Disciplining a toddler is tough stuff and yet it must be done. We use a combination of approaches:
Verbal – This one’s obvious. If he’s doing something he shouldn’t do, we firmly tell him ‘No [insert action here].’ Most of the time, we find ourselves filling in the [insert action] part with hitting/standing on the couch/touch. About half the time he’ll listen, and half the time he won’t. But we are certain he understands, especially since these commands have been repeated over and over.
1-2-3 – We’re just beginning to start this. He gets 3 chances to improve his behavior or he gets a time out. Often times this one helps when he’s encroaching upon the dog’s space when the dog doesn’t want to play. So I’ll say ‘Leave the dog alone please…that’s ONE.’ If he does it again, ‘Leave the dog alone…that’s TWO.’ And should he make it to three, he gets a time out. It is not often I get to three.
Time Out – Since our house is small and the only good place we have to put him in time out is his crib, that’s where he goes. This has not effected him going to sleep at night or taking naps as the routine for those is very different. I will simply pick him up and march him to his crib, telling him he is in Time Out. We typically retrieve him after a minute or two, or if he’s very upset, when he’s calmed down (which is never more than a few minutes anyway). When I do the 1-2-3 method, I will ask him when I’m at 2, ‘Do you want a time out?’ at which point he realizes I mean business and tends to stop what he’s doing.
I’m not going to lie, it is really hard to calmly and rationally apply these methods on a daily basis, but we try our best. Different scenarios call for different measures. We don’t put him in Time Out for whining at this point- we just implore him to ‘Use your words or signs’ and try to help him out. Most of the time he is really good with our dog, but every now and then I’ll catch him giving her a smack or trying to toss a pillow on her and it gets me angry enough to yell at him. Toddlers are just so adept at pushing our buttons, and as much as I want him to act better, I have to focus on my own actions as well.
What about you all? Anyone have different approaches that they use?
Edited to add: I forgot something! We also consistently use positive reinforcement, which is rewarding good behavior (with praise). We make sure to tell him when he’s doing something well, like cleaning up his toys or even playing quietly. I think it’s just as important to do this as it is to correct bad behavior since it keeps the good behavior coming.