Baby & Toddler

How Do You Discipline a Toddler?

If you’re looking for a way to spin your wheels, get frustrated, and not actually accomplish much of anything, I recommend that you try disciplining a toddler.

Before you get all riled up with mental pictures of my little girl in a stockade under a burning hot sun, let’s interject a quick dose of reality. The toddler in question, aka Baby G, is only 13 months old. She barely speaks English. She has a generally cheerful disposition. Her understanding of cause and effect is weak at best.

Baby G is not being BAD, per se. She’s not plagiarizing other people’s blogposts and passing them off as her own, for example, or embezzling hard-earned funds from charities.

When you get right down to it, she only does two things “wrong.” Okay, besides waking up at least twice a week between 4 and 5 a.m., which annoys the crap out of me and, at least once, has triggered me reading childrens’ books out loud to her with interjected profanities. Yes, I am ashamed of myself. Here they are:

A) She bites. She’s getting teeth. Apparently, that hurts. Apparently, the way to stop those gums from bothering you is to bite something, like a teething toy, or a chair. Or a brother or parent.

B) She goes where she should not. She’s curious and speedy. And her new favorite thing to do is to climb. We have gates on all our staircases but one, which is a weird size and we haven’t found something that fits. We might as well have put an engraved invitation on the bottom of that staircase. At every opportunity, Baby G pulls a crawling Usain Bolt and makes tracks for that staircase.

Neither of these things are her “fault.” Both, however, are irritating and potentially harmful and/or dangerous.

I do not believe in corporal punishment. Or, for the most part, capital punishment, but that’s another discussion for another time. Even though I was raised in a house where people thought nothing of hitting my hand away when I reached to pull my sister’s hair, I really prefer to stay away from that. Not only do I not feel that it does any good, but I also feel that teaching someone that violence is wrong, by punishing them with an act of violence, makes little to no sense.

So, we work on cause and effect. When Baby G bites my leg, for example, I touch her hand and look her in the eye and say, “No. We don’t bite.” She generally responds to this with a big smile. She kind of gets it. I can tell, because now, when I say the word “bite,” she bites again. Awesome.

And when she climbs up the stairs, we start singing a song we’ve made up. It’s a fun ditty that starts, usually in basso profundo, “Baby Jail, for your crimes! Do the crime, do the time!” and we put her in Baby Jail, aka a little fenced-in play area with all the fun toys a baby could wish for. However, Baby G does not want to be in baby jail, and usually yells until someone gets her out.

So other than smearing my pant legs with bitter herbs and/or soundproofing the baby jail, what remains to be done?

Jordana HornJordana Horn is a contributing editor to Kveller. She is a journalist, lawyer, writer, mother of five (pregnant with her sixth), travel aficionado, and self-declared karaoke superstar. Before her life got too crazy, she was the New York correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. She has written for numerous publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Forward and Tablet. She has appeared as a 'parenting expert' on NBC's TODAY Show and FOX and Friends. She enjoys writing about herself in the third person and, one far-off day when everyone is in school, hopes to get back to work on her novel.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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