Sheryl Jesin


Parenting a toddler with loving guidance

This post is written for inclusion in the Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted by Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries. All week, April 26-30, we will be featuring essays about non-punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information. 


I will admit that we went through a bit of a rough patch when Dylan started walking at around 11 months and went from a baby to a toddler.   When he was a baby I was able to meet his every need (to my best ability!) and his needs and wants were one and the same.   He couldn’t move very fast (he wasn’t a big crawler) so I didn’t have to worry about him getting into things until he started to walk.  We were actually in Florida for a month when he started to walk and when we came home I realized how un-babyproofed our house was!  We have a townhouse with lots of stairs and lots of cupboards.  We had lots of “stuff” everywhere – from magazines on end tables to bowls on coffee tables.  When we came home from Florida I realized I could not take my eyes off of Dylan for a second or he would be running towards the stairs or throwing something on the floor or getting his fingers caught in a cupboard door.  At a year he was too young to understand the repercussions of his actions.  So quickly we babyproofed our house and installed gates, locked cabinets and toilets, and removed all clutter.  What a difference it made!  I no longer had to follow him closely telling him no all the time.  He was free to explore our house and I could relax. 

I hadn’t given discipline or loving guidance much thought until Dylan became a toddler.  When he did I had to start thinking what felt right for me and right for us as a family.   I was spanked as a child and so was my husband (it was rare but it still occurred).   That is something that I never want to do to my children.  I believe that it simply teaches kids that the way to deal with a problem is through violence.  I also believe that children must be respected emotionally and therefore should not be yelled at or shamed.  However, children still do require guidance as they need to be taught what is acceptable in our society and also they must be protected from danger.  I try to guide Dylan through the use of modelling and teaching.  My husband and I try to model good behaviour and we try to teach Dylan and explain to him why or why not he is able to do something.  At the same time we try to understand what is normal behaviour for a toddler.  Getting into everything, climbing and exploring is normal.  Therefore we try to keep our house as child proofed as possible so that we are not always telling Dylan no or don’t touch.  If we go out our environment can’t be controlled the same way as it can at home but at least Dylan has had some time to explore on his own and have fun at home before we go out.   I also try to be consistent and repeat things over and over again until Dylan understands.   He is not one of those children who you can say no to once. 

Having realistic expectations and meeting Dylan’s needs can also help.  For example, I don’t expect Dylan to sit in his high chair at a restaurant for an hour and be happy.  I don’t expect him to sit in his stroller for a long time while I try to get shopping done at the mall. I don’t expect him to be happy if we are out near his nap time.  I work around his schedule and his needs and make sure that what we are doing is suitable for his attention span.  I will let him out of his high chair and a restaurant and sit on my lap or walk around outside if it is possible.  I will let him walk in the mall and make sure that we have time to play in a bookstore, or have snacks for him in his stroller if I need to get something done. 

Of course there still are rough patches.    I find that redirection helps a lot.  If he is doing something that I don’t want him to do, I ask him to stop and then I find something else fun or interesting for him to do. For example, if he is putting something in his mouth that he shouldn’t be, I will go right up to him, ask him to stop, take the item away and perhaps give him something that is safe to put in his mouth.  Just yelling no across the room will not work.  I find that if he is tired or hungry (or even worse, tired and hungry) small things can quickly escalate into tantrums.  For example, if I take something away that is unsafe and redirect under normal conditions, he is fine with it.  But if he is tired and/or hungry this can turn into a tantrum.    The best way to prevent the tantrum is to make sure he eats regularly and also that we are home when it is time for him to sleep. 

Chapter 15 in the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding provides a great resource on loving guidance.  I also really like  The No Cry Discipline Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.  One interesting aspect of this book is that there is a chapter devoted to anger management for parents.   Pantley demonstrates that the management of parental anger can both help parents cope and also help them better manage their children’s behaviour.  I also like that this book offers a number of solutions to every problem rather than assuming that there is one approach that works for everyone.  In addition, the book has a summary of common discipline problems at the back of the book which is easy to refer to when needed. 


Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at to the Carnival of Gentle Discipline 

Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA. In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives. 

Are you a Gentle Parent? Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works! 

Links will become available on the specified day of the Carnival. 

Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline 

Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy (coming Tuesday, April 27) 

Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank (coming Wednesday, April 28) 

Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment (coming Thursday, April 29) 

Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All (coming Friday, April 30)