8 Smart Discipline Fixes

Anticipate Age-Appropriate Antics

Your 12-month-old is drawn to your daffodils like a honeybee -- a 20-pound honeybee with opposable thumbs that are perfect for crushing petals! You've told him repeatedly not to touch the flowers, so why does he race straight for them, in full-destruct mode, whenever you're outside?

The Problem: Unrealistic expectations. Before about 18 months, children are developmentally incapable of controlling their impulses. They're also incapable of willful misbehavior because they have no concept yet that others' thoughts and wants may differ from theirs. And what they want, more than anything, is to explore their widening world. "The job of toddlers is to learn what their eyes and ears and fingers and tongue tell them," notes Jean Illsley Clarke, PhD, a parent educator and author of Time-In: When Time-Out Doesn't Work (Parenting Press). "So you don't want to always be saying, 'Don't touch!' because touching is how they learn."

The Fix: To the extent that's practical, childproof your home and yard so your child can roam without continually hearing "No!" If he is drawn to something fragile that can't be moved (like your garden), think distraction and redirection. Encourage him to pluck dandelions sprouting from your lawn, or blow bubbles for him to chase and pop. "Interrupt the behavior," advises Clarke, "by turning the child's attention to something he can explore."

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