Toddler discipline: Tips and techniques

Discipline needs to begin early - as early as toddlerhood. Here are some tips on how to correct your toddler’s behaviour and instil discipline in him.

By Arun Sharma

Toddler discipline: Tips and techniques

Toddlerhood is a time when children start pushing boundaries and testing their limits. While temper tantrums is a common issue among toddlers, they can also display other behaviour-related issues like aggression, biting, spitting and screaming. Lack of intervention or wrong handling of these problems can result in such behaviour going from bad to worse.

Here are some tips and techniques to deal with behaviour-related problems in toddlers.

1. Hair-pulling: A lot of toddlers resort to pulling their hair, which is a distressing sight for parents and onlookers. Most of the time, they do so when they are under stress or are upset. Reassuring your toddler during such times can prevent him from resorting to the practice. When you see that your toddler is about to begin pulling his hair, give him a toy or engage him in some activity to redirect his attention. You can also cut his hair short to prevent him from grasping his hair. Sometimes, your child may pull his hair because of itchiness or infection of the scalp. These conditions may require medical attention.

2. Dropping food on the floor: Toddlers enjoy throwing things and watching them fly through the air. This habit extends to food as well. Don’t fill your toddler’s plate with food. Give her only a couple of pieces of eatables or small portion sizes. When your toddler starts throwing food instead of eating it, stop giving her more, as she might be feeling full. Also, try making your child sit on the floor and eat, from where dropping food may not appear to be so entertaining. Also, don’t show your annoyance or immediately pick up the food she has dropped. This can make dropping food an enjoyable activity and reinforce her habit. Wait until the meal is over, and then, engage your toddler too in picking up the items she has dropped. This may not prove to be a fun-filled activity and can make your toddler quit the habit.

3. Head banging: While some experts call this habit a rhythmic movement disorder, others tend to categorise it under self-soothing habits. No matter what label this habit takes, the sight of a child banging his head can be very unsettling for parents. When your toddler begins to bang his head, try to distract him or pretend not to notice it. However, it is best to not allow your toddler the opportunity to bang his head by keeping him engaged in activities. If your toddler’s head-banging habit is a part of his temper tantrums, don’t ever give in to his demands. With time, your child will outgrow this habit. But, when head-banging is a part of attention-seeking behaviour or you are unable to ascertain the reason behind it, seek help from experts.

4. Biting: This is one of the most common behaviour-related issues in toddlers. There are various reasons behind this behaviour. Some of them are curiosity, attention-seeking behaviour, boredom, hunger, fear, frustration due to inability to communicate, and even inability to show affection. One of the first things to do when your toddler bites is to look into his eyes and tell sternly that biting hurts and she should not bite. Move your child away and attend to the individual your child has bitten. This will show your child that it is the victim who gets the attention. After your child has calmed down, talk to her and understand why she indulged in biting, and prevent such situations from arising in the future.

The age between 2 and 3 is a time when toddlers begin to understand their individuality. As a result, they start acting independently, extending their boundaries, and communicating their likes and dislikes. All these factors give rise to strong feelings in toddlers, which, in the absence of proper guidance, can degenerate into inappropriate behaviour. But with guidance, encouragement and time, most toddlers are able to reform their behaviour. So, be patient and watchful, and guide your child towards developing better habits.