How to Discipline Your Toddler or Preschooler Without Shame: 5 Steps for Parents

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The concept of discipline originates from the Latin word “disciplina,” signifying “teaching” and “learning,” closely linked to the term “disciple.” In essence, disciplining our children is about teaching them, a continuous learning process for both parents and children alike.

Our approach to discipline should aim to empower our children to modify their behavior voluntarily, rather than instilling shame or exerting control over them. The goal is for our children to develop self-regulation abilities independently, rather than merely adhering to imposed rules or acting out of fear.

As children mature and their brains develop, they will naturally move beyond many of the behaviors we see as problematic, thanks to the remarkable brain development that occurs during the toddler years.

During this period, it’s crucial to support our children in forming a positive relationship with their emotions, viewing mistakes as opportunities for learning rather than reasons for shame. We strive to equip our children with the skills to behave appropriately in social settings, enabling them to establish deep, meaningful connections with others throughout their lives.

Encouraging a Growth Mindset in Young Children

Children are naturally present-oriented and often possess a “fixed” mindset, not recognizing the potential for change and growth.

It’s our responsibility to teach them that change is possible and that they have the capacity to evolve.

Children may perceive their mistakes as permanent failures. Our challenge is to guide them from feeling ashamed and defeated to feeling capable of learning and growth.

5 Steps to Apply Positive Discipline with Toddlers: From Shame to Empowerment

When addressing undesirable behavior in your child, consider these steps:

  1. Recognize their emotions and establish boundaries: “It’s normal to feel strong emotions, but we don’t use our hands to express them.”
  2. Allow emotional expression: Understand and accept their emotional reactions, reinforcing the importance of safety. “Feeling frustrated is okay, but I’ll ensure everyone stays safe.”
  3. Provide comfort and reassurance: Help them calm down, demonstrating that emotions are not to be feared.
  4. Collaborate on a solution: Find a way for everyone to be happy with the situation.
  5. Empower rather than shame: Address any feelings of shame by encouraging them that they will remember for next time, “Next time, you’ll know what to do.”

Why This Approach is Effective

This method focuses on positive change rather than punishment. By recognizing emotions, encouraging problem-solving, and instilling a belief in future success, children learn that mistakes are not final. They are motivated by the understanding that improvement is always possible, fostering a growth mindset over a fixed one.

This approach not only helps children deal with their immediate emotions but also instills in them a sense of confidence and the drive to do better in the future. Celebrating their successes reinforces this positive change, showing them that they have the power to alter their behavior from within.

Even if they don’t always remember, the affirmation that there’s always a next time shifts their focus from past mistakes to future opportunities for growth. This perspective helps children view each new challenge as a chance to learn and improve, laying the foundation for a lifetime of resilience and self-improvement.