Time-out is an effective discipline approach for toddlers.
Slapping is one way toddlers deal with frustration, usually in combination with kicking, screaming, clawing or growling. There are plenty of ways your frustrated toddler can get his message across. Toddlers need to be taught that hitting is unacceptable. Consistency with a slappy toddler stops head-shaking stares from clueless strangers.
1Provide opportunities for daily outdoor vigorous playtime. Play helps burn excessive energy and gives toddlers an outlet to release frustrations. Taking a toddler that's been restless in the house to a store or restaurant and expecting him to behave is setting yourself up for disaster.
2Teach alternative methods for releasing frustration. If you notice your toddler is getting upset, tell him to use his words and initiate a simple conversation. Questions like “Why are you mad?” in a gentle voice teaches your toddler to talk about problems. If the frustration is directed at a playmate or sibling, teach your toddler to turn his back or compromise instead of using his hands in anger. If you see your toddler use an alternative method, praise him for the good behavior.
3Display consistency with discipline for slapping. The second your toddler hits you or someone else, intervene by telling your toddler in one simple sentence why hitting is wrong and place your toddler in a boring supervised location for a one- to two-minute time-out. “We do not hit because hitting hurts” is a direct and to-the-point sentence to explain the rationale for time-out. Toddlers do not understand rationales, but they do understand consequences.
4Limit time in front of the television. Even some children's cartoons show hitting, which reinforces the behavior for your toddler. If an adolescent sibling is watching a TV show with violence, ensure it's away from your toddler. If your toddler does watch TV, explain negative situations as they occur and explain what the characters should have done differently.
5Be a good role model. If you spank your children, you're reinforcing that hitting is an acceptable way to deal with frustration. In addition, if you're telling your toddler that hitting is wrong and then you hit as a way to discipline, you're sending mixed messages to your toddler. Stay calm when you're frustrated and tell your toddler “it makes me angry when you hit.” Then place your toddler in time-out. Always model the behavior you expect from your toddler.
- Dressing rooms, corners away from toys or the car are quiet and non-stimulating locations to use for time-out while in public. If you use a public restroom, be sure to thoroughly wash your toddler's hands.Politely smile and thank strangers that offer unwanted advice. Remember, you're a role model. You can vent about it later when your toddler can't hear you.Schedule play dates after lunch and naps to avoid frustration from fatigue and hunger.
- Contact a pediatrician if discipline is ineffective and violence worsens.