When my child was a toddler, my father-in-law had told me that as a parent I should only start disciplining her when she becomes three-year old. Until then children are delicate, prone to abuse and need loads of love.
It was difficult for me to understand why toddlers cannot be disciplined at that age, but as my child grew up, I learnt the true meaning of those wise words. To understand what we are saying, children need at least a modicum level of cognitive abilities, which only develop after a certain age. Before that, they are just a mass of sensations consisting of hunger, sleep, tiredness, cold, hot, pain etc.
Two years of age is often referred to as ‘Terrible Twos’ for a reason. At this age children understand that their actions matter to people around them, and yet their thinking is not logical. So they are more prone to test their abilities at almost all situations, just to see how far they can get their ways. Temper tantrums, throwing things, doing opposite of instructions, are just some of the ways a toddler asserts himself. So while you are losing your patience, your child is just experimenting with his/her growing self confidence.
At this age, while children do not understand what discipline is all about, and cannot relate punishment to the act they have done, they can, of course, understand that you are upset with them, and do respond to instructions. And if you are to start on the process of how to discipline a toddler, it will help to remember these basic principles:
With toddlers, it’s best to avoid a situation which can lead to stress. Children of this age are more driven by their hunger, tiredness and sleepiness, and are generally cranky when any of these sensations affect them. So if your child is in a noncompliant mood, try to relive her stress by offering her food, rest, or even a different environment, which is serene and undisturbed. If you are in a crowded space, move away from the crowd to a peaceful atmosphere, like a solitary room, or outdoors.
This works all the time. As children of this age has a shorter attention span, counter her rebellious mood with distractions, such as a story, a toy, or even an activity like playing with dough, patting the dog, or even watering the plants.