The 20 Commandments of Toddler Discipline

Commandments 10 - 20

11. Don't yell. But change your voice. It's not the volume, but your tone that gets your point across. Remember The Godfather? Don Corleone never needed to yell.

12. Catch your child being good. If you praise your child when he behaves well, he'll do it more often -- and he'll be less likely to behave badly just to get your attention. Positive reinforcement is fertilizer for that superego.

13. Act immediately. Don't wait to discipline your toddler. She won't remember why she's in trouble more than five minutes after she did the dirty deed.

14. Be a good role model. If you're calm under pressure, your child will take the cue. And if you have a temper tantrum when you're upset, expect that he'll do the same. He's watching you, always watching.

15. Don't treat your child as if she's an adult. She really doesn't want to hear a lecture from you -- and won't be able to understand it. The next time she throws her spaghetti, don't break into the "You Can't Throw Your Food" lecture. Calmly evict her from the kitchen for the night.

16. Use time-outs -- even at this age. Call it the naughty chair or whatever you like, but take your child away from playing and don't pay attention to him for one minute for each year of age. Depriving him of your attention is the most effective way to get your message across. Realistically, kids under 2 won't sit in a corner or on a chair -- and it's fine for them to be on the floor kicking and screaming. (Just make sure the time-out location is a safe one.) Reserve time-outs for particularly inappropriate behaviors -- if your child bites his friend's arm, for example -- and use a time-out every time the offense occurs.

17. Don't negotiate with your child or make promises. This isn't Capitol Hill. Try to avoid saying anything like, "If you behave, I'll buy you that doll you want." Otherwise, you'll create a 3-year-old whose good behavior will always come with a price tag. (Think Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)

18. Shift your strategies over time. What worked beautifully when your child was 15 months probably isn't going to work when he's 2. He'll have read your playbooks and watched the films.

19. Don't spank. Although you may be tempted at times, remember that you are the grown-up. Don't resort to acting like a child. There are many more effective ways of getting your message across. Spanking your child for hitting or kicking you, for example, just shows him that it's okay to use force. Finally, if your toddler is pushing your buttons for the umpteenth time and you think you're about to lose it, try to take a step back. You'll get a better idea of which manipulative behaviors your child is using and you'll get a fresh perspective on how to change your approach.

20. Remind your child that you love her. It's always good to end a discipline discussion with a positive comment. This shows your child that you're ready to move on and not dwell on the problem. It also reinforces the reason you're setting limits -- because you love her.

From Toddler 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice For Your Toddler, by Ari Brown, MD, and Denise Fields ? 2006 Ari Brown, MD, and Denise Fields (Windsor Peak Press). For more information, go to

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