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  • Discipline Misbehaving Toddlers Without the Punishment: 5 Ways to Do It

    Raise a well-behaved, happy child with firm but loving discipline.
    by Jillianne E. Castillo . Published Aug 24, 2018
Discipline Misbehaving Toddlers Without the Punishment: 5 Ways to Do It
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    All parents want to raise a well-behaved child  but disciplining a child is no easy task. Sometimes, it can feel like scare tactics like punishment are the sole solution to dealing with a “matigas ang ulo” child. Experts, however, want to convince you otherwise. 

    Punishment versus discipline

    Discipline is not the same as punishment, says research psychologist Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. “Discipline is necessary. Punishment is not,” she says.

    Punishment in discipline may include scolding your child with harsh words, yelling and shouting at him, making him feel guilty, shaming him, and spanking.

    Toddlers have yet to fully learn all the “rules” of what is right and wrong, so there is punishment that may be too much. “In most cases, misbehavior among toddlers and young kids isn't something that requires punishing but, instead, some understanding and a frank parent-child discussion,” explains. Dr. Drexler, who is also an author of parenting books. 

    Punishing a child can backfire as it misplaces the focus on the punishment rather than the misbehavior. “Being punished makes kids angry and defensive. It launches adrenaline andfight, flight or freeze hormones, and it turns off the reasoning, cooperative impulses.

    “Kids quickly forget the ‘bad’ behavior that led to their being punished,” psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Laura Markham in an article for Psychology Today

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    How to correct misbehavior without punishment

    You need to bring the focus back to the misbehavior. Says psychologist Jon Lasser, Ph.D., who specializes in working with children and families, “When a child does something wrong, parents do not punish, but rather work with the child to better understand what happened and then develop better alternatives.” 

    Here’s what you can do now to correct and avoid misbehavior without you losing your temper and your child ending up in tears: 

    1. Explain what your child should have done instead.

    Your child hits you when she’s frustrated. Pinching or spanking back is not a good idea. “You're simply reinforcing the message that it's okay to use your hands to resolve a situation. Using spanking as a consequence can especially confuse her because you are trying to teach her that hitting is wrong,” says pediatrician Dr. William Sears in a column for Parenting.

    Instead, help your child express her feelings in other ways. You can say something like, “You’re mad. But, hitting is bad and hurts mom. Show me you’re mad by stomping your foot or yelling ‘mad’ but no hurting.”

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    2. Let him experience the consequence of his actions.

    Resist the urge to “rescue” your child. If he throws food on the floor, explain to him that it’s now his job to clean it up (don't do it for him). Be calm but firm and state it matter-of-factly. Children are more capable than parents often realize. Don’t be afraid to give your child more responsibility — it is how he learns how the “real world” works as he grows older. 

    3. Set clear rules and boundaries.

    One of the best ways to prevent misbehavior in the first place is to set clear and consistent rules that your child knows he has to follow. Rules and limits shape behavior and provide a sense of order. They tell your child what’s okay and what’s not okay to do.

    Be consistent. For example, don’t allow your child to have his tablet while eating on some days and not allow it on other days. It confuses your child and makes it more difficult to control his behavior when you don’t want the tablet with him. 

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    4. Don’t give in.

    Misbehavior can come in the form of stubbornness – your child refusing to do as you say, like getting dressed. Avoid forcing the situation and dressing your child yourself. Otherwise, he’ll learn that stubbornness and disobedience get him what he wants. 

    “He knows how to put on his shoes. So if you walk out the door, he will put on his shoes and follow you. It may not feel like it, but eventually, he will,” certified parenting educator Katherine Reynolds Lewis tells NPR. “And if you spend five or 10 minutes outside that door waiting for him — not threatening or nagging — he'll be more likely to do it quickly."

    5. Be loving.

    Toddlers still have trouble controlling and expressing their strong, negative emotions. To release their feelings, they tend to act out and have tantrums. This can be trying for any parent, but if you know that your child’s misbehavior comes from sadness, such as having to head home from a playdate, using affection as an approach is useful at correcting behavior. 

    Offer a hug for your upset little one, says Dr. Azine Graff, a clinical psychologist who specializes in parenting and anxiety, in an article on Mother.ly. “When offering a hug or verbal reassurance to calm your child, you are not automatically reinforcing their behavior. You are actually helping them calm down, so that they can hear you better.”

    A simple phrase like, “I understand how you're feeling. I would be sad about it, too” along with a hug can work wonders. Expressing care and empathy is a loving, easy, and quick solution. It also teaches your child how to control his emotions — he can be calm because you’re calm. 

    Here’s to well-behaved and happy little ones!

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