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(Note: If your young child has issues with anxiety when placed in an environment away from you, such as her bedroom, it may be helpful to put her in an area where she can still see and/or hear you.) Here’s an example: Three-year-old Charlotte has just smacked her best friend Joey in the head with a plastic plane they were arguing over.As Charlotte’s parent, your job is to move in swiftly, lowering your body to meet Charlotte’s eyes and stating: “We don’t hit,” while taking the plane away.If you are a good listener, I will consider reading you two stories. Kids at this age tend to feel like their lives are mostly mapped out for them on a day-to-day basis, so it’s important to give them some freedom of choice throughout the day. What if someone told you what you were to wear and eat, when you would go to work and come home, and who you would socialize with each and everyday. Young children are no different and giving them some wiggle room each day is a loving form of discipline that is likely to decrease their tantrums and acting out.If you have a tantrum, you will go right to bed.” When you tell your child matter-of-factly that you are in fact in charge and then propose a consistent routine each day, whether we’re talking about bedtime rituals or overall discipline, your child begins to know what to expect and feels secure within the rules of the house. Here’s a good example: Trey is a spirited, strong-willed 2 ½ year old child who likes to have his way.Teaching your child boundaries, learning to say “no,” and coaching your child to practice good behaviors are all part of an important discipline strategy.
My rule of thumb for attempting to change a young child’s behavior is to be “swift and safe.” By swift, I mean move in quickly to correct the behavior and place your child in an environment where he or she will be safe since young children have a tendency to lash out physically when angry or disciplined.I know being a consistent disciplinarian can be overwhelming, particularly with young children, so I encourage parents to have a slogan for themselves that they use when things begin to get out of control.Here’s an example: Charlie, age 5, deplores bedtime.There are few experiences more stressful—or more embarrassing—than having your child throw himself to the ground in the middle of a crowded store.
But in the midst of all of these difficult years with your child, remember these two things: Bad behavior from children between the ages of two and six is completely normal—and as a parent, you have the ability to help your child learn how to begin to control him or herself.“Lily’s having fewer play dates because no one wants her around, and I get it,” says Sarah.“And she’s already getting in trouble in pre-school.” Disciplining young children can be challenging for parents, especially when their child’s behavior is especially inappropriate or obnoxious.For the young child between the ages of two and six, the main thing to remember is to keep the discipline simple and easy to understand.