Q. Now that our baby is 2, we're seeing that he needs more effective discipline than just us saying "no no" to him. What's the best way for us to curb his behavior?
A. The fact that you are willing to adapt your discipline to meet your child's changing needs tells me you're doing better than you might think. As you work through how you will discipline your child, here are a few principles to keep in mind:
Know your purpose.
Effective discipline needs to focus on the character you are forming in your children as well as on teaching them right from wrong. This is especially true for preschoolers who are new to the very idea of making choices and managing their behavior. Think about the kind of character you want your child to develop and concentrate your discipline efforts on the behaviors that shape that kind of character. For example, you want your child to be kind to others, so discourage behavior that is harmful (like hitting) or unkind (like taking toys from other kids without asking).
Check your expectations.
Toddlers typically act out because of an unmet need, not out of malice. If your child is hungry or tired or bored, he's more likely to misbehave, so try to be patient and determine what he needs. Young children are also excited about discovering the world, so it's natural for their curiosity to take over and their attention to wander. Remember that he doesn't know that cat food needs to stay in the bowl or that trucks can't go in the toilet. When the temptation to react in frustration arises, step back, breathe, think, and pray.