I’m a parent to an active toddler, one who is adventurous, curious, and likes to push her own physical boundaries. In order to help her safely explore her environment, we decided to implement discipline strategies to create boundaries at an early age.
My husband and I like to think of ourselves as relaxed parents. We want our baby to have the freedom to explore her new world -- within certain constraints for her own safety. We found the key to setting boundaries was consistency between not just us, but also with her other caregivers, the babysitters who watch her while we’re working.
The boundaries we set are both physical -- certain things are off-limits, like climbing onto equipment at the playground that’s too dangerous for her -- as well as behavioral. The behavioral boundaries were not just for the safety of our toddler and babies around her -- no hitting or pushing -- but also to help her develop social skills she’ll need to live harmoniously with us and among people in the greater world.
Choices Instead of “No”:
For our toddler, the world must seem like a lot of “no!” which must feel frustrating for her. We try to set boundaries that give her freedom within limits, to still enable her to make choices. We all sit down to eat dinner, but we let her choose the high chair or the booster seat. She can’t draw on the walls, but she can choose to draw on plain paper or a coloring book.
There are days, of course, when the limits push her to the breaking point, and our toddler acts out. On these occasions, we explain that she needs to stop her behavior -- no more throwing mommy’s iPhone, please -- and if she doesn’t, a short time out is in order. If we’re at home, time out means she is placed in the crib for a few minutes. Putting her in her crib is not a punishment. It’s a way of giving her space to calm down and reset.
And that’s usually all it takes.
So far, our approach is working for us. As she grows and changes, we assess what’s working and what isn’t, and make changes accordingly.
Christine Knight is an Australian expat and mother of one enthusiastic toddler. Now living in Brooklyn, NY, she is co-founder of brunchwithmybaby.com, a site dedicated to helping parents navigate the NYC and Sydney food scenes with their offspring.