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Reading to Your Toddler Improves His Behavior and Helps You Do Positive Discipline
  • We’ve written a lot about the benefits of reading with your toddler. Apart from forging a strong bond between the two of you, it helps develop his imagination and creativity, widen his vocabulary, and hones his literacy skills, which is excellent for your kids’ social skills and later on, school performance. But did you know reading may also have a positive effect on your toddler’s behavior and your parenting style?

    According to a study, toddlers who were read to often are less likely to exhibit hyperactive and disruptive behavior, such as tantrums. Not just that, parents who regularly read with their toddlers are also less likely to engage in harsh parenting. It’s the first study that focused on how shared reading affects parenting.

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    Researchers from Rutgers University looked at the data of more than 2,000 moms who answered questions about how often they read to their children between ages 1 and 3. They were also re-interviewed two years later about their child’s behavior and how often these moms engaged in phsyical and/or psychologically aggressive discipline. The researchers also controlled other factors of harsh parenting, such as depression and financial hardships, as well as children’s disruptive behavior.

    The results of the study, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, showed that engaging in frequent shared reading when a child is 1 year old was linked to less “harsh parenting” when he reaches age 3. And kids who continued to have a reading routine when they were 3 years old did not receive aggressive discipline tactics from parents when they were age 5.


    The research reported that children with shared reading experiences with their parents displayed fewer disruptive behaviors, which may partially explain the reduction in harsh parenting behaviors.

    “For parents, the simple routine of reading with your child on a daily basis provides not just academic but emotional benefits that can help bolster the child’s success in school and beyond,” the lead researcher Manuel Jimenez, M.D., an assistant professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics and an attending developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Children’s Specialized Hospital, said via a press release.

    “Our findings can be applied to programs that help parents and caregivers in underserved areas to develop positive parenting skills.”

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    The study also found that shared reading makes for a stronger parent-child bond that may help lower hyperactivity and attention problems in children. It did not state, however, how often should shared reading be to get that positive ripple effect on kids and parents’ discipline tactics. The study also did not state what happens to behavior and discipline if you did not read to little kids.

    The research does bring to light the importance of incorporating shared reading in young children’s routine when it comes to cognitive development and positive behavior. 

    Previous studies have shown that reading print books are better than digital interactive books when reading to toddlers. Print books allow more “dialogic” collaboration about the story between the parents and their toddlers, which boosts the benefits children receive from shared reading. And a bedtime story – it doesn’t have to be restricted as a before going to sleep activity – is a simple, doable activity that can go a long way.

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