Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Setting Limits With Your Child - Part 2

A friend of mine recently said that parenting really starts when your baby becomes a toddler and starts to turn against us: resist going to bed at night, they test what happens when they throw that very healthy food on the floor, and walking independently becomes climbing on the sofa, the coffee table, or the kitchen counter. (Check out our recent post on positive discipline.) I completely agree! I am facing daily changes with my 20-month old son so I sought help.

Therefore, I attended an informative parenting discussion at the 92nd Street Y (facilitated by their knowledgeable parenting director, Sally Tannen) to educate and equip myself with more tools to face these challenges. Overall, I enjoyed listening to other parents vent their frustrations as well as share successes with limit setting. The key for me is to understand where to draw the line vs. where to let things go. I don't want to fight every battle & I don't want to say "no" to too many things. As with teaching & learning, if we get things right in the early years, won't it be easier to set limits later on?

There were so many key points shared throughout the night. The 92nd Street Y Parenting Center summarized many of them in their "suggestions to help with toddler behavior and setting limits:" Some are common sense, but together they form a nice roadmap to follow. Please take them more as food for thought than as rules to live by...


  • think of discipline as guidance that help toddlers in their ongoing behavior

  • because they are changing and growing so rapidly, toddlers need rituals, routines, and regularity - they find this reassuring

  • let them do things that they can do, even it takes longer

  • toddlers need limits to feel safe and cared for

  • hitting and spanking doesn't work. it shows kids that it is okay to hit and hurt people. they will learn more from what you do than from you say (actions speak louder than words!)

  • reinforce positive behavior and try to ignore or discourage unsuitable behavior. "DISTRACT & REDIRECT" - offer substitutions and distractions in a positive way when possible

  • the limits you set should be clear, consistent, and as few as possible

  • make your environment as child-friendly as possible so you don;t have to say "no" all of the time

  • toddlers don't like big and abrupt changes, so give some advance notice when you will be changing an activity. Try to motivate them to the next activity by talking to them as you begin: "we're leaving the park in a few minutes'" and then, "let's see what we can have for dinner."

  • praise them when they follow your limits and encourage their progress

  • keep bribes to a minimum. Sure, you may use the strategy on occasion, but the pattern can get out of hand

  • don't call children "bad" or "naughty." It may hurt their self-confidence and they may learn to believe they are really "bad"

  • toddlers learn a little bit at a time & need constant reminders

  • tantrums are to be expected! try to stay calm, consistent, reassuring, and wait it out.

  • save "time-outs" for rare occasions. Some parents don't use them at all!

  • KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR! In the heat of the moment, this one may be hard to keep in mind, but it is so important

Thanks again to the 92nd Street Y Parenting Center for sharing these suggestions with the dads!

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