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Home » Toddler

Toddler Discipline: Alternatives to Time-Out

Submitted by on Sunday, 11 January 200912 Comments

I came across a great article on the internet today about toddler discipline and alternative methods to achieving good behaviour in toddlers beyond the old “time-out” method.  Not to say the “time-out” method isn’t good…it definitely has its place and can work, but it can get “old” or lose its effectiveness with over-use.

These alternatives help expand your toddler discipline tool kit.  What I liked about them is that they are realistic, goal-oriented, and have a positive focus.

bootsI know you’re busy, so I’ll summarize them for you here:

Point out the goodness:

When your toddler does something good, tell her!  Give her recognition for her good behaviours.  If your toddler cleans up after playing with his toys, tell him he did a great job cleaning up and that you appreciate it.  He’ll be much more likely to do it again.

Be positive:

Positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement or punishment.  Small rewards are more effective than big rewards.  Giving your child a special meal after he behaved really well the whole day, for example, is more effective than giving your child a bicycle at Christmas because he behaved well for the whole year.  Its an extreme example, but you get the point.

Also, if you use praise as positive reinforcement, make your praise specific.  (for example: “Wow, you built a really nice pillow fort!” is better than “You played nicely”).

Use natural consequences when safe and appropriate:

We constantly have had to tell Smarty Pants to leave our cat alone when she is in her cat house.  The other day, he was bugging her while she was in there, and whoosh, she lashed out and scratched him.  It was a small scratch, and it was a natural consequence of his actions.  Since then, he has been very careful not to bug out cat when she is snoozing in her personal space.

If your toddler purposely rips the head off of her doll, don’t just go fork over some cash for a new one.  She won’t learn that breaking her toys has consequences, and you might end up with a pile of doll heads in the corner of her room.  Use natural consequences to stop the beheadings.  When she breaks her doll, it doesn’t magically get replaced, and she can’t play with it anymore.

Don’t expect perfection, and set specific goals:

You’ll stress your toddler out if you try to get her to behave perfectly, and it is unrealistic to expect her to.  Know what your behaviour goals are, and make them realistic.  Then work toward those goals.

This is a really logical point, but it is one that many parents ignore.  When a pilot flies a plane, he knows his destination.  When we are parenting, do we know our destination (behavioural goal) and how we are going to get there (methods for achieving the behavioural goal)?  If you don’t take the time to think about this, you will find yourself being random and inconsistent.  Additionally, you may find yourself having too many, or unrealistic, expectations.

Present Alternatives:

Worse:  “For the 20th time, don’t throw the ball inside, dammit!”  Better:  “Wouldn’t it be more fun to go in the backyard and throw that ball around?”

Remember that discipline is not the same as punishment, and set a good example:

Punishment equates to negative outcomes for negative behaviours.  Discipline is about teaching.  Teach your toddler the behaviours that you would like to see.  One of the most effective ways to teach your toddler is by setting a good example.  Do you tell your child not to yell, but yell yourself when you are upset?  This has happened to me, and I am sure it has happened to many of you.  Our children learn from us and mimic us (if you want proof, check out the boots on Smarty Pants in this Jam’s photo), so let’s get them to mimic positive behaviour.

There you have it.  I hope you enjoyed these tips and found them as useful as I did.  Raising toddlers isn’t easy, and having more tools in our arsenal besides the usual “time-out” will make the ride slightly smoother.  As will a nice cold beer ;-)

What do you think?  Have any of these worked for you, or do you have other time-out alternatives?

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