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Taming your Toddler

I read a post on Yahoo Lifestyle today by Felicity Hannah, about how you discipline a two year old, and it got me thinking about how we currently do this and how we plan to do this in my family, but also about the role of dad in this situation.

It’s often the case that the dad is seen to be the discplinarian in a family; “Wait ’til your father gets home”, “If you carry on behaving like this I’ll tell your father!” and so on. I remember that being the case in my life. I think some, maybe most dads, worry about this element of bringing up your children. Not necessarily from the perspective of being able to be a point of discipline, but from a worry of how it will affect the relationship further down the line.

I very much believe that done the right way, discipline can make the bond stronger, but it has to be done in the right way. It can’t be tyrannical and it can’t be wimpish; you have to find that sweet spot in between. You don’t want your son and daughter to grow up terrified of you, but also you don’t want them to walk all over you and everyone else. You want them to respect you, a truly valid point recently emphasised on new parenting show 3 Day Nanny, when addressing discipline.

Here’s a brief look at how we’ve progressed discipline with my cub, who’s bearing down fast on the terrible twos at 21 months old:

1: The first real thing we did was to remove him from whatever he was doing and sit him on the floor somewhere, leaving him there. We couldn’t put him in a chair at this point as he was too young to sit in one really. Sometimes it worked and he’d look a bit sorry for himself and not return to the scene of the crime, and other times he’d just be up and off to try it again. You can’t really force a 1 year old to sit in the spot for any length of time.

2. Around the same time we started to introduce a countdown… 3-2-1. If we got to 1 then we would execute point 1 above and remove him and sit him down. This happened quite a lot but now he’s a bit older this is starting to work quite well and I rarely reach the end of the countdown before he’s stopped doing whatever impish thing he’s doing.

3. Something we’re trying at the minute is to have him sit on either my knee or his mum’s knee for 1 minute, our arms wrapped around him loosely so he can’t run off. Being avid Super Nanny fans we like the idea of a Naughty Step but like Felicity, think he’s a bit young for it just now. This does a similar thing for us. It doesn’t really work at tired times as he just nestles in and gets comfy, but when he’s being rowdy or naughty then it seems to have the desired effect, even it just serves as a distraction.

One point that is ongoing and incredibly important is to ensure that you explain why they’re being disciplined. What do you want them to learn from it? What do you want them to do differently in the future? Without this then the other things can become futile and just daddy being mean.

Felicity makes a really great point in that you can’t be his or her best friend. It’s now when you can really begin to shape the way your toddler grows up. I try to think of it not so much as disciplining or punishing but as teaching him instead. I want him to learn from me how to be a well-rounded, well-behaved and well-mannered member of society and this is simply one of the ways in which we do it.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s hard, I hate to see him upset, but being conscious of the future benefit and that because I’m doing it in a good way, I know he’ll still love me regardless.

How do you discipline your toddlers? Dads, are you the princpal disciplinarian? How does it make you feel? Let me know how you handle this in your pride.