Good Behavior: Tips on How to Discipline
With increased mobility and rudimentary verbal skills, this can be an
especially trying time for parents. New parents often look back to
their own childhood and either emulate or negatively react to the
way their parents raised them. This brochure describes the basics of
a behavioral approach to parenting.
Young children will do anything to get attention. For that reason,
praising wanted behaviors (either verbally or with hugs) teaches
children that they can get attention for acting that way. This is not
spoiling, but teaching. If children only get attention when they do
things you don't like, they are more likely to continue with
- Children seek parental attention. The most effective way to teach
a child is to provide positive reinforcement for desired behaviors.
Limit setting evolves from simple distraction (appropriate for
infants) to the recitation of a simple rule ("No hitting.") to the
use of a brief time-out.
- Time-outs work best when children have learned they get
positive attention for wanted behaviors. Think of a time-out as
time-out from positive reinforcement."
While American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy discourages use
of corporal punishment, it still may be difficult to address this
issue directly. Most parents use corporal punishment only when other
methods of discipline have failed. By advocating for effective alternatives
to corporal punishment, the clinician may be able to dramatically
reduce its use. If parents inquire, let them know that the research
suggests that children who experience corporal punishment learn to
evade punishment by becoming more wary of their parents and are more
likely to use or experience violence themselves in later life.
How to Use This Tool
- Most parents are quite concerned about toddler behavior and
are eager to discuss this with clinicians. Usually, one or more
gentle inquiries is all it takes to start the conversation.
- "She really pays attention when we are talking. Does
she understand when you speak to her and does she listen to
what you ask her to do yet?"
"Your child is growing and developing well. Has he started
having tantrums yet? How do you handle them?"
- "What new things is your child doing since the last visit?
What does she do that you'd like to change?"
- Use the brochure by endorsing its core message: "This is
the age when parents begin to really think about how to teach
their children to behave well. This handout describes a simple
approach to toddler behavior. Have a look, and we can talk about
it at the next visit."
- Clinicians should be aware that the brochure provides broadly
useful information that cannot address all children or all families.
- Be on the lookout for children with difficult temperaments, or
families who are socially isolated or are experiencing any sort
of family discord. Normal toddler behavior may be especially
difficult for these families and they may need more support.
Many communities offer parenting classes, consultations, or
Purchase this brochure
TIPP® and Connected Kids on CD-ROM