Your little explorer embarks upon new adventures every day, driven by a quest for self-reliance, with no specific plan in mind to solve the new challenges that wait around the bend. Toddlers frequently demonstrate not-so-nice behaviors because they simply lack the skills needed to navigate new tasks. Unlike conventional disciplinary techniques that punish children for inappropriate behavior, positive guidance advocates help children learn from behavioral blunders. When moms teach and model positive strategies, their little ones can learn self-control.
Based on your toddler's developmental level, consistently communicate what is -- and is not -- permitted. Your goal is to express rules in language your toddler can comprehend -- keep explanations brief and related to the inappropriate behavior. For example, "No, you cannot pull the kitty's tail. Pulling hurts, and we do not hurt our pets." Suggest a replacement behavior such as gently stroking the pet, and demonstrate the behavior. Stick to your words with unswerving enforcement of the rule. In other words, say what you mean, and mean what you say.
You can help your toddler manage strong emotions such as anger with positive guidance. Chastising her for uncontrolled anger is a bit like squashing a bug with your shoe -- you've eliminated the immediate issue, but haven't addressed preventing additional pests from entering your home. Your disapproval will not teach her how to cope with feelings of anger in the future. After your toddler has cooled down, validate her feelings, communicate your expectation, and help her solve the problem. For example, "I know that you're very angry because your brother took some of your favorite snack, and it's OK to feel angry. But it's not OK to kick others. Let's talk about things you can do when you feel angry."
Demonstrate Positive Confidence
You know that your little one likes to perform tasks independently that were not possible only a few months ago. When moms demonstrate confidence in their toddler's efforts, toddlers benefit by gaining self-confidence. Self-confidence is a relatively new emotion for the developing toddler, who needs to believe that she can be successful. When communicating your behavioral expectations and providing emotional guidance, remind her of earlier successes and how proud you are of her.
The same toddler who skillfully exclaims, "No!" doesn't like to hear that word from his mom. Defuse potentially negative scenarios by providing options. Gear choices to your toddler's developmental level and add choices later as she gains confidence. Don't limit the strategy of providing choices to avoiding toddler tantrums. Rather, integrate choices into her daily routine.
Becky Swain's first publication appeared in the "Journal of Personality Assessment" in 1984. Her articles have also appeared on various websites. She is an adjunct college instructor, licensed school psychologist and educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science in clinical psychology and a Doctor of Philosophy in educational psychology, both from Mississippi State University.