Your child will invariably want to be a part of activities that may involve danger in some form or another. From eating sand in the park to getting a little too comfortable with a pet, as a parent you’re bound to be worried. These kinds of moments make up any given day and figuring out how to shield your child from harm without breaking their spirit usually leaves a parent confused.
At this tender age, traditional discipline methods such as a ‘time-out’ don’t work. So, then what does? And at what age is it appropriate to try which tactics?
As you may have guessed, it's as necessary for parents to learn how to discipline properly as it is for children to learn that certain kinds of misbehaviour are unsafe or socially inappropriate.
Ultimately, it's a lengthy process but when done correctly, it is a positive experience that’s bound to help your child.
The Birth of discipline
- Setting limits, reinforcing good behaviour and discouraging less-desirable behaviour can start when your child is a young baby.
- There are things that even young babies must learn not to do, pulling your hair for example. Babies have limited language comprehension, memory and attention spans, so the best strategies to employ early on are more about damage control than about teaching an actual lesson.
- Distracting them ( i.e. helping them move on to a better activity than their current one) and ignoring them are two very effective strategies.
- If, for example, your 4-month-old discovers how much fun it is to yank your hair, you might gently remove their hand, give it a kiss, and redirect it toward something fun and appropriate, such as a rattle or other toy.
Of course, you never want to ignore behaviour that's potentially dangerous but looking the other way, when your 7-month-old cheerfully pelts the food or toys from their high chair is a good idea. Thy are learning how to control their hands and beginning to understand the concept of cause and effect. As annoying as this behaviour is, it's important not to get upset or overreact. A lot of parents think their kids are taunting them when they continually change channels on the remote. Parents often grow frustrated when a child engages in such behaviours. Your best bet is to maintain a calm demeanor and carry on with what you were doing.
8 to 12 months
When your baby starts to crawl around the 8-month mark, it's time to think about setting limits. Suddenly everything from the knick-knacks on your side table to those rolls of toilet paper under the bathroom sink are now within your little one’s reach.
A child this age only wants to explore, they have no concept of what they should or should not do. If you don't want them to touch something, place it out of their reach by childproofing our house and let child-friendly items take center stage.
They say this is the best way to help your child stay out of trouble and makes it a lot easier to follow the rules.
- Many parents say ‘no’ when they catch their little ones getting up to mischief. Unfortunately, it's not a reliable disciplining method for kids this age.
- Your child can comprehend by the tone of your voice that ‘no’ means something different from ‘I love you’, but they don’t understand the real meaning of the word.
- Furthermore, they don’t have the self-control to heed your request.
- Use other techniques to reinforce the lesson that some things are off-limits.
12 to 24 months
Around this age, your child's communication skills are blossoming, so you can start explaining basic rules like, “don't pull doggy’s/kitty's tail” if you have pets at home. You can also begin using the word ‘no’ judiciously, especially in serious situations. However, repeating the word too many times could also wear it out and eventually render it completely useless.
At this stage, a child’s physical skills are coming into full play too. Your young little walker will be thrilled with their freshly minted independence, and even frustrated because they can't do all the things the'd like.
- While tantrums require a quick response from you, these emotional thunderstorms are a part of growing up and not a cue for harsher discipline techniques, such as taking away a privilege or sending a child to their room.
- When tantrums strike, it’s best to know your own child. Some kids calm down quickly through distraction; others need a hug.
- If a tantrum is lengthy, remove your child from the situation and gently explain what's going on. For example, saying "We can't stay in the store if you continue screaming" until they calmdown.
Frustration that stems from your toddler's inability to communicate effectively can lead to hitting or biting too. Disciplining such scenarios involves telling your child what not to do quickly and simply and redirecting them towards an appropriate activity.
24 to 36 months
The 2-year mark ushers in two's programs, pre-school, and play-dates, which are great for your child's socialisation skills but come with a new set of discipline problems.
Sharing toys, time, and attention are difficult at this age. What complicates matters further is that adults and even children outside your family may end up in the path of a toy-snatching toddler who happens to belong to you.
Toddlers understand easy commands, empathy as well as cause and effect, so you can now employ these concepts when you discipline them. For example, if your child grabs a crayon from their friend, you can say, "We don't grab toys? Taking Rohan’s crayon hurts his feelings," and then give them a similar crayon to play with once the return the first one.
A key to disciplining toddlers and preschoolers are to keep things very simple. According to research, adults with long reprimands were less effective than those with short and direct ones.
It’s tme-out time!
Kids in the age group of 25 to 34 months are also ready for the ‘time-outs’. A ‘time-out’ is a disciplinary method wherein when your child misbehaves, he gets one minute to sit quietly in a chair or in his room to calm himself down for every year of his age. For example, a 3-year-old gets 3 minutes. They get up only when you say the ‘time-out’ is over.
Of course, every child is different and no one single disciplining method will work all the time. But the more practice you get doling it out the more your child will understand boundaries and develop appropriate personal and social behaviours.