I've always felt that moms who are best at discipline are those who can make an impact with only a look or the tone of their voice.
I can recall one booty-swat (for breaking mom's skin with nails down her back, age 2yrs), two slaps across the face (for being nonstop disrespectful age 7yrs-ish), but countless scary facial expressions and severely angry sounding instructions that were enough for me to behave.
It's so hard to think of having to use even a nasty tone with our sweet peas, but pushing limits is the way children grow and learn about how to be in society and within their family. It's our responsibility as their parent to show them these limits and also to harness a level of control that will be the foundation for getting through their crazy teenage years -- remember how many limits we pushed then?
My daughter, RJ, is now 14.5 months and has been testing her limits for awhile now; she's definitely no longer a "baby" but very much a toddler. She gets enraged with anger sometimes when she doesn't get her way, and will swat and say "nah! nah!" for "no! no!", scream and be very dramatic. In order to avoid the kind of child that I see on Supernanny we've had to start disciplining.
How do you discipline before a child is ready for a time-out, or doesn't need one? Here are some tips:
- The most effective discipline I've seen work firsthand is to tell your child not to do something. If they do it again, I say "If you do that again, I'm taking it away", and then they do it again and I take it away. Easy.
- Try to save the word NO for really extreme or dangerous situations, (like throwing your cell phone in the toilet). For other instructions that don't put you, your child or an object in danger, teaching them to understand phrases like "Not in the mouth" or "That's mommy's", will work better for you all when you need to urgently get their attention with a stern, loud "NO!".
- If your child has a bit of a temper like mine (must have skipped a generation!), it's important you let him or her express their anger. Tell them you understand that they are angry and it's okay to be upset. Let them vent a little, cry, scream, kick, etc, just like we need to do in our adult way.
- Toddlers can understand so much more of what we say than what they can show us. Explain to your child that they can't or must do something, looking them directly in their eye at their level.
- Don't go on and on trying to reason with your child; they understand you but don't go overboard. A simple sentence explanation is fine, and repeating the same thing more works too.
- Once they modify their behavior, be sure to positively reinforce that right away by saying "good girl/boy," clapping, or whatever it is that you do. This is a massively important part of disciplining.
- As always, distraction is the best way to move forward! Never underestimate the power of crazy faces, weird noises and ice cubes.