As the mom of a toddler, you know all the rules by now:
- Stick to a bedtime routine.
- Childproof everything (and still don't let them out of your sight).
- Never give in to a tantrum.
I know them, too, three kids and nine years later. But I've broken more toddler discipline rules with my youngest, 2-year-old Charlie, than I care to admit, and I'm beginning to wonder if I've joined the ranks of parents who are breeding little monsters by being discipline wimps.
"Some kids are temperamentally difficult, while others are more likely to misbehave because our responses encourage it," says Lawrence Shapiro, Ph.D., Connecticut-based dad and child psychologist, and author of The Secret Language of Children. "We know from plenty of research that children need clear limits and structure. When you tell yourself, 'Just this one time,' it's already too late."
But if, like me, you've got a tendency to look the other way when you don't have the time or energy to deal with your toddler's antics, the first thing to do is set some serious limits -- for both of you.
Shapiro advises parents to post a list of simple house rules on the refrigerator to remind everyone of what won't be tolerated. Pick one rule for each year of your child's age -- the misbehaviors that matter most to you and that you know your child can follow, such as "No hitting" or "No climbing on the table" -- and use pictures to illustrate them; your child will eventually recognize and remember them if you make a habit of pointing to each one every time there's an infraction.
Once you've established the ground rules, here's how to stay in control with these common (but crazy-making) toddler behaviors:
Stephanie Wood is cowriting a guide to a baby's first year.