How we discipline our toddler without spanking or time-outs

We’re fortunate that our toddler tends to be on the obedient side, so while we have tantrum episodes, most of the memories of my days don’t include too much discipline. We don’t spank, we don’t do time-outs, we don’t do count-to-three. We do what has to be done, and do a lot of explaining and labeling.

For instance, this morning, our toddler wanted to stay home and play with his box. Unfortunately for him, it was time to go to my aunt’s. We even told him he can bring the box, but he still didn’t want to go. To make life easier, we put on his hat, jacket and shoes in the room he was in so that we don’t have to dress a flailing, crying kid (which we were expecting him to turn into in a few minutes). I gave him a choice: “We have to go to your aunt’s. Do you want to walk to the front door by yourself or do you want Daddy to pick you up? Either way, we are going to your aunt’s right now.” He didn’t want to walk so his dad had to carry him out crying.

When he’s angry and hurts himself or anyone else, we contain him and hold his arms or stop him from hurting himself, and with a firm, low, quiet voice tell him that he is feeling upset and that we don’t hurt ourselves. Then we give him an alternative. I’ve been telling him to pat something soft, usually a pillow, the couch, the bed, even the carpet. So most of the time now whenever he’s angry, he’ll walk around all angry, trying to find something soft, and if he can’t he’ll just bang his hands on the carpet.

Other times he’ll do things he’s not supposed to, like slamming a cupboard. Right away we tell him we leave the cupboards alone, and we acknowledge that he’s curious about opening and closing and find him an alternative, like his door puzzle where he can open and close that all he wants. Sometimes he’ll complain and cry but so far he hasn’t disobeyed to the point where he’ll go back to his misdeeds and repeat them. We also haven’t gotten to the point where we have punishments yet.

Probably the most trying for us has been when he is just in a lousy mood and cries about everything. We end up just acknowledging his feelings but pretty much let him get that out of his system, assuming he’s not hurting himself, others or valuable things. And I think the biggest help for us has been consistency. When we react the same way every single time, he knows there’s no getting out of it, and he knows to obey. Hopefully he’ll stay that way for the next 16 years!

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