get her what she wants. She’ll learn that aggression born out of anger, frustration, or play is not acceptable. She’ll learn those lessons with consistent discipline. Whatever method of character building discipline you choose, it will need to be applied consistently. Being consistent 100% of the time is unrealistic. No one is perfect. However, frequent inconsistency can be confusing and could lead to worse behavior. It’s safe to say that we all have had experience with mixed messages and unpredictability. It is difficult for adults to learn when they don’t know what the rules are. So you can imagine that it could be near impossible for a toddler to learn any type of lesson under those conditions.
So to recap, I believe that discipline that builds character, with a healthy dose of patience while consistently teaching consequence is the way forward. I suppose I could have waited to see if my methods are effective before I wrote this post, but my goal with this blog is to give an honest account of my parenting experience and to share what I learn with all of you. This toddler discipline thing is what I’m dealing with in real time and it’s a work in progress. I’ll update you accordingly.
That’s all for this week.
Do you have any advice? How do you or did you discipline your toddler? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading! Stay calm, cool, and collected! I’ll talk to y’all next week!