Eyes are welled up with tears, and that cute little mouth is now curled into a scream in the middle of the parking lot. Those impressively loud outbursts from such a tiny body never seem to come at a convenient time. Now you've got some disciplining to do with an audience watching.
When your little guy or gal decides to lash out, don't fall into the trap of making these 9 discipline mistakes:
Ignorance isn't bliss
Were tiny hands rubbing tired eyes before you dashed into the store to run a string of errands before nap time? Ignoring fatigue, hunger, exhaustion, etc. is a recipe for quite the disaster. A few screams and shouts could be avoided entirely if you can tune into the warning signs that a tantrum could be brewing if a nap or snack is missed. Just because you can go a million miles an hour doesn't mean your child can too.
While you don't want to have a long lecture (see below) before placing your child in time out, you need to be sure your child understands why they are being corrected. Your behavior needs to be rational and fair in your eyes, and the eyes of your child. Being quick to dole out the punishment puts you in a completely different frame than if you take a minute to chat about the problem before laying down the law.
Yes, you need your child to understand why they were put in time out, but when tears are flowing, words don't seem to do as much good as a snuggle and a hug. There will be time to talk things out later when everyone has calmed down, but make sure your child feels your love by rubbing their arm as you provide a short, succinct explanation to their time out. A long lecture is going to add fuel to the fire while a warm hug lets your child know that they are loved.
2 peas in a pod
Your toddler and you aren't that different when it comes to tantrums. If the tiniest thing seems to set you off, indulge in some mommy time to make sure you're not overreacting when your kid gets a hold of both the finger paint and the cat. You are just as prone to tantrums as your toddler if you are skipping out on sleep, downtime, and meal times. Additionally, keeping your cool will help your child calm down because there's not going to be a shouting match to compete with.
It's not a sin to be annoyed that your child has ignored your last 13 pleas for them to stop peeking in on the baby during nap time. But be sure to notice the difference between disciplining out of annoyance or disciplining to correct inappropriate behavior. Of course you are annoyed that your toddler is going to wake up the baby, but is there an underlying cause to their behavior you need to address? (See below).
The root of the problem
Why is your child refusing to put on their shoes? Is it a power struggle? Is it a cry for help? Is it a way to get your attention? Demanding that shoes must be buckled on in the next 10 seconds isn't going to solve the real issue at hand. Taking a moment to focus on communication and getting down to the root of the problem will nip that tantrum in the bud.
Being consistent in your discipline methods is key. If your child knows that sometimes you don't follow through on your threats, there really is no incentive to behave properly. The punishment needs to fit the crime (see below), but make sure you are setting clear boundaries so your child knows exactly where the line is. Wishy-washy rules and sometimes indulging but reprimanding other times is a recipe for tantrums based on injustice.
The punishment needs to fit the crime. Keep in mind your child's age in mind before you fly off the handle. Kids are kids! They tend to giggle loudly when you have a headache and want to see what happens when they drop eggs from the balcony. Holding children to too high of a standard really isn't fair and their tears are trying to tell you that.
Skip out on the final countdown
Counting to three does give your child some warning that discipline is on its way, but why not cut out the middle man? Offering just 2 options ("you either eat the yogurt flavor I brought to the park, or we go home right now") gives your child the chance to make a decision with a clear consequence. You don't play the "two"..two and half"¦..two and three quarters"¦." game, and they don't have the chance to entertain another option.
While there are many types of discipline philosophies, the most important thing is to use outbursts as a teaching moment. Keep a cool head, be consistent, and try to understand why your little person is so frustrated. Use this opportunity to teach them how to react, how to empathize, and see two sides of the story. It takes more patience and effect, but it'll help avoid hurt feelings and twinges of regret. Above all, don't forget to show love and understanding...and to cut yourself a little slack along the way.