Discipline Tips for Infants and Toddlers

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      Kid Care

           Discipline Tips for
         Infants and Toddlers
Two-year-old Juan has found that      C Put Juan in a play pen so he
turning your TV on and off is a lot     can’t go near the TV?                    Try to prevent
of fun. If someone leaves the                                                      problems —
                                      D. Try something else?
remote control sitting out, he finds
it and keeps pushing the buttons.                                                  Get a child
If you take the remote away, he’ll    Discipline for very young children          interested in
                                      can be tricky. They are exploring
walk up to the TV and start push-
                                      and trying new things. They are
                                                                                something else.
ing buttons. This is driving you
crazy! What would you do?             too young to understand a lot of
                                      reasoning, but they need limits to    a young child? Move all those
Would you:                            keep them safe.                       things up out of the way. Now you
                                                                            don’t have to worry about a child
A. Take the remote away and put       Here are some discipline tips that    getting them.
   Juan in time out?                  work well with young children.
B. Pull Juan away from the TV and                                           Some people keep their special
   tell him “No” every time he goes   Prevent problems. Do you feel like    things out, within the reach of
   near it?                           you’re always saying,“No, No, No,”    young children. They think that
                                               to a young child? Think      telling a young child,“No, don’t
                                                    about what she is       touch,” over and over will teach the
                                                      doing when you tell   child to stay away from these
                                                       her “No.” Is she     things. This is hard for both the
                                                        touching some-      child and the adult. Young children
                                                        thing she should-   want to explore to learn more
                                                        n’t or moving to    about things. Touch is one way to
                                                       an area that isn’t   do this. It’s a lot easier on the child
                                                       safe? Can these      and you if special things are put up
                                                       problems be pre-     where a child can’t reach them and
                                                        vented?             you won’t have to worry about
                                                                            them getting broken.
                                                        Crawl around
                                                         the floor on        If you don’t want a child to climb
                                                         your hands and     on the stairs, put a gate in place.
                                                          knees. What       Shut the door or put a gate across
                                                          can you reach     the doorways of rooms where chil-
                                                           that would be    dren shouldn’t go.
                                                           a “No-No” for

The next time a child does some-                When you’re getting a child inter-
thing wrong, think if there are ways            ested in something else, think                                            Reward children
this problem could be prevented                 about what she’s doing and find a                                          for being good.
in the future. Preventing problems              safe way to try that activity. For
makes your day easier.                          example, if a child keeps climbing
                                                on and off a table, think about a
                                                                                                                     Reward children when they are
Try to ignore some behaviors. If a              safe way for her to climb. Maybe
                                                                                                                     playing nicely. Too often adults
child unrolls a roll of toilet paper,           you could take everyone outside
                                                                                                                     notice only when a child is doing
ask yourself,“Is he really hurting              so she can spend some time climb-
                                                                                                                     something wrong. Watch for chil-
anyone or anything?” If your                    ing up the ladder to a low sliding
                                                                                                                     dren being good and let them
answer is no, this may be a time to             board. If a child starts throwing
                                                                                                                     know it with a smile, a hug, or a
take a deep breath and choose to                blocks, think about what and
                                                                                                                     few words of praise.“You are being
ignore the behavior. If you give too            where he can safely throw. Tell him,
                                                                                                                     so gentle with the doll.” Children
much attention to these times, the              “It isn’t safe to throw the blocks.
                                                                                                                     want to please you. Giving them
child may want to do this again                 Someone could get hurt. Come
                                                                                                                     smiles, pats on the back, hugs, and
and again just to get your atten-               over and throw these bean bags
                                                                                                                     kind words are the best rewards.
tion. Save your discipline for when             into the basket.” If a child likes to
he does something that may hurt                 drop food on the floor from her
                                                                                                                     Back to Juan and the TV problem.
him or others.                                  chair, she’s probably finished eat-
                                                                                                                     What can you do with a child who
                                                ing, but dropping things is a lot of
                                                                                                                     likes to turn the TV on and off?
Distract or redirect young children             fun. Put her down on the floor and
                                                                                                                     Putting the remote control away is
from things you don’t want them                 give her some clothespins or
                                                                                                                     a good start. If your TV is kept in a
to do. If a child has a marker and              blocks to drop in a plastic contain-
                                                                                                                     cabinet with doors, you could pre-
she’s starting to write on the wall,            er. Show her how to dump them
                                                                                                                     vent the problem by closing the
don’t grab the marker out of her                out and drop them in the contain-
                                                                                                                     doors. Did you think about Juan’s
hand. Instead, put some paper on                er again and again.
                                                                                                                     interest in pushing buttons? Do
the table or floor and tell her,
                                                                                                                     you have a toy with push buttons
“Sarah, come over here to use your
                                                                                                                     for Juan to try? This would be a
marker on the paper.” It’s easier to
                                                                                                                     good way to distract him from the
get a young child interested in
                                                                                                                     TV and redirect him to something
something else than to take some-
                                                                                                                     that he can explore safely.
thing away.

                                                    Developed by Lyn Horning, Better Kid Care Program
                                                    Dr. James E. Van Horn, Better Kid Care Program Director
                                                    Developed by Penn State Better Kid Care Program
                                                    253 Easterly Parkway, State College, PA 16801 • Phone: 1-800-452-9108 • Website:
                                                    Sources: “Five Keys to Good Discipline with Infants,” by Dave Riley, University of Minnesota Extension Service;
                                                    Supported by funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Pennsylvania Pathways Program.
             Cooperative Extension                  This publication is available in alternative media on request.
             College of Agricultural Sciences       Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its work force.

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