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7 Secrets of Toddler Discipline

Just saying “no” doesn’t always work. How to get your child to live and learn -- and not lose your cool in the process.
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2. Avoid Stressful Situations

By the time your child has reached the toddler stage, you've spent enough time with him or her to know what triggers reactions. The most common ones are hunger, sleepiness, and quick changes of venue. Avoid these potential meltdown scenarios with a little advance planning.

Pediatrician Lisa Asta, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, says, "You have to anticipate, which means you don't go to the grocery store when your child needs a nap."

Try to make sure your child is home at naptimes, bedtimes, and mealtimes. If you are out, always keep food on hand in case of a sudden hunger attack. Keep excursions short (that means finding another restaurant if the one you've chosen has an hour-long wait or doing your grocery shopping at times when the lines are shortest). Finally, plan ahead so you don't have to rush (particularly when you need to get your child to preschool and yourself to work in the mornings).

You can ease transitions by involving your child in the process. That can be as simple as setting an egg timer for five minutes and saying that when it rings it's time to take a bath or get dressed. Or it can be as easy as giving your child a choice of whether to wear the red or the blue shirt to school.

Remember to think out loud and update your son or daughter about what is next on the schedule. Toddlers can understand much more than they can express.

3. Think Like a Toddler

Toddlers aren't mini-adults. They have trouble understanding many of the things we take for granted, like how to follow directions and behave appropriately. Seeing the scenario from a toddler's perspective can help prevent a tantrum.

"You might say, 'I know, Derek, you don't like getting into the car seat. But it's what we have to do,'" Lerner says. "So you're not coddling, but you're validating their feelings. You have to set the limit, but you do it in a way that respects the child, and you use it as an opportunity to help them learn to cope with life's frustrations and rules and regulations."

Giving choices also shows that you respect your toddler and recognize the child's feelings. Asking your child if he or she wants to bring a favorite book in the car or take along a snack can make the child feel as though he or she has some control over the situation while you remain in charge, Lerner says.

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