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When Your Toddler Wears You Down

Your guide to the ages and stages of development

The toddler years mark the beginning of the critical process of guiding our children to become more like Jesus through caring, consistent discipline. But as any parent of a toddler knows, consistency is easier said than done. A toddler's constant activity can quickly wear their parents down both physically and emotionally. And an exhausted parent can have a tough time setting limits and following through on consequences. The fact is, toddlers are keeping a subconscious tally as to what behaviors wear their parents out so that they can eventually get their way.

To keep your toddler from getting the best of you, use these guidelines for consistent discipline:

Keep it simple.

The whole concept of following rules is new to your child, so start with just a few easy-to-follow limits, like no standing on furniture or no throwing balls in the house. Keep the consequences simple and timely. For example, standing on furniture will result in being immediately taken out of the room, or throwing a ball inside will result in the ball being taken away. In both cases, the consequence for inappropriate behavior is the loss of the "thing." It's easier to stand your ground when you don't have to re-invent the consequences for every infraction.

Come through loud and clear.

Parents often assume their children know what the results of misbehavior will be. But toddlers, who are just beginning to learn that their actions have consequences, need these things spelled out for them. When your child is doing something you don't want him to do, ask him to stop, then tell him what will happen if he continues. If he keeps it up, carry out the promised action. Before long, your child will learn that you mean what you say.

Be easy-to-please.

Your toddler wants to please you, so make sure to praise your child often. Try to say yes more than you say no. Pray for an extra dose of patience during these early years. As you point out the good in your child, you'll be less likely to discipline out of frustration or anger and more likely to carry out the consequences calmly.

Think like a child.

Make sure that you've set age-appropriate expectations for your child. For example, most experts agree that children under 3 can't understand the concept of sharing. Expecting your 2-year-old to share without complaint will leave you both frustrated. Figure out what your child is capable of and hold her to that standard.

Pushed to the Limit

According to The Emotional Life of the Toddler by Alicia Lieberman (Free Press), toddlers test their limits about every three minutes of their waking hours. They get into more serious conflict about three times every hour. No wonder we're all tuckered out! So, as you race from one discipline crisis to another, remember that this transitory season is a crucial time for teaching your toddler about his world. And try to get lots of rest!

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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