Positive discipline teaches and guides your toddler as he or she grows. The aim is to keep your toddler safe and to help your toddler to become a responsible person and to act in acceptable ways. Positive discipline should not be used to punish or to make your toddler obey. Rather, it should help your toddler to understand how to fit into the world in a thoughtful, healthy, and productive way.
Your toddler will benefit most from positive discipline that is:
- Based on respect for your toddler and her or his feelings. (Name calling, blaming, or talking in a hurtful way is not positive discipline.)
- Right for your toddler’s age and what your toddler can do.
- Given at the time when the problem behaviour occurs.
- Explained in a way your toddler can understand. This helps the discipline become a learning experience.
- Built on the trust and love between you and your toddler.
The following section gives you information on how to promote positive behaviour and how to deal with problem behaviour. It also provides information on how to guide your toddler’s behaviour as he or she gets older.
- Get your toddler’s attention and make eye contact before you speak.
- Use a gentle touch. Keep your words clear, simple, and direct. Saying “Please put that down” is more direct than “Cut it out.”
- Make only one request at a time. Your toddler cannot react to two or three requests at the same time.
- Use positive communication. Try to tell your toddler what to do instead of what not to do. Saying, “Please ride on the sidewalk” is more positive than, “Don’t ride on the street.”
- For every “No,” try to offer two reasonable choices. “No, that paper is for Daddy. But you can play with this book or this toy.”
- Use “please” and “thank you” whenever you can.
- Supervise your toddler.
- Childproof your home for safety.
- Provide a range of interesting toys and activities.
- Organize your day so there are regular naps and mealtimes.
- Keep to bedtime routines.
- Balance active and quiet times.
- Tell your toddler about any changes in routine that will be happening.
- Give your toddler regular attention, even if you are busy.
- Be calm and patient.
- Model the behaviour you want to see in your toddler (such as sharing or taking turns).
- Gently remind your toddler about limits—she or he has a short attention span and can quickly forget what you’ve said.
- Avoid reacting in angry or defensive ways.
- “Catch” your toddler behaving well and tell her or him right away: “I really like the way you are playing gently with your sister.”
- Tell your toddler what you like about his or her behaviour. (Examples: “Thank you for using your quiet voice at Grandma’s house,” or “I really like that you are holding my hand while we cross the street.”)
- Offer appropriate choices, usually no more than two.
- Show your toddler how to cooperate: “I will read you a story after you’ve picked up the blocks.”
- Talk about conflicts: “I can see that you are angry at Tim for taking the ball.”
- Offer solutions to conflict: “Maybe you can let Tim have a turn and then he will give you a turn.”
For more information about positive discipline and challenging behaviours, see pages 125‑135 of Toddler’s First Steps: A Best Chance Guide to Parenting Your 6‑ to 36‑ Month‑Old Child.