Parenting Help

The following are ‘Creative Discipline’ ideas for two common toddler and young child challenging scenarios. For more ideas and tips covering meal times to bed times, bath times to sibling squabbles see Lou’s book, ‘Turning Tears into Laughter: Creative Discipline for the Toddler and Preschool Years’. Go to Books for more information and Contact Lou to buy a book ($12.95 plus $2 postage) and find out about Creative Discipline workshop dates and evening parenting talks (in Melbourne and beyond).

Creative Discipline tips for sharing

Sharing is not a natural tendency for two year olds. An attachment can be very strong to personal toys; I liken it to an adult getting a new car and a friend grabbing the keys to go for a drive!

Arguing has started over a toy. What to do?

  • Make sure that if a toy is popular that you have two of the same toy for siblings or play dates (a second can be bought from an opportunity shop).
  • Encourage toys that do not require such strong ownership, a sand pit with a variety of old cooking pans and spoons, a car mat with a variety of toy toys. A play kitchen with many little baskets and items from nature. These toys encourage social interaction and language development whilst playing too.
  • Find another similar toy which can be included in the turn taking if available.
  • Role-model how to ask for a turn, ‘Please may I have a turn?’ and encourage the children to share. Praise when you see this behaviour.
  • Role-model a solution for the children. This solution can include a game with a timer, so turns can take place when the timer rings. If a timer is not available, use a watch or clock. Get the child to say when the hand is not on the next number.
  • The child who had it first goes first. If this in unclear, a game of, ‘Which hand holds the object is a fun way to decide (the longest stick, or heads and tails).
  • If these strategies do not work, tell the child who owns the toy, ‘Take turns or put up high as a special toy.’ If not owned, state, ‘Take turns or I will put the toy up high’.
  • Practice the art of sharing in a fun way at home with your child. Teddy can join in with this game. “Teddy would like a turn on the drum, thank you, and now it is ….. turn again. Good sharing, well done! Drum for teddy, children can find this amusing; teddy can also ride a scooter and share some snacks.
  • Make sure you share with your child, to be a role model.
  • Borrow toys from the toy library. This way these toys have been shared and do not become a private toy.
  • If turn taking is not possible, re-direct to a more neutral activity (make a den under the table with a big cloth, or play outside).
  • Before a child has a play date at home, go through his toys and allow him to put his ‘special’ toys in a cupboard, only keep out the toys he is happy to share. This can solve a lot of play date issues. If arguing begins, ask the child, “Is this a special toy and shall we put it up high?” Explain simply to the friend, “Do you have special toys? What are they?” “This is a special toy too; let us find something else to play with.”
  • If play dates at home become meltdowns, plan to meet up with friends at the park or neutral play locations. At home, keep play dates short and consider inviting only one friend at a time, where possible.
  • State simple family guidelines, in an age appropriate manner. “We are all friends in this house, we treat each other kindly.”
  • Tell a story, out of the heat of the moment, to spread the message of sharing skills. The cat that learnt to share his double cat bowl, or a story from your own childhood, where you learn to share.
  • Talk about sharing before a social event, in a fun and light way. Praise great sharing examples at night time, before bed. Allow your child some special toys and encourage the skill of sharing with the rest, good luck!
  • After being shown turning taking ideas by adults young children – once old enough – can instigate a solution for themselves over time. When squabbles arise, the adult can say, ‘Work it out together, think of a way that makes you both happy.’ It is lovely to see them come up with an idea.

Creative discipline ideas when leaving a park or play date

Young children with limited social, communication and reasoning skills can find leaving an exciting activity or play date difficult. This can be very challenging for the parent too. Try some of the ‘creative discipline’ ideas below to turn tears into laughter with your child. Create discipline technique achieve the desired results in a fun and connected way. A young child is happy to imagine and imitate, use these tendencies to achieve desired results.

For many more real life scenarios look to Turning Tears into Laughter: Creative Discipline for the Toddler and Preschool Years, published by Five Mile Press. My book can be purchased on this site or at good bookstores and sites (ask in your local library for a copy).

Remember a child’s time frame- it is different to yours – try not to rush from one activity to another.

  • Give a warning, “Ten minutes until we have to go”, and then again five minutes and one minute before leaving. This will gently get the young child used to the idea of leaving.
  • If old enough, show a young child the hands of your watch. Make leaving into a game, ‘Can you let me know when the big hands goes straight up, that is when we need to go, you can be the time keeper, what an important job!”
  • Say ‘goodbye’ to the pieces of equipment, “Bye slide, see you next time!’
  • “Choose one more thing to play with, which one, the slide to his swing?”
  • At the end, offer three more pushes, one more slide, any little amount of time can end up quicker than saying ‘No’ to the young child’s request of ‘One more?’
  • Count down from ten to one or five to one, so that your child knows that you mean business.
  • Get to the car in a fun and adventurous way, “Race you to the car, one to three go…” (Again if not near a road). A piggy back ride, holding hands to skip, playing ‘chase’, and marching like the Grand Old Duke of York are all fun ways to leave the park.
  • Let the child know what is coming next, “When we get home I am going to read you a story”.
  • If playing at a park with friends, see if you can leave together. ‘We are all going together now’. A young child likes to imitate others.
  • Acknowledge feeling if necessary, ‘I know you are sad to leave the park, we will visit next week’.
  • Keep a pot of bubble mixture in the car, for your child to catch as a fun game, only when the child is in the car, with the seat belt on!
  • Bring a tub of healthy car treats (this can transform avoidance car behaviours quickly!)
  • Children often like tasks, ask to hold the car keys and press the button for the magic lights on the car to say, ‘hello’, under your guidance (as long as this does not encourage lost key cars and flat batteries from playing!)
  • Is teddy waiting in the car, take a special toy out with you to sit waiting for your child.
  • Always praise the child, if she comes on your request, and again at bedtime, ‘You were a great listener today, coming from the park straight away, well done, high five!’
  • If for some reason the child runs in the opposite direction or completely ignores you, then ‘planned ignoring’ is a useful tool (The child usually wants your attention and negative attention will do).
  • Repeat your request three times in a calm manner, try the games above and if they do not work, walk away, as if your child is coming with you. Keep a close eye on your child (or pick up, after a time).
  • Quietly remove the child from the play equipment, pick the child up and ignore protests, redirect to something in the park to change the child’s mood. “Look I think that bird is calling your name’, whilst walking back to the car.
  • If your child is too old to pick up slowly walk away, act as if they are following, ‘Come on to the car’, slowly walk aware, keeping a secret eye on the child (never do this if child is too young, scared, or near a road).
  • If this area requires work. Play a game with teddy in the garden, call him to come straight away, and play some of the games with him.
  • Tell a story about when you were a child learning this lesson, or a story with an animal character, that learnt to come to Farmer Jo’s call.
  • Remind the child before the outing, we are going to the park remember we are going to play a game of chase to the end, listen for when I say “Come” and then, “Go!”

Creative Discipline tips will be in my NEWSLETTER each month to inspire you at home.