Figuring out how to punish a toddler can be difficult, realizing that every child is unique and reacts to punishment in a different way just adds to the confusion.
I don’t want my children to grow up to be entitled or disrespectful because we didn’t punish them enough, I also don’t want them to grow up to hate me or with insecurities because we punished them too much. Time outs don’t always work. Spanking seems too rough. Taking away toys only leads to yelling. Yelling makes everyone feel bad.
My current savior when it comes to punishment is talking it out.
By no means am I saying that I never lose my temper and let out a wail or two. There are days where my mommy fuse is short and my kids are running around trying to light it. Kids don’t fully understand the complexity of each and every situation but one thing I know they can grasp is hurt feelings. Even toddlers understand booboos. So when a little person says something hurtful, begins to throw things, act out at home or in public? We talk it out and discuss how those actions make everyone feel.
Booboos on the heart.
We talk about apologizing when someone is sad as a result of our actions and the look on his face turns to one of compassion, right before he gives up a hug and says that he is sorry. For right now, this process is really helping us work through a tough toddler time where older ideas like timeouts didn’t help so much. Hopefully, if you find yourself struggling through the toddler era a few heart-to-hearts can help you both sort through some mini-meltdowns.
Getting little ones to understand their mistakes is equally important to parents understanding that their minds are still developing and the sense of right and wrong is not something we are born with.