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Parenting Toddlers: How to Discipline a Toddler 101

Feeding Toddlers, Parenting Toddlers, Toddler Discipline, Toddler Nutrition

Babies are sweet and innocent. They do not misbehave in any way. A baby cannot be labeled good or bad for their actions. A baby is just a baby! However, around age three things begin to change. Baby is no longer a baby but rather a rambunctious toddler. Once baby becomes a toddler it’s time for them to learn rules for their own safety. Rules are meant to keep children safe.

Toddlers especially need rules enforced for their safety because they are not capable of keeping themselves safe. A three year old is curious and wants to explore. Yet some things are not safe to explore, like the kitchen stove, for example. AT about age three discipline can begin to be used. Three year olds are capable of making choices. They are capable of refusing to listen. They are even capable of telling you “NO!”. This is the time when discipline can not only be used, but, NEEDS to be used.

Let me tell you about my baby…well…actually he’ll be three in just a few weeks but I call him my BABY because he’s our last one:) In all actuality he is a very intelligent little big kid. He is a full blown toddler. He began needing discipline a few months ago. Let me explain to you why.

First of all he did find himself curious about the kitchen stove. He see’s me and his father preparing meals and he wanted to try it too. Toddlers watch us do things and they absorb what they see. My little one also wanted to wash the dishes and became fascinated by the vacuum cleaner. He learned to open the front door and the refrigerator door too. I’m still not sure which is worse! He learned to do so many things so quickly! That’s how it happens. Near age three they will ALL do that. Those little toddlers are SO smart. Too smart for their own good, or safety.

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That’s where discipline comes in. When a toddler is doing something such as pushing a chair over to the kitchen stove it is OUR job as parents to stop them and let them know that it is not a safe thing to do. Simply telling a toddler this though is not enough. A three year really doesn’t comprehend safety. They just know they want to cook on the stove. Once again I feel the need to stress the importance of constant supervision. If we as parents don’t see our toddlers do such things then serious injury can result. We need to watch at all times. Toddlers WILL try to do a variety of unsafe things. We need to stop them and teach them what is not okay to do, for safety’s sake.

So how does one go about disciplining a toddler? The first step is to be verbal…straight forward and to the point yet very simple. A three year old doesn’t have a developed vocabulary. Speak simply but firmly. “Don’t touch that”, “Get away from that”, “Put that back”. These are examples of simple verbal discipline that is toddler age approved. Some toddlers will listen very well. Mine does, for the most part. If he is near something he should not be close to, like the TV, I can ask him to “Get away from that please” and he will. When you use simple terms and use the SAME simple terms each time for each situation you’re toddler will understand.

Yet I’ve never seen a toddler who didn’t rebel at one point. Sooner or later every toddler will test the rules. They will choose to not get away from that. They may even shake their heads no or tell you no. This is when discipline needs to be a little more than just verbal. The trick is to let your child know when they have done a No-no. Time out is an appropriate form of toddler discipline so long as it is used in a toddler friendly way.

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Toddlers time out is actually the only discipline other than verbal that I would ever suggest for a three year old. Never spank, hit, slap or yell at a toddler. That is just cruel. Toddlers aren’t ever BAD. Nope, never. They are many things such as curios and clever, but they are never BAD. Toddler time out teaches consequence in a toddler friendly way. It’s meant to be used with gentle but firm verbal discipline. Toddlers need things simply explained to them. We need to make them understand what they’ve done wrong and why they shouldn’t do it.

To use toddler time out you’ll need to pick a place. Maybe sit your toddler on the couch. Maybe at the table or in their bedroom. The place should be safe. A little time out chair is what I would recommend. It should be placed in an area that is not secluded and you’ll need to be present for the whole time out. You cannot put a toddler in timeout and expect them to stay there without you present. They’ll be up playing the second you turn your back.

The length of a toddler time out is important. A three year old should have a time out that is three minutes long. A four year old, four minutes. See, it works in minutes according to age. Three minutes is truly long enough to make a point and teach a lesson to a toddler.

Toddler time out may be used more than one per day. In fact, if your toddler gets out of timeout and goes right back to doing what it was that got him put into time out then the fact is that another timeout is needed. Same place, same amount of time and same verbal communication each time. After a while your toddler WILL catch on. He will LEARN.

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Happy parenting!