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Disciplining Your Child


Disciplining your child | Your parenting style | Your child's temperament |

Disciplining your child

Normal behaviour in young children

Now that your child is a toddler and learning to do things on his own, you may notice some changes in his behaviour. Here are some examples of what you might see:

  • Curious and wants to explore
  • Wants some independence ("me do")
  • Does not understand "danger"
  • Can have mood swings and tantrums
  • May bite or hit to show you how he's feeling
  • Likes to have caregivers close
  • Likes routines and is unhappy when there is a change in routine
  • Strongly resists limits and rules
  • Thinks the world exists for him
  • Starts to show a sense of humour
  • Cannot share easily; often says "mine"

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Why do children misbehave?

Kids can misbehave for many reasons, but sometimes it's because they're:

  • Tired
  • Hungry
  • Curious
  • Testing the limits
  • Frustrated
  • Stressed out (from changes to routine, moving, baby on the way)
  • Too young to understand the rules
Positive parenting teaches your child rules or limits. It also helps him feel loved and safe.

Physical punishment hurts your child. It can also have serious long-term side effects, such as causing violence or social problems later in life.

Spanking doesn’t teach kids how to deal with their feelings when they’re angry. It teaches them the wrong lesson - that it’s ok to hit others when they’re upset.

Positive Discipline

Positive discipline influences a child's behaviour in many ways. A child's behaviour is greatly influenced by the actions of their parents. Children copy what they see their parents do - when you demonstrate positive behaviours to your child, they will use them too.

Positive discipline means teaching your child:

  • Values (saying please and thank you, thinking about other people's feelings)
  • How to talk about and deal with emotions (i.e. instead of having a tantrum and screaming, use words to tell you what he wants)
  • How to get along with other people (i.e. sharing toys)
  • How to be responsible and to solve problems (i.e. taking turns if he wants to play with the same toy as his friend)
  • Good behaviour for his age ("no hitting", "no biting", to come and get you if he needs help or is frustrated).

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Why is Positive Discipline Important?

  • Keeps your child safe by teaching him certain "rules" and limits
  • Makes him feel loved, cared for and secure

What About Spanking?

Spanking or physical punishment is different than positive discipline.

Spanking doesn't teach kids how to deal with their feelings when they're angry. If kids are afraid you'll spank them they'll do what you want as long as you're around but as soon as you're not there, they may continue with inappropriate behaviour. It won't fix the problem or change their behaviour in the long run.

Instead of this, use positive parenting to teach or show your child what you would like him to do instead of what he's doing now. Guide your child's behaviour by being a good example for your child, encouraging him, and noticing when he's being "good".

There are many benefits when your child is raised in a loving environment. Research shows that children raised in a loving environment have a healthier self-esteem and are:

  • Happier
  • Healthier
  • Cope better with stress
  • Are more willing to try new things
  • Do better in school

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Be patient with your kids because learning something new takes time and practice.

Tips for 2-3 year olds

Give simple choices

  • Children like to feel they're in control so give them simple choices like choosing between two healthy foods as a snack.

Have clear and fair rules or limits

  • Your child feels safer when there are simple rules/limits.
  • Set realistic rules based on your child's age so that he can understand them.
  • Remember a 1 year old can't understand and follow rules but a 2 year old can understand simple rules some of the time.
  • Repeat the limits and expectations to your child. Hearing them repeated will help make stronger connections in their brain, which will help to learn them better. Your child's brain is building connections through everyday experiences you have with them.

Use simple words and simple explanations

  • Explain clearly and repeat often: what they can do, what they can't do, and why. For example: "No biting, it hurts."
  • Teach your child why he should follow a rule.
  • Teach him to come to you for help so if they're frustrated, instead of biting or hitting, tell them to come to you.

State rules or limits positively and then practice them

  • Tell your child what you want him to do instead of what not to do. For example: "You can ride your bike, but to be safe please stay on the sidewalk." Then ask your child to practice this rule.

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Remind your child about the rule or limit

  • Remember by age 2 – children understand simple rules, but cannot follow them all the time. A simple reminder is helpful.
Six-Steps of Problem Solving Ages 2-3
1 Approach calmly Get down to your child's level.
Gently comfort her by using a quiet voice.
2 Recognize how your child is feeling Gently reach out if your child is upset.
Children can often be calmed by rubbing their back or face.
Name the feeling and use simple words: "You sound angry."
3 Gather information Watch your child.
Describe what you saw: "I saw Tan take the truck from you, Jen."
For children who can talk ask, "What is the problem?"
4 Restate the problem Saying to your child, "The problem is, Tan, you want the truck and Jen, you want the truck too."
5 Ask for ideas Ask for your child's ideas.
Describe choices or solutions you see: You may say, "You both want the truck. We could find another truck together," or "Jen would you like to play with the car or the ball until Tan is finished with the truck?"
6 Give follow-up support Stay nearby to see that the problem is solved.

Tips for 4-5 year olds

Allow choices

  • Children need to feel they're in control. If you give them choices, you can prevent power struggles.
  • Example: "Do you want to brush your teeth before you get into your pyjamas or after you get into your pyjamas?"

Involve him in making rules

  • When your child is old enough, let him help make the rules – it will make him more responsible for carrying them through.

Help your child solve his own problems

  • Teach problem solving.
  • Solve problems together.
  • Think of solutions together, choose the best one, try it and discuss what you could try next time.

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Six-Steps of Problem Solving Ages 3 and Up
1 Approach calmly Be aware of your body language.
Feeling and looking calm tells your child you are able to support him.
Use "I" words with your child. Example: "When there is hitting I feel worried, because hitting hurts. The hitting needs to stop."
2 Recognize how your child is feeling Name the feelings your child is showing.
This may help him to "let go" of the feelings because you understand them. Example: "You seem angry."
Let your child know you will help him to solve his problem.
3 Gather information Tell your child you want to listen.
Sit close and hold his hand or rub his back to help him calm down.
Ask "What is making you angry?"
Listen to your child carefully for details of the problem.
4 Restate the problem Repeat what he said, to be certain you understand the problem.
Example: "You said you got angry because you had the truck first, is that right?"
5 Ask for ideas Respect and explore your child's ideas - this takes time!
Help your child to think about how he could use his ideas.
Your child might suggest a solution: "Mark can play with the truck for five minutes and then I can play for five minutes."
When your child cannot find a solution to the problem, you might say: "I have an idea. Do you want to hear my idea?"
Your child may not like your idea. Respect this, and continue to explore ideas together.
6 Give follow-up support Your child may need your support and encouragement in carrying out the idea.
Watch to see that your child is following through with the idea he agreed upon. Tell him, "You solved the problem!"
If the problem is not solved, start the steps again.

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For more information:

Region of Peel - Public Health
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
to speak with a Public Health Nurse

Caledon residents call free of charge at 905-584-2216

Nutrition | Play, Learning and Development | Safety | Behaviour
Sleep | Childhood Illnesses | Child Care | Contact Us

Revised: Wednesday January 16 2013


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