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Discipline strategies for parents

When your munchkin flashes that adorable grin or reaches up for a cuddle, it’s easy to forgive his mischievous ways — even if he’s pushed your buttons a dozen times today. Breaking rules and seeing how far he can push you is a big part of how your child learns — in fact, it’s his job. Your job? To act as rule-maker, limit-setter, explainer-in-chief of all things right and wrong. Sure, doling out discipline isn’t the fun part of parenting, but it is the basis on which happy citizens are built. So whether your tot is biting his buddies or about to earn an Oscar for a meltdown at the mall, at least one of these discipline strategies should help.

Remove the audience (aka you).

When tots start hungering for attention (or candy or that toy they just saw on TV), they’ll do whatever it takes to get it. Cue the manipulation tantrum (millions of kids can testify to its amazing powers of persuasion). Don’t give in — when your child launches one, calmly remove yourself from the situation and ignore him (just make sure he can’t hurt himself). It may take every ounce of zen you have, but this discipline strategy sends a clear message that this type of behavior is unacceptable and — maybe more important — ineffective.

Catch ’em being good.

There’s nothing like a healthy dose of praise to motivate a person, big or little. When you see your cutie cleaning up her toys without being asked 12 times or doing the deep-breathing trick you told her to try when she’s feeling frustrated, give her a shout-out for a job well done. It’ll show her that you’re really paying attention. Plus, your pride will encourage her to feel proud of her actions, too — an important first step in self-discipline. There’s one catch though: It’s important not to go overboard with praise, especially for things that don’t require much effort. As your child grows, start raising your standards of good behavior and she will too.

Distract, distract, distract.

You may think this discipline trick is effective only with babies and young toddlers, but it works with older toddlers and preschoolers too. As soon as you spot the windup to a meltdown (the whines, the quivering lip, the crocodile tears), enthusiastically change the subject. “Hey! Did you know your cousins are coming over tomorrow?” or “I totally forgot to show you something…come quick!” The surprising turn in your response may just be enough to snap your darling out of his downward spiral.

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Three ways to tackle tantrums

Toddler tantrums are a fact of life when you’ve got a one-, two-, or three-year-old in the house. Why? Put yourself in your sweetie’s little shoes. It can be really frustrating to be unable to say what you mean or watch your carefully built block tower topple because your hands aren’t steady. And while there are dozens of reasons why your munchkin might melt down, some are directly related to things you can fix. Obviously, if your toddler is hungry, offer him a snack. If he’s tired, put him down for a nap. But if he’s clearly just blowing off steam, it’s time to resort to trickier tactics to stop temper tantrums.

Yuk It Up

Method: See a toddler tantrum coming on? Quick, Mom, tame that tantrum with fun by doing something silly! Your darling won’t stand still for a diaper change? Put the (clean) diaper on your head. He refuses to drink his milk? Pick up a banana and make a phone call. He’s losing it for no apparent reason? Climb under the table with a book. Whoever heard of Mommy reading under the table?

Why it works: Laughter releases all sorts of feel-good chemicals in the brain and stifles the stress-causing ones. The best thing about getting a toddler to giggle is that it’s not all that hard. Tots find the unexpected especially funny, so doing something outside the usual routine will more often than not distract yours long enough to diffuse his tantrum.

Shhh…

Method: Your toddler is screaming at the top of his lungs. Instead of trying to out-yell him, start whispering. (Tip: This will work only if he’s looking at you.)

Why it works: As soon as your toddler realizes you’re talking, he’ll probably quiet down to try to figure out why you’re using your library voice. Just make sure to be saying something soothing: “As soon as you calm down, Mommy will help you find the missing puzzle piece,” or “I’m sorry you’re so mad. Why don’t we go for a walk?” Don’t rely on this trick too often though. Your child will eventually be on to your wily, whispery ways.

Hold On

Method: Pick him up and hug him firmly but gently.

Why it works: When a tantrum morphs from a minor meltdown to a full-blown screaming fit, no amount of silliness or reasoning or even non-reaction on your part is going to do the trick. If he’s that upset, he won’t be able to see you or hear you, so relying on the power of your touch can be soothing, especially since losing control can be scary for a little kid. That’s why being wrapped in your loving arms can calm down a crazed critter. (Sometimes a little hug therapy is the best way of all to tame a toddler tantrum — it’ll melt any anger or frustration you have, too.)

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Chores for children

Think your toddler is too young to help around the house? Think again. Toddlers are the perfect age for pitching in — given their budding sense of independence and their desire to mimic everything you do. Of course, their help may slow you down, but resist the urge to finish the job yourself. By giving your child small chores, you’ll be boosting their confidence and making them feel like a valuable member of the family. Here are some age-appropriate chores for children, and tips for making them easy and fun:

Putting Away Toys: If the sight of all those blocks and stuffed animals all over the room makes you want to burst into tears, your toddler probably feels overwhelmed by the mess, too. Turn her into a pick-up artist by breaking the job down into manageable parts. Be specific — instead of telling her to clean up her stuffed animals, say, “Please take your teddy bear and put it on the shelf.” Or try to make a game out of cleaning up —”I’ll put the red cars away, you pick up the blue ones.” (You’ll be teaching her colors in the process!)

Watering Plants: Populating your rooms with plants is a simple way to detox your home. Your tot can definitely help out with watering duties. Let your toddler practice with a small plastic bottle or give him a little spray bottle of water and tell him to mist the plants s you do the pouring.

Putting Away Groceries: A toddler’s love of sorting things can also come in handy when it comes to putting away groceries. Let hims sort the fruits- apples in one bowl, oranges in another. He can also put the boxes and cans away on a low shelf, as long as you’re specific about what goes where. You can also point out interesting things about the groceries as he organizes them into smaller piles — mention that the apples are red or green, milk gives you calcium which is a bone-builder, etc.

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