Discipline when and how to define rules and limits

Discipline: when and how to define rules and limits

Why and when to make rules?

Babies have a natural curiosity that drives them to explore their environment. When they begin to move around 9 to 11 months, they are happy to discover many places by themselves. However, they are not yet aware of the potential dangers. To ensure their safety, it is important to introduce some rules to teach them what they can and can not do.

At around 12 months, toddlers are ready for the rules that allow you to learn ways to interact with other people and objects. At this age, the rules still aim to ensure their safety, but also to limit aggressive actions, for example, “be gentle with your friend” and “you can touch this plant, but very nice.”

Regardless of age, the rules also secure and reassure children, especially if they are applied consistently. They know what to expect and understand clearly what is acceptable and what is not. Children need the guidance of an adult (eg parent, educator). Without this framework, they may feel anxious and lost because of the excessive freedom they are given.

How to help your child respect the rules?

When your child follows the rules, congratulate them for encouraging them to continue.

  • Focus on a few important rules, like “we’re sweet with friends”, “we put toys away without throwing them”, “on the pavement, you hold my hand”, “the earth stays in the pot of the plant “, etc. This makes it easier for your child to remember and respect them.
  • Formulate clear, concrete, short rules that are appropriate to your child’s age. Then, apply them consistently. Before 3 years, ideally, give only one instruction at a time. Thus, the limits will be easier to understand and respect your child.
  • Consider your child’s stage of development and the behaviors associated with it when you make a rule. For example, it is normal for a toddler to be curious and want to explore. It is then up to you to ensure his safety in your home. If possible, set up a safe play area for him. For example, cover outlets and put fragile objects out of reach. Offer him also objects and places to discover (eg measuring cups, plastic dishes, the contents of a cupboard). Thus, he can have fun without constantly hearing “no! »,« Do not touch that! And do not do that! “.
  • Redirect your child to another activity or reorientate when doing something forbidden, because before 2 years the rule is usually not enough. For example, if your toddler throws his puzzle pieces at his big sister’s block tower, take your child’s hand and help him place the pieces in the right place, saying, “Here, this piece is going here! Or bring him to play in another room rather than say a long sentence like, “Do not throw the pieces of the puzzle, because you destroy your sister’s tower and it hurts her. You also risk hurting him. With toddlers, long explanations are not effective because they are difficult to understand and remember.
  • When your child does something forbidden, say “stop! To stop his gesture rather than “no! Which is often said in a disgruntled tone with a frown. For its part, the “stop! Is usually said in an imperative tone that does not blame the child for his gesture. In addition, it reduces the number of “no! That he is told.
  • Tell your child what he can do rather than what he can not do because forbidden things are hard for him to understand. For example, instead of saying “do not put the pencil in your mouth,” tell him “the pencil goes in the hand”. Studies on brain development show that children are not able to treat negation well. For them, a ban becomes a deposit. When you say “do not start your truck”, your child understands “spear” and “truck”, which is why he throws it out despite your ban.

The 5 “Cs” of good discipline

To be respected, a rule must be:

  • Claire: The rules and consequences must be clear and known. Use words that your child understands.
  • Concrete: Formulate the rules by indicating the expected behavior, not the one you do not want your child to adopt.
  • Constant: The same rules must always be applied, regardless of the adult present (dad, mom, grandparents, guardian, etc.). When you have established a consequence, do not change your mind and apply it, otherwise, your child will not believe you anymore.
  • Coherent: Before establishing a rule, make sure that you will be able to apply it. As you are an important role model for your child, you must respect the rules he has to follow.
  • Cons: Ideally, the rules should, when they are not respected, have a consequence that is directly related to your child’s behavior. Thus, he can understand his mistake, correct himself and learn new behaviors.

Why do you often have to repeat the rules?

It is normal to have to repeat the rules several times to a toddler because it takes a long time for him to remember what is expected of him without needing to be reminded. At 2 or 3 years, the parts of his brain that control the impulses are not yet fully developed. It is for this reason that he can disobey a rule even if he knows it: he is just not able to restrain his action. The older he gets, the more his brain develops and the more he gets there.

Other times, you have to repeat the rule because your toddler simply did not understand it, which is why he does not respect it. In this case, explain the rule again with simple words, emphasizing why it should respect it. If your child is old enough, ask him to tell you the rule in his words. It’s a way to make sure he understands it and helps him learn it.

Even if he understands the rule and remembers it, it is possible that your toddler decides to disobey to be independent. It’s normal. All children, especially when they are small, disobey the rules. When this happens, patiently remind your toddler of the rule he has disobeyed and make sure he respects it. Consistency in enforcing boundaries is the best way for your child to understand the importance to you and him.

To be angry to be heard, a good idea?

Some parents may feel discouraged at times to always repeat the same rules. Even if you are exasperated, try not to get angry, because your toddler might be afraid and fear that you will not love him anymore. Rather, say the rules in a firm voice so that he understands that they are non-negotiable. However, it can happen to everyone to react too strongly to their child. If you feel that this is the case, reassure him and take the time to apologize. You will show that we can repair the words and gestures we regret.

To help you when your child does not follow the rules:

To remember

  • As he likes to explore, the toddler needs rules to keep him safe.
  • The child often needs to be told the rules to understand and respect them.
  • Consistent application of the rules secures your child, who knows better what you expect from him.
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