Most toddlers are impulsive, although the degree will vary from child to child. In fact, most toddlers are often unable to control this impulsiveness, whether it is to run out the door as soon as it’s opened or hit another child for taking a toy. While this is a stage that most toddlers will grow out of, it’s important to stop negative habits from forming now. Here you’ll find some important steps for how to discipline the impulsive toddler.
Provide consistent structure. This is something you’ll be doing until your child is a grown man or woman, so it’s time to get accustomed to it now. You know what your child has problems with, so remove as many of those problems as you can. If your child throws things, remove breakable and dangerous items. If your child hits other children, be very pro-active at play dates, the park or other activities where children will be involved. Set structure within your child’s environment so that she is able to explore and learn and pass through that impulsive stage without too many disasters and tragedies.
Recognize and redirect certain behaviors. Each parent knows their own child is different from others. While someone else’s child may sit at the table calmly while eating, your child may throw his food around the dining room. It’s important to learn to recognize your toddler’s impulsive behavior and redirect his attention. For instance, your child has a tendency to bite his siblings. When you see it coming, call his name, clap your hands or do something else that quickly catches your child’s attention. Once you have his attention, you need to be prepared with something else that will redirect his focus. Consider some of the things your child responds to at the current phase in his life. Perhaps you have trigger words that will get your child to focus on something else. You might ask your child where someone (Daddy, the puppy, Grandma) is and direct their attention elsewhere. You might start singing a song your child loves or something else to redirect the attention. The key is to help your child forget about the action he was going to take before you caught his attention.
Correct negative behaviors with a time-out. Time-out is one of the best disciplinary actions you can take with your impulsive toddler. As soon as the undesirable action is done, tell your toddler in terms that she can understand that this particular action is not acceptable. Sit her in a special chair that is reserved for time-out. The time she should stay there should correspond with the age of the child. For instance, a 2-year-old would get 2 minutes and a 3 year old would get 3 minutes.
Praise your child for desirable behaviors. Positive reinforcement is one of the most wonderful ways to discipline your child. It focuses on the positive things your child does, the things she is supposed to do. This is a deep contrast from constantly screaming “no” at your child or punishing her for the negative behavior. So, when your child does NOT do something that is impulsive, such as when she resists the urge to bite or hit another child, praise her. You might hug your child, clap for him or her, provide her with a little treat or something similar. This reinforces within your child’s mind what is acceptable and good and what is not.