More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Raising a Well-Behaved Child
What does discipline mean to you? Your definition of this fundamental part of parenting will determine your approach to it. If you think of disciplining your child as training him to do what you want him to do, you will be frustrated. On the other hand, if you think of discipline as teaching your child the limits of acceptable behavior, you will help him develop into a responsible and independent person.

To cut down on power struggles as your toddler strives for independence, make sure you treat him the way you'd like to be treated. Try compromise instead of commands -- he'll respond more amicably. "You can't go outside right now," you might say if it's time for a nap instead, "but we can read a book now and take a nap and go outside later." Instead of "You must pick up the blocks before dinner," make it "I'll pick up the puzzle pieces if you pick up the blocks."

What you can do
o Establish rules, but keep them simple and limit yourself to a few -- a toddler isn't capable of keeping track of more than a few basic expectations. Make your enforcement of household rules consistent.
o Maintain a sense of humor. Remember that your toddler is a work in progress and you can't expect him to always act the way you want him to.
o Spanking does not teach children anything but fear, and that aggression is a way to solve problems.
o You must find ways of setting limits (and use your words) to assure him that even when he is doing something you don't want him to do you still love and accept him. You can kindly and firmly stop him from hurting himself or someone else by saying, "No, I can't let you do that," and remove him physically from the sandbox or top of the couch, and then reassure him that you love him.

Other developments: Sleep changes
While every child operates on his own sleep schedule, the average toddler sleeps between ten and 13 hours a day. By 19 months most children have given up their morning nap, but still sleep for about two hours in the afternoon. If you find that even one nap rejuvenates your toddler to the point that he won't go down at night without a fight, you might opt to trade afternoon "quiet" time, reading or playing quietly indoors, for a nap.

Even a tired toddler will try to postpone bedtime, at least occasionally. He loves being with you, and once he realizes that going to bed means he's missing out on some household action, he'll test you with a variety of delay tactics. "More books," "Drink of water," and "Sing a song" are common refrains. These antics may be amusing at first, but they will quickly grow tiresome. Your best bet is to find a bedtime routine, such as a bath, a story, and a song, that works, and stick with it.

Does your toddler still sleep contentedly in his crib? Count your blessings! He may be perfectly happy to go down in his crib until well past his second birthday. Or he may be such a determined climber that he's already discovered he can scale the side rails -- much to your dismay. To make crib-hopping as difficult as possible, be sure to remove the padded bumper and any stuffed animals or other toys that your child could use to give him a leg up and over; the mattress should also be set on the lowest level by now. Since crib climbers are at risk for injury, if your child refuses to stay in his crib you may have to put him into a bed. Or you could invest in a crib "tent," a mesh cover (they're used in hospitals) designed to keep a toddler safely in his crib.
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