Definition of Conscious Discipline:
Discipline does not equal punishment.
It is emotional education: a way of teaching your toddler to handle her feelings and reminding her how to behave. This is
Conscious Discipline. The ultimate goal of is to help your child gain self-control. It is making life predictable for your
toddler. They know what to expect and what’s expected of them. Angel toddlers can turn into monsters by parents who
didn’t know how to stay in charge and set limits. Spirited or grumpy toddlers can turn into angel toddlers because their
parents are clear, compassionate, and consistent.
· Involves: - watching
your own actions
- listening to the way you talk to your child
- being mindful of the less obvious lessons you teach
- setting limits that make her them feel secure
· Theater analogy: Young children need lots of rehearsals. You, the
director, must hold the cue cards until your little actor memorizes the script, knows the stage directions by heart, and can
manage on his own.
1) Mother Francine and her son Chris
are in the supermarket at the checkout lane and she is unloading the groceries onto the conveyor belt. Chris sees the candy
and says he wants some. Francine starts out calmly denying his request but continues to empty the cart. Chris keeps asking
but in a louder and louder voice. Francine also escalates her response but adds an explanation that it will ruin his teeth.
Chris doesn’t know what that means and he starts crying. Francine starts getting embarrassed and tries to ignore Chris.
Realizing he’s being ignored, Chris starts screaming for candy. Francine threatens him that she’s take him home
if he doesn't stop. Then Chris starts kicking the cart and cries even louder. Mortified, Francine gives in and gives Chris
a candy bar but says just this once. Then she explains to everyone that he’s just overtired. Chris smiles.
2) Mother Leah with her son Nick rolls
her cart through the checkout line. Nick sees the candy display and says he wants candy. Leah says “Not today, Nick.”
Nick whines and demands candy in a louder voice. Leah stops and looks Nick in the eye “Not today, Nicky” firmly
but without anger. Nick starts to cry and kick the cart. Leah quickly removes her groceries from the conveyor belt and refills
her cart. She asks the checkout person to watch her cart until she comes back. Then she turns to Nick and in an even voice
says “When you behave like this, we have to leave.” She lifts him out of the cart and calmly exits the store.
Nick continues to cry and mom allows him his tantrum in the car. When he stops crying, Leah says to him “You can come
back to the store with me, but no candy.” They return to the market and proceed through the checkout line without incident.
As they exit, she says to her son “Good boy, Nicky. Thank you for not asking for candy. You were very patient.”
Discipline is teaching but parents
aren’t always aware of what they’re teaching. Chris learned that in order to get what he wants he needs to behave
in a certain way – whine, cry, have a tantrum. He also learned that his mom doesn’t mean what she says because
she doesn’t follow through. Nick has learned that his mother says what she means and means what she says. She follows
through. She sets boundaries, and when he crosses them, he suffers the consequences. Also, because Leah didn’t yank
him out of the store but remained calm herself, she modeled proper behavior for her son, showing him that she was in control
of her emotions. Finally, he learned that when he’s good, he earns praise- and to a toddler, mom’s approval is
almost as delicious as candy. Also, Nick won’t have any more tantrums in the market because his mom does not reward
them. Sometimes a child needs to be removed from a “hot situation” more than once to grasp the boundary. Rules
make a child feel safe.
2) Twelve Ingredients of Conscious
Know your own boundaries- and set rules
o What standards are you comfortable with? Only you can make the rules for
your household. Tell your child what you expect. Set the rules before-hand. Have realistic expectations for you child. For
example in a market where candy is sold you could tell your child before-hand “When we go to the store, you can bring
a snack. But I will not buy you candy. Would you like me to pack carrots or Goldfish crackers?”
Look at your own behavior to see what you’re
teaching your child
o The way we handle situations- set limits without anger, act instead of react, and deal calmly with stressful
situations- is the way we show children how it looks to be in control of our emotions. Children are like sponges. Be careful.
Listen to yourself to make sure you are in
charge, not your toddler
o A lot of times the parent is allowing King Toddler to rule. That won’t do. Being a parent means being
in charge. Problems occur when parents have no boundaries and let their children set the agenda.
Whenever possible, plan ahead; avoid difficult
settings or circumstances
o With very young children who can’t understand why something is off-limits, it’s best to steer
clear of more challenging situations. Limit stimulation and limit situations that are too difficult for your child. Whenever
possible avoid anything too loud, too frantic, too demanding, too cognitively advanced, too scary, or too physically taxing.
See the situation through your toddler’s
o Sometimes what appears to be aggression in a toddler is simple curiosity. Some misbehavior is a matter of
your toddler being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or your child may be overtired. Also, if you’ve been inconsistent
about setting boundaries, you can’t expect your toddler to guess your standards.
Pick your battles
o It’s important to know when it’s absolutely necessary to enforce your boundaries and when it’s
okay to relax them a bit. If it’s cleanup time and your child is overtired, help her put away the toys. If you’re
trying to get your child dressed and you’re already late but he is very slow in dressing just take him in his pajamas.
He’ll realize that he’s dressed inappropriately and won’t put you through the same scene again. Sometimes
you need a quick solution- use your judgment and ingenuity, but don’t make excuses or go into long explanations. If
you’re in a hurry but your toddler is walking slowly, just pick them up and get where you’re going without a hassle.
Offer closed-end choices
o Toddlers are often more cooperative when offered a choice, because it gives them a sense of control. Instead
of threatening or squaring off against your toddler try to involve her and make her part of the solution. But be sure you
offer closed-end choices. For example: “Do you want Cheerios or Cocoa Puffs?” “Do you want to put your blocks
away first or your dollies?” Instead of asking “Are you ready for your bath?” (she may say no) say “When
you take your bath, do you want to use the red washcloth or the blue one?”
Don’t be afraid to say “no”
o There are some times when you’ll have to deny your child’s requests. Your child doesn’t
have to be happy all the time. Do not give in to all they demands just so that they will always be happy. We set children
up for a rude awakening if we never teach them to accept “no” for an answer. But let them know you understand
that they feel sad. “I know you’re disappointed” or “It looks like you’re really angry about
that” to let him know its normal to be unhappy sometimes.
Nip undesirable behavior in the bud
o Catch your child before he acts out, or at least in the act. Monitor your child, if you see him picking
up a toy to throw at someone you could prevent it by reminding him “Oliver, we do not throw toys”. Or intervene
– for example a child in a highchair starts throwing his food. He is no longer hungry so the mom should remove him and
after half an hour try again to see if he’s hungry.
Praise good behavior and correct or ignore
o Sometimes we are so busy disciplining and saying “no” we forget to notice when our child does
something right. It’s even more important to notice good behavior than to reprimand bad. Praise your child when they
are amusing themselves. “Good playing Heidi.” Secure in the knowledge that you’re paying attention to her,
she’ll be encouraged to play longer than when she senses that you’re not. Whenever she whines, either ignore her
or correct the behavior by saying “I can’t answer you unless you talk in your best voice.” Model what a
best voice sounds like: “Don’t whine at me, Heidi. Say it like this: ‘Help me, Mommy.’” Be aware
of what you “reward” with your attention.
Don’t rely on corporal punishment
o Physical punishment is a short-term solution that teaches nothing positive. Instead, it teaches children
that we hit when we are frustrated; we hit when we don’t know what else to do; we hit when we lose control. If you do
hit your child by accident from fear or knee-jerk reaction or end up losing control you should apologize “I’m
sorry. It was wrong for Mommy to hit you.” Every parent makes mistakes.
Remember that giving in doesn’t equal
o You are not being “the good guy” if you never discipline your children. Conscious discipline
is about teaching, not punishing. If you don’t help your child learn about boundaries, you’re not doing her any
favors. Each time you give in, each time you settle for a quick fix to “buy” your child’s love or make yourself
feel better, I assure you that next time, your child will up the ante. Even worse, at some point, you will become frustrated
with your child’s behavior – behavior that you inadvertently encouraged. You’ll wake up one day and feel
you have lost control. You’ll be right; you have lost control. And it isn’t your child’s fault. When you
are consistent and clear about your rules, not only to you feel better about yourself and the kind of parent you are, your
child also feels secure.
3) The Rule of One/Two/Three
· One: The first time your child does something that crosses a line you’ve
set you take notice. Let your child know that she’s crossed the line.
· Two: The second time it happens, suspect that you’re witnessing the onset
of a pattern and that the behavior could become habitual. Put her down and remind her of the rule. Remove her from the situation.
If she cries tell her you’ll pick her up as long as she doesn’t do that bad behavior. The kind of attention you
give a particular behavior determines whether your child will continue it. Cajoling, compromising, and caving in, as well
as extreme negative reactions, like yelling, tend to reinforce undesirable behavior.
· Three: If a negative behavior pattern continues, you have to ask yourself, What
am I doing to perpetuate it?
· Going Too far: do not over explain, be vague, or take it personally. Be specific
and clear with words that they understand like “Ouch, that hurts. You may not hit.” Or “Don’t climb
on the steps” (without mentioning the danger because they don’t understand that)
4) Respectful Intervention
· State the rule: “No you may not…”
· Explain the effect of the behavior: “That…hurts/made Sara cry/isn’t
· Make the child apologize and give the other child a hug
· Explain the consequence: “When you [restate the behavior], you may not stay;
we’ll have to leave until you calm down.” Or a time-out might be good here.
5) Knowing your Child’s
· Children can turn the charm on and off at will. Cute behavior, “feel-sorry-for-me”
face, etc – they can use these to manipulate their parents and get what they want. It’s best not to admire his
6) The Tantrum Two-Step
· 1- Analyze: Understanding the cause of a particular tantrum gives you clues about
how to stop it. Fatigue, confusion, frustration, and over stimulation are all common causes. They also happen because toddlers
can’t express themselves.
· 2- Act. No matter what the cause, you need to be the child’s conscience.
The best way to stop a tantrum is to remain calm yourself and to allow the child to ride out the emotions without an audience.
This takes away the attention that the tantrum was meant to elicit. Choose one of the below, or use all three.
o Distract him
o Detach: walk away, put her down, ignore
o Disarm: help them calm down by removing them from the situation or giving a time-out.
One should never humiliate, scream,
insult, threaten, yank, spank, slap , our use any kind of violence when disciplining a child, especially an impressionable
and helpless toddler. If you feel your blood starting to boil, leave the room. Put them into a crib or playpen to keep her
safe and remove yourself for a few minutes. If you let your limits slide, long-term bad habits are a lot harder to break.
7) The Time-Out
· What it is: It’s not about taking a child to her room as punishment. It’s
a method of avoiding a full-scale battle, a time away from the heat of the moment. With toddlers, it is more useful to do
the time-outs with them, not to leave them alone.
· How It’s done: If you’re at home, take your child away from the scene
of the crime and to another room. If your child acts up in public or at another person’s house, take him into another
room. Tell him what you expect of him. “No, we may not go back until you’re quiet.” Return when he’s
calm and quiet, but if he starts misbehaving, leave again.
· What you say: Name the emotion (“I can see you’re angry..”)
and tell him the consequence (“… but you may not throw your food”). End with a single, simple sentence:
“When you behave like this you can’t be around [us/other children].”
· What Not to Do: never apologize: “I don’t like to do this to
you” or “It makes me feel sad that you’re in time-out” A child should never be yanked or yelled at;
rather, calmly lead him away from the center of the action. Never lock your toddler in a room alone.