This post is a compilation of resources that I lean on for clients and with my own family. I hope that these help you with discipline issues. Let me know if you have questions below!
Approach to Discipline
Dr. Daniel Siegel thoughts on discipline:
Here are the eight basic principles that guide us:
1. Discipline is essential. We believe that loving our kids, and giving them what they need, includes setting clear and consistent boundaries and holding high expectations for them—all of which helps them achieve success in relationships and other areas of their lives.
2. Effective discipline depends on a loving, respectful relationship between adult and child. Discipline should never include threats or humiliation, cause physical pain, scare children, or make them feel that the adult is the enemy. Discipline should feel safe and loving to everyone involved.
3. The goal of discipline is to teach. We use discipline moments to build skills so kids can handle themselves better now and make better decisions in the future. There are usually better ways to teach than giving immediate consequences. Instead of punishment, we encourage cooperation from our kids by helping them think about their actions, and by being creative and playful. We set limits by having a conversation to help develop awareness and skills that lead to better behavior both today and tomorrow.
4. The first step in discipline is to pay attention to kids' emotions. When children misbehave, it's usually the result of not handling big feelings well and not yet having the skills to make good choices. So being attentive to their emotional experience behind a behavior is just as important as the behavior itself. In fact, science shows that addressing kids' emotional needs is actually the most effective approach to changing behavior over time, as well as developing their brains in ways that allow them to handle themselves better as they grow up.
5. When children are upset or throwing a fit, that's when they need us most. We need to show them we are there for them, and that we'll be there for them at their absolute worst. This is how we build trust and a feeling of overall safety.
6. Sometimes we need to wait until children are ready to learn. If kids are upset or out of control, that's the worst time to try to teach them. Those big emotions are evidence that our children need us. So our first job is to help them calm down, so they can regain control and handle themselves well.
7. The way we help them be ready to learn is to connect with them. Before we redirect their behavior, we connect and comfort. Just like we soothe them when they are physically hurt, we do the same when they're emotionally upset. We do this by validating their feelings, and by giving them lots of nurturing empathy. Before we teach, we connect.
8. After connecting, we redirect. Once they've felt that connection with us, kids will be more ready to learn, so we can effectively redirect them and talk with them about their behavior. What do we hope to accomplish when we redirect and set limits? We want our kids to gain insight into themselves, empathy for others, and the ability to make things right when they make mistakes.
For us, discipline comes down to one simple phrase:
Connect and Redirect. Our first response should always be to offer soothing connection, then we can redirect behaviors. Even when we say "no" to children's behavior, we always want to say "yes" to their emotions, and to the way they experience things.
Connection Strategies – The Connection Cycle: Help your child feel felt o Communicate comfort: By getting below eye level, then giving a loving touch, a nod of the head, or an empathetic look, you can often quickly diffuse a heated situation. o Validate: Even when you don't like the behavior, acknowledge and even embrace feelings. o Stop talking and listen: When your child's emotions are exploding, don't explain or lecture or try to talk them out of their feelings. Just listen, looking for the meaning and emotions they’re communicating. o Reflect what you hear: Once you've listened, reflect back what you've heard, letting your kids know you've heard them. That leads back to communicating comfort, and the cycle repeats.
One definition: Discipline is teaching.
Ask the three questions:
1. Why did my child act this way? (What was happening internally/emotionally?)
2. What lesson do I want to teach?
3. How can I best teach it?
1. Wait until your child is ready.
2. Be consistent but not rigid.
Three Mindsight outcomes:
1. Insight: Help kids understand their own feelings and their responses to difficult situations.
2. Empathy: Give kids practice reflecting on how their actions impact others.
3. Repair: Ask kids what they can do to make things right.
Describe, don't preach
Involve your child in the discipline
Reframe a no into a yes with conditions
Emphasize the positive
Creatively approach the situation
Teach Mindsight tools
Shaping Toddler Behavior
Set the expectation for children so they have a greater awareness of their surroundings, and oftentimes, the needs of others.
Toddlers need to learn so much in such a short period of time. They need to learn to be attentive, quiet, aware of their surroundings, and so much more.
Time for Two
Afternoons were rough. After I put my newborn down for a nap, I often struggled to keep my wound-up 3-year-old son quietly occupied so his sibling could sleep. Then one afternoon I pulled out a couple of teacups, saucers, napkins and small spoons.
I asked my son to help me set up, and we sat down to chat over tea and small sandwiches. It went so well that we continued doing this every afternoon. It became a welcome break for both of us and gave my son the time he needed with me, which made him calmer for the rest of the afternoon. —Alyssa Johnston
Wait Your Turn As a former school psychologist, I frequently used the phrase “First ___; then ____” with students. It gave students structure, helping them know what to expect and reducing their number of requests. So I tried it with my toddler. I acknowledged what she wanted and told her what had to happen first. Instead of just asking her to wait, I’d say, “First I need to feed your baby brother; then we can work on coloring valentines.”
This reduced the number and frequency of her requests. She also learned that sometimes she couldn’t immediately get what she wanted. — Lauren Gaines
Volume Levels, Whining, and Quieting
It’s not easy teaching children how to regulate their voice. So I discussed these levels with my children:
No talking — often used during church or prayer time Whisper voice — perfect for the library or movie theater Peer talk — everyday interactions with others Outside voice — a loud, boisterous, play voice Emergency — use only when someone is hurt or needs immediate help from an adult
When we’d go somewhere, I’d ask my children: “What voice level do you think we should be using here?” and then, “What does that sound like?” It worked well. —Katie Walsh
The Power of the Pause
One of the best things I started doing when our oldest was a toddler was pausing before we went into a new situation. Instead of jumping out of the car when we arrived, we would sit in the car for a minute and talk about what would be appropriate and inappropriate behavior in this place. For example, if we were going into a library or museum, we would talk about being quiet, not running and staying close to me. When I took the time to explain my expectations, my child knew how to respond. —Alyssa Johnston
Toss Out the Loud
To encourage my 2-year-old daughter to use her quiet voice, I say loudly, “Let’s throw away our loud voice.” Then in a whisper, I say, “Let’s get our quiet voice.” We pantomime spitting out our loud voice and eating (complete with a loud swallow) our quiet voice. Then I whisper, “Are you talking quietly?” She whispers back, “Yes, I’m talking quietly.”
If she doesn’t whisper, I say (increasing or decreasing my volume at the appropriate cue words — regular, loud or quiet), “That’s your regular (or loud) voice. My quiet voice sounds like this.” We repeat the pantomime until she has her quiet voice. —Christina Nunes
The Toddler Whisper Game
When my toddler was learning how to string words together, we often played the whisper game. I said a simple word or phrase and asked him to match his voice level to my own. This helped him control the volume of his voice. —Andrea Canning
Time Out In Toddler Behavior
Timeouts have been my family’s discipline strategy for most of our parenting and foster-parenting years. In our home, we’ve had a timeout chair, a timeout step, a timeout mat and other timeout locations. But recently I discovered the effectiveness of “time-ins.” The concept is based on spending time with the child instead of isolating him or her.
A few weeks ago, our 3-year-old foster daughter was in a really bad mood. She has a quick temper, which had landed her in timeout a number of times that day. After seeing no change in her behavior, I decided to give time-in a try. No sooner did the thought cross my mind than I heard her screaming loudly in the living room.
I picked up my sobbing child and sat her on a comfortable chair beside me. I said, “Sweetie, you are going to sit by me for five minutes. There are books here that you can choose to look at, or you can just sit.”
She defiantly crossed her arms and pouted, but after a short time, she picked up the first book. After five minutes were up, I gave her the OK to go play, but she just wanted to sit beside me and look at books. And to my surprise, there were no more tantrums for the rest of the day. —Adelle Norg
Setting clear expectations in any given situation. Before walking into a situation that might possibly trigger behaviors in your toddler, do your best to set very clear expectations on what they can and cannot do, and follow it up with some reward if they follow your instructions! (Wilde, Koegel, & Koegel, 1992)
I recently had to take my little one to the doctor's office. She had a reaction to a spider bite that needed pediatrician attention. I knew my daughter was terrified of the thermometer. Before we walked into the building I explained that we would be seeing the doctor and the steps the doctor would take: "She is going to say hello, then she is going to take your temperature and check your heart and lungs…" (Parents, you know how it goes). Right away, my toddler started to indicate the thermometer going under her arm. We continued the discussion until she was ready to move on. That was her way of preparing for what was to come. When it was time for the visit, she was golden. No tears, no screaming, no running away. This was followed up with a lot of praise and affection (the reward) on my part. I set her up by letting her know beforehand and allowing her to work it out with me before we even made it into the doctor's office.
If you anticipate a trigger, give them a heads up.
Positive Reinforcement and Lifting Up Your Toddler
How many times have you pointed out to your toddler today the behaviors they've engaged in that you would like to see more of? Our brains don't often focus as strongly on the positives as they do on the negatives, but what if we tried to reorient that? This is a great skill to practice not only with your little ones, but also with your spouse, coworkers, and friends! It’s a sure way to bring more joy into your life!
Formally, this is known as noncontingent reinforcement. What you’re doing is simply using positive reinforcement (e.g., verbal praise, high five) just because. It's free reinforcement, not earned. This is especially great for parents who feel like their children act out in a lot of attention-seeking behavior. Set aside some time and play with them doing their favorite activity and give them all of your attention for that set time. By filling their world with your attention for specific times, you take away, or at least reduce, the motivation to engage in fits or struggles. (Vollmer & Iwata 1991).
Often moms and dads encourage toddlers to show off new skills because parents are excited about the milestones their children reach. Prompting them to display their newly acquired ability is natural, but excessive enthusiasm may convey the message that showing off is the best way to gain positive attention.
Avoid praising children only for things they do to perform. Remember to celebrate accomplishments such as sitting still, listening attentively, sharing with another child or demonstrating patience. Giving attention for positive actions helps children learn appropriate behavior. — Sandy Broome
Many moms ask me what these signs mean in therapy, but any of these signs may be indicators that your toddler is ready to begin opening the door to potty training.
They begin grabbing and adjusting their diaper frequently and whining or crying after they go to the bathroom
They tell you when they have to go, are going or have peed or pooped in their diaper/Pull-up.
They are showing interest in others’ use of the potty.
They are able to dress and undress themselves.
They are grossed out by a dirty diaper OR hide to pee or poo in their diaper.
Practical Potty Training Course by Moms on Call - https://momsoncall.com/knowledge-center/practical-potty-training/
Oh Crap Potty Training Book - https://www.amazon.com/Crap-Potty-Training-Everything-Parenting/dp/1501122983
Potty Training Made Simple - https://biglittlefeelings.com/courses/potty-training-made-simple/
Books and Social Media Resources
No Drama Discipline - Dr. Dan Siegel
The Whole Brain Child - Dr. Dan Siegel
Good Inside - Dr. Becky
Taking Care of Babies - Dr. Cara