How to have balance with toddler discipline is something that many parents struggle with. Some believe children have the right to express themselves, while others believe in firm and immovable boundaries. I believe there’s a balance between the two. For instance, when Jack has a meltdown (not a tantrum) I let him cry his heart out for a time, and then I lovingly and firmly tell him it is time to stop and that is when we talk about the issue and move on. Having boundaries doesn’t mean your child can’t express themselves and allowing your child to express themselves doesn’t mean there are no boundaries. There is a balance and these are 5 ingredients that help with that.
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You Are There To Teach Them
“But they don’t understand!”.
No, they don’t.
Toddlers aren’t born knowing what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. They don’t realise that it is inappropriate to snatch away a toy. Nor do they understand that screaming does not mean they are going to get what they want. So, no, they don’t understand, but that is why you are their parent. You are there to TEACH them. Not to just stand by and let them ‘express’ themselves. We as parents have a job to do, and that involves teaching and preparing our children to one day go out into the world and contribute towards it. Training them during the toddler years is a vital part of that. (I love –> THIS POST on the subject)
Give Them A Safe Place
Because they are but toddlers, they need a safe place. Heck, I’m 26 and I still need a safe place. They need a place to be themselves and not have any walls up. You are that place and you need to make sure through communication and love, that your child knows that.
Give Them Boundaries
It has been proven over and over again that boundaries provide children with a sense of security. Boundaries aren’t there to cage them in or take away their spirit. No, they are there to give that child a safe place to thrive and hone their character. As parents, we can often be guilty of moving those boundaries back and forth depending on how we feel or how much energy we have. I get that, I’ve been there, but that doesn’t make it okay. For the sake of our children, we need to be consistent in this area. It really does pay off. Boundaries can also come in the form of having a daily routine. I love Babywise for this reason. It helps us set our children up for success by giving them the opportunity to be well-rested and to have an idea of ‘what happens next’.
Don’t Take It Personally
I feel as though this affects mamas more than dads, but I am generalising here. When your child has a meltdown or has been whining all. day. long. it is so very easy to take it personally. And I know first hand how that weighs on you. Your shoulders feel heavy and your head feels full. The problem with taking it personally is that it will, in turn, take away your child’s safe place, and we tend to start reacting out of anger and frustration. That is never a good thing when your child needs to be disciplined. (Read –> THIS post to find more reasons not to allow your child’s behaviour to dictate your emotions.)
Give Them (And Yourself!) Grace
This is where all the balance comes in and is something I didn’t fully understand until I had children of my own.
You know that screaming child in the checkout aisle? Yes, maybe she does just need some firm boundaries and to have some discipline, but maybe she’s tired. Maybe she’s on the tail end of an ear infection, or perhaps she’s cutting her molars (those things are THE WORST!).
I believe that we should not expect more from our children than we do from ourselves. It isn’t fair to expect them to have perfect behaviour when they’re sick or tired. It doesn’t mean that you let them get away with everything, but circumstances like that call for a little grace to be offered.
Finally, know that sometimes you’re gonna get it wrong, and that’s okay. None of us has this parenting thing down pat. Every child and every parent is unique. Remember:
My greatest failures can’t ruin my kids and my greatest victories can’t save them. Salvation belongs only and always to God.
Until next time!