Positive Parenting Techniques for Your Toddler: Do They Really Work?

Trying to understand the mind of a toddler can be one of the most frustrating things we’ll ever do —a toddler’s brain is beginning to process new emotions and your toddler often doesn’t know how to handle her feelings. This overload of emotions can (all too often) result in tantrums and other undesirable behaviour (to say the least). If you’re at the end of your rope, a new approach like positive parenting may help.

What Is Positive Parenting?

Positive parenting means using positive methods of discipline, rather than negative ones. It helps to boost your toddler’s self esteem, because you’re teaching him good behaviour by reinforcing positive things, rather focusing on punishing him for negative things.

How Can I Start Positive Parenting?

The best way to start is by making a conscious effort to minimise your use of the word “no.” This will help you to formulate alternatives before speaking to your toddler. For example, “No, don’t grab the cat’s tail!” would become, “Remember: use gentle hands,” or “Stroke the cat softly.” These more positive phrases should have a similar effect in modifying your toddler’s behaviour without creating conflict.

Hearing too many “no”s can often cause frustration in toddlers, leading to tantrums. Negative speech also doesn’t often give the toddler enough direction, so she is left knowing what she shouldn’t do but not what she should do. In the case of the first example “No, don’t grab the cat’s tail!”, the toddler hasn’t been told how she should treat the cat, only that the way she was doing it was wrong. Positive parenting means you are offering a positive alternative to an undesirable behaviour.

When Should I Use Positive Parenting?

You’ll be surprised how often you will find yourself using these techniques, once you start. Try these ideas to get you started.

1. Make instructions fun. Children often find being ordered around frustrating which can result in negative behaviour. Instead of saying, “Put your coat on,” make it into a game with, “I bet you can’t put your coat on before me”. Making things fun is often a much more positive way to gain the same result.

2. Praise often. Encouraging good behaviour with your praise and attention makes a toddler much more likely to want to repeat the behaviour in the future.

3. Limit your use of bribes. While tempting, overuse of bribes can lead children to expect a pay-off for every good thing they do, making them more focused on the promise of a bribe rather than doing good because it makes them feel good.

4. Pay attention. Rewards for good behaviour don’t have to be sweets or toys, a simple hug and your focus and attention is enough to show your child that you’re pleased with her.

5. Be a role model. Even small children can understand what you say, so try demonstrating the fact that it feels good to achieve a task by your actions and words. For example, “I feel very happy now I’ve tidied the kitchen.” Your child will start to understand that completing a task is a reward in itself.

6. Explain what you need. If you do say no, follow it with an explanation. It’s impossible to never use the word “no” and if your child does something potentially dangerous, you may just utter it out of instinct. Of course that’s okay, but once you have eliminated the danger, try to explain to your child why you said no You could follow it up with “Mummy’s cup is hot,” or “The dog’s toy is dirty,” in a calm but firm voice so your child knows you’re serious.

7. Look for the cause of problem behaviour. Sometimes children act up simply because they want your attention.  Perhaps there has been a change at home or in their routine and they need more attention from you, so spending some one-on-one, quality time together and acknowledging and praising any resulting good behaviour can often stop bad behaviour in its tracks.

More positive ways to parent your toddler:

Image: Getty