Toddler discipline: 14 secrets only teachers know

October 20, 2016
  • Teachers' discipline strategies
    1 / 15 Teachers' discipline strategies

    The teacher tells you that your little one is very well-behaved in school. However, it is the direct opposite when she’s at home. 

    She throws a tantrum and hits her brother when things are not in her favour. But before you raise your voice to discipline her, it’s important to understand why she might be behaving that way, and wait until she is ready to talk about it. 

    Childcare and preschool teachers share 14 discipline strategies you can use at home. 

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  • Use empathy in your reasoning
    2 / 15 Use empathy in your reasoning

    Rather than react with negative statements like ‘No biting!”, try saying: “I know you are upset that your friend snatched your truck, but we need to be gentle. We can say, ‘Please stop!’”

    When you use empathy in your reasoning, you help your child think through his actions, increase his vocabulary and teach him problemsolving skills, points out curriculum specialist Annabella Chia from Odyssey The Global Preschool.

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  • Make peace
    3 / 15 Make peace

    It’s also important that your little one learns to apologise. He could say: “I am sorry for making you upset. I will not do it again.” Then, give a handshake or a hug, says Nur Azlina Subari, a teacher from Learning Vision.

    Related: Evelyn Tan: I still do cane, but in a reasonable way

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  • Show your sad face
    4 / 15 Show your sad face

    If your toddler tries to push his sibling, your instinct may be to shout “stop” or “no”.

    Instead, sit her down and say: “Look at Mummy’s face. I am sad. That was not nice. Please say sorry to your sister.”

    Young children need visual cues to understand the consequences of their actions, says teacher Ida from Brighton Montessori (the school declined to give its teachers’ full names).

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  • Supervise play dates closely
    5 / 15 Supervise play dates closely

    Toddlers lack both language and social skills, so they are easily frustrated when they play together, says teacher Wee from Pat’s Schoolhouse (the school declined to give its teachers’ full names).

    If your little one hits his friends when they take his toys, tell him calmly and firmly: “Ouch! That is painful. We only hit the beanbag. Your friend is not a beanbag.”

    Related: How to discipline your baby: 10 golden rules that work 

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  • Promote independence
    6 / 15 Promote independence

    Teach your young one how to resolve minor squabbles with her friend, teacher Janet from Pat’s Schoolhouse suggests.

    For example, if he’s not ready to give up his tricycle, he can say: “Please wait, I am not done. Please do not push me. I will fall and hurt myself.”

    Related: Toddler cries easily: How to stop the behaviour

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  • Read stories about sharing
    7 / 15 Read stories about sharing

    This is important, especially if you have an only child, teacher Jacqueline from Brighton Montessori suggests. Reward him whenever you see him attempting to share, no matter how small the gesture.

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  • Encourage thinking
    8 / 15 Encourage thinking

    Discuss social skills such as sharing and taking turns. You can ask: How would you feel if I snatched a book from you? Why don’t we enjoy the book together?

    Giving examples and role-playing helps them express how they feel and teaches them to show empathy for others, teacher Irliana Tay from Etonhouse Preschool explains.

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  • Uncover the trigger
    9 / 15 Uncover the trigger

    Uncover the triggers or other contributing factors behind your child’s behaviour. Teacher Shirlee Lim, from Etonhouse Preschool, recalls an incident during story time in class when a girl moved forward to pinch her friend’s arm.

    After observing her for a while, the teachers realised that she needed sensorial stimulation. Giving her a textured “feely ball” to hold during group time solved the problem. 

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  • Ask leading questions
    10 / 15 Ask leading questions

    Ask leading questions to help your child reflect on his actions and understand the consequences.

    If the kids are fighting over a toy, senior teacher Sangeetha P. from Etonhouse Preschool suggests that you ask: What happened? Did you want that toy? Do you think it was right to snatch the toy and push your friend down? What do you think we should do now?

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  • Wait it out
    11 / 15 Wait it out

    If your little one denies his wrongdoing, perhaps out of fear of punishment, wait until he is ready to talk about it, says Janelle Wong, a principal with Learning Vision.

    Then, explain the consequences of his actions in a calm and objective tone. Assign an appropriate follow-up – for instance, by getting him to clean up the mess he created.

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  • Winning cooperation
    12 / 15 Winning cooperation

    The playground is a great setting for kids to pick up physical and social skills, says teacher Deanna from Mindchamps Preschool at Paragon (the school declined to give its teachers’ full names).

    Before playtime, remind your child: “Be gentle and patient”, and “Go up the steps and down the slide”.

    Outline the consequences, as well: “Your friends might get hurt if you are not gentle.” “You might bump into your friend if you are going in the wrong direction.” When it’s time to leave, your kid might throw a tantrum because he is reluctant to head home.

    So, give him plenty of notice in advance. “Counting down will help children buffer the inertia of stopping a fun activity,” Deanna adds.

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  • Distract to prevent
    13 / 15 Distract to prevent

    If you sense an outburst looming, “divert your child’s attention to something more interesting and the meltdown will soon be forgotten”, advises teacher Veron from Mindchamps Preschool at Changi Business Park.

    With his limited vocabulary, your toddler cannot explain what the tantrum is all about.

    Acknowledge his frustration by saying something simple, like: “I know that you are angry because you did not get that.”

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  • Be a role model
    14 / 15 Be a role model

    Instead of forcing your picky child to finish his vegetables, encourage good eating habits by being a role model.

    “How do you tell a child to eat his vegetables if you can barely finish yours?” asks teacher Treece from Mindchamps Preschool at Toa Payoh.

    You can also read books together, such as Lauren Child’s bestseller, I Will Not Ever Never Eat A TomatoIn the story, big brother Charlie was able to creatively transform “yucky” vegetables into something “amazing”, to help Lola gobble up everything on her plate through the power of imagination.

    He told her the carrots were “orange twiglets from Jupiter”. Or, get your child to help you prepare dinner.

    “When I engage my students in food preparation, they usually think what they have created is the most delicious thing on earth,” shares Treece.

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  • Reinforce good behaviour
    15 / 15 Reinforce good behaviour

    Reinforce good behavior by clapping or giving praise, such as: “I like the way you took turns with your friend”.

    Work with his teachers, says Shweta Bhatnagar, a teacher from Etonhouse Preschool. This helps ensure that similar strategies are used both at home and in school.


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