Mia is an accomplished maker of plans to get into trouble and, dare I say, out of trouble again. She is well able to construct a good argument and she will stand her ground defending it. Discipline is hard at this age. My little redhead is set on getting her way and I am set on keeping her within the boundaries I’ve laid out for her. Discipline is a daily struggle and sometimes I feel more like a stern, difficult, angry mom than a caring, loving one.
I want Mia to acknowledge boundaries, listen to my guidance and have a kind and caring attitude. I also want her to develop her strong, courageous, wilful spirit. I continually seek to find the balance between raising her well with good discipline but not breaking her spirit in the process. She has so many remarkable qualities and the mixture of courageous strength with caring kindness is what will make her a great leader and influencer later in life. As a parent, I want to harness and develop all of the qualities that make her great even if some of those wilful, hard-headed traits raise my frustration levels at times.
Through many trials and errors, good and bad choices, I have come to the following principles that have guided me in keeping the balance between discipline and allowing her to bloom into who she was designed to be:
- Help your toddler voice what he or she feels: I encourage Mia to say what she feels. She doesn’t always have the emotional vocabulary, but as soon as I manage to understand what the problem is, I can help her voice her own emotions and expand her emotional vocabulary. Being able to say what you feel eliminates a great deal of frustration. Many times, a “difficult child” is merely a misunderstood child.
- Find your unique family values: In our home, we work on family values to guide and affirm good behaviour. When we discipline our children, we refer back to our family values and explain why certain behaviour is unacceptable. Our values are the following:
- Love God, myself and others
- Always tell the truth
- Be kind to each other
- Live healthy
- Always give your best (excellence not perfection)
- Enjoy what you do
- Set clear boundaries: We have certain rules in the house that lay the foundation for the behaviour we want to encourage. These are set rules and not open for negotiation.
- Pick your battles: Not all battles are important. Because Mia is so set on getting her way, I allow her to make her own choices as long as her behaviour still complies with our family values. For example, Mia likes to choose her own outfit for the day and some days she leaves the house looking like a clown. We might get a few stares and giggles from strangers, but she feels empowered that she was able to make her own decisions. I allow it, although I don’t necessarily agree with her wardrobe choice.
- Keep your promises: I never make a promise I can’t keep or follow through on. Let your yes always be your yes and your no your no. Consistency is key in discipline. It is hard to follow through on a promise of discipline, but if you don’t, your toddler will call your bluff next time and it will become harder and harder to change the behaviour.
- Explain to your toddler why he or she is being disciplined: I try to help Mia understand why her behaviour was unacceptable or why she is being disciplined. I talk it through until she manages to understand what she did wrong. She might try the same behaviour again, but she will do so knowing the consequences.
- Shower your toddler with love: I want Mia to know that I love her no matter what. Even when I have a frustrating day with her, I still make sure she gets plenty of TLC (tender loving care).
Discipline is one of those things you have to figure out as you go along. Each child is different and so the style of discipline will have to be different. I have found that focusing on the behaviour principles has gotten me further in guiding and shaping good behaviour in both my children.
MommaMia Tip: Remember that you are new at handing out discipline, and your toddler is new at developing good behaviour. Both of you will trial and error as you find the way that works for you. Be patient, be consistent and discipline from a place of love – I found that to be a good place to start.