Five Keys to Discipline Your Child in a Positive Way


How to Discipline Toddlers in a Positive Way (Applicable to 18 – 24 Months Old)

Title: How to Discipline Toddlers in a Positive Way (Applicable to 18 – 24 Months Old)

Narrator: How to Discipline Toddlers in a Positive Way (Applicable to 18 – 24 Months Old)

Scene: Dad, Mum and Julian are playing with other kids in the playground.

Narrator: Starting from 1 year old, children thrive in their physical and language abilities. They start to test their own limits and yet, their logical reasoning and judgment are still immature. Undesirable behaviour does occur and therefore, your guidance is really important! The following keys to positive discipline will make your parenting easier and happier.

Heading: 1. Encourage and Praise Desirable Behaviour

Narrator: 1.Encourage and Praise Desirable Behaviour

Scene: Some kids are playing ball in the playground.

Narrator: You need to encourage your child for his positive behaviour and correct the undesirable. Then, he can learn which behaviour is desirable and which is not.

Scene: Julian picks up the ball and passes it back to the kids.

Narrator: Julian picks up a ball rolled to him and returns it to the kids at a football game. Seeing what Julian did, Dad praises him.

Heading: 2. Set Simple Rules

Narrator: 2.Set simple rules

Scene: When Dad and Julian are approaching the slide, Dad sets some rules with him.

Narrator: Setting simple rules helps your child understand and follow your expectations. At the same time, you need to be his role model.

Narrator: Dad sets up some rules with Julian before letting him play on the slide, like “going home after playing 2 times”.

Heading: 3. Guide Your Child to Follow the Rules

Narrator: 3. Guide your child to follow the rules

Scene: Julian stands in the way of others on the slide

Narrator: When your child disobeys the rules, you need to stay calm, say “no” to him with a firm facial expression and a “no” gesture. It doesn’t mean that you need to yell.

Scene: Julian sits on the ground and obstructs other kids playing on the slide.

Narrator: Julian sits on the ground and obstructs other kids playing on the slide. Mum asks him to get up and not block the way.

Scene: Julian follows Mum to the queue. Mum pats his head and praises him.

Narrator: Remember to praise your child if he listens and follows the rules.

Heading: 4. Correct Dangerous Acts Promptly

Narrator: 4. Correct dangerous acts promptly

Scene: Julian is playing on the slide with other kids.

Narrator: Stop your child’s dangerous acts promptly.

Scene: After sliding down, Julian tries to climb up the slide instead of the stairs. Mum stops him.

Narrator: After sliding down, Julian tries to climb up the slide instead of the stairs. Mum stops him. He looks upset and starts throwing a tantrum.

Narrator: When toddlers disobey and throw a tantrum, you can deal with it such as by simple distraction.

Narrator: Positive discipline means using assertive and non-harmful ways to help your children develop good behaviour. Concerted effort from all caregivers contributes to its success and effectiveness.

End Shot: Department of Health logo

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Is a toddler too young to have rules?

From the age of 1 year, with the increase in mobility and learning ability, your toddler needs clear and consistent limit setting to help her understand the demands from adults, learn to cooperate and control herself.

If you allow your child to do whatever she likes with few clear limits, you will find it difficult to exercise control when she has developed unacceptable behaviour. Firm and positive discipline helps you to manage your child’s behaviour in a calm way. It will make your parenting job easier and you will get on better with your child.

Will limit setting make children too dependent?

Your toddler’s ability to think logically and make judgment is still developing. He needs your supervision to ensure his safety. More importantly, your guidance can help him understand what the acceptable and unacceptable behaviours are, and adjust and cope successfully with the demands on him.

Children can be overwhelmed by too many rules and limits. There are times you can encourage your child to develop autonomy and problem solving by allowing him to make age-appropriate decisions. For example, you may let him explore different ways in play within reasonable limits, or choose his preferred clothes or snacks from choice of a few.

Is spanking or threatening more effective?

  • Spanking or threatening may stop your child from misbehaving immediately. However, the effect is short-lived.
  • A toddler’s memory is still short and he may soon forget this unpleasant consequence.
  • He may learn from you to solve problems through physical aggression.
  • He needs to learn from you the acceptable way to behave, otherwise, he will only repeat the undesirable behaviour.

Praise Your Child

You need to encourage your child’s positive behaviour as well as correcting his undesirable behaviour. For instance, you can praise your child for staying in the seat or singing nicely. Instead of shouting at your child when she misbehaves, you have to teach her what she should and should not do. Your verbal praises can also be coupled with the following actions:

  • Looking and smiling
  • Touching gently
  • Embracing and hugging
  • Kissing
  • Applauding

Set simple rules

Simple rules are not only easier for you to carry out, but also clearer for your child to follow.

  • Define clearly areas in the house your toddler cannot enter, e.g. the kitchen.
  • Use positive wordings to set ground rules, e.g. finish your meal before you leave the seat.
  • Set 2 to 3 simple rules that match with the child’s age and ability.
  • The rules set should be followed through by all caregivers consistently.

What are some of the age-appropriate rules?

  • Sit down when eating the meal; finish the meal before leaving the table.
  • Hold daddy or mummy’s hand when going out.
  • Only adults can enter the kitchen.
  • Only adults can turn on electrical appliances, including TV.
  • Wash hands before eating.
  • Put away the shoes after taking them off, etc.

Guide Your Child to Obey

Stay calm when your child does not follow the rules. Say “no” to your child with gesture while putting up a firm look on your face such as having your eyebrows raised and your chin down. Here is an example illustrating the steps:

Click on each box below
Child refuses to follow the rule
Say “No” with firm expression
Wait and observe
Child follows
Child does not follow
Praise and engage child by making the activity interesting
Say “No” with firm expression again
Child follows
Child does not
Take child away if situation applies
Engage child by making the activity interesting
  1. If your child refuses to follow the rule, say “No” with a firm expression
  2. Wait and observe
  3. a) If your child follows the rule, praise him and keep him engaged in some interesting activity or by making the activity he has to do interesting, e.g. talk or play with him.

    b) If your child does not follow, repeat your instruction by saying “No” with a firm expression again

  4. a) If your child follows, praise child and engage him by making the activity interesting

    b) If your child still disobeys, take him away from the spot if situation applies and guide him to follow your instruction. Then divert his attention and engage child by making the activity interesting. Praise him for following even if he only follows under your guidance.

Correct dangerous acts immediately

You have to stop any dangerous acts of your child immediately and teach him, e.g.,

  • “The socket is dangerous. Don’t touch. Come and play with mummy”
  • “You may fall and hurt yourself if you climb up. Come down and play ball with me”.

Then divert his attention to some other interesting and safe activities.

Deal with Child’s Misbehaviour

Intentions behind the behaviour

As mentioned before, children at this stage throw tantrums and act out easily. Sometimes, they may scream, bang their heads gently, make silly faces or break rules under safe circumstances. The intentions behind these behaviours are:

  • Testing your response
  • Trying to see whether you mean what you said. e.g., if you warn your child not to throw toys, she may look at you and throw the toys to see what you will do to her.

These behaviours will disappear eventually if you handle appropriately. However, if you give attention (e.g. smiles, verbal responses or shouting) to the misbehaviour, your child will continue the misbehaviour as it can attract your attention.

How to deal with children’s misbehaviour?

You can purposefully ignore the misbehaviour by total withdrawal of attention and responses (including saying “I won’t talk to you until you behave well”).

The behaviour of your child may escalate at the beginning during your ‘planned ignoring’. However, if you persist, your child will understand that the behaviour cannot draw your attention. Then he will do less of it. Once he stops the behaviour, attend to him immediately or praise him for being quiet. Then, divert your child’s attention to another activity.

Positive discipline is using constructive and non-hurtful ways to develop desirable behaviours in your child. What can dad and mum do? Read on about the following 5 keys:

  1. Praise Your Child
  2. Set Simple Rules
  3. Guide Your Child to Obey
  4. Correct Dangerous Acts Immediately
  5. Deal with Child’s Misbehaviour

To make the above 5 keys effective, parents need to implement them persistently and consistently!