In our last article, we addressed some ideas on how to discipline and train a baby (0-12 months). The next year of your child’s life is a very important one for setting the groundwork for future obedience. It is during this year that many parents feel unsure about how to handle misbehavior. They even struggle to define misbehavior. After all, is an 18 month old found shredding your favorite magazine being cute and curious or testy and defiant? It is a difficult call particularly because just a few short months ago, he was just a little baby, wrapped in your arms nursing or taking a bottle. Unfortunately, more often than not, parents are too late in realizing that cute has turned to cunning.
To help you make this transition, it is recommended that you read another article here on Cornerstones for Parents entitled, Training a Toddler in Social Situations. In this article, we explored how to provide structure and training for your little one in a social setting. It will help you make the necessary mental shift and also help you better embrace your role as an authority figure in your toddler’s life.
Here are some more quick tips on discipline in the second year of life.
- Parent with “great expectations”. If you set your standards low, your children will never exceed them. If you expect good behavior, then you will be rewarded with better behavior. Explaining misbehavior with the statement, “He is just a baby, he doesn’t know any better,” is true. He doesn’t know any better. That is why it is your job to teach him.
- Make sure he is getting plenty of rest and regular snacks. This is an age of boundless energy. In fact, some children in this age group never even sit down during the day! You will want to make sure that you provide ample opportunities for quiet time and naps, even if he doesn’t act like he needs it. Studies have found that a lack of adequate sleep actually increases hyperactivity. This is due to the effects of a stress hormone, called cortisol, which is produced by the body in response to stress. So get him down for a nap, institute regular story times and quiet cuddle times before the cortisol takes over! Also, regular, protein-rich snacks will help maintain a steady supply of long-lasting energy all day long.
- Remove and distract. Every misbehavior doesn’t need to become a battle. Sometimes just by re-directing his attention to something more interesting is enough to put an end to the misbehavior. Make sure you move him to a different room. A change in scenery is often a sufficient “reset” button.
- Expect temper tantrums. Melt-downs, flailing body parts and “nails-on-a-chalkboard” screams can exasperate even the most tolerant and patient parent. Avoid rationalizing during these times. Simply hold your child to keep him safe and sing or hum quietly. Of course, if you find this response escalates the situation, you can alternatively place him somewhere safe, such as in his crib. When the temper tantrum subsides, do not give in to what started the tantrum. Even if that means a repeat of what you just went through. Remember, short term intensive periods of training are far more preferable than long term corrective parenting measures.
- Plan to do the same thing over and over again. The reason your 15 month old does the same misbehavior over and over again is not because he is unable to learn from his mistakes. He is simply one year old. He needs multiple, consistent experiences for correction to imprint. So, yes, you may have to take away that toy truck he throws every day for many days. Don’t lose heart; it will sink in eventually. Most importantly, remember that it isn’t personal, even if it feels that way.