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How To Set Up Healthy, Gentle and Firm Discipline Structures - Tips by Toddlers Teens & Between

We’re joined by the masterminds behind Toddlers Teens And Between, Gemma and Sophie, mental health and wellbeing specialists with 8+ years of teaching experience. We are getting straight to the point with this blog because we all know that kids can be a handful, and we’re always ears for ways in which we can make things easier for ourselves and our little ones. Over to you lovely ladies!👇🏻

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As parents, we all know that it’s a hard balance between wanting to discipline our little ones and knowing what to say and how to handle it all whilst keeping calm in the heat of the moment. At ToddlersTeensAndBetween, we’ve rid the concept of the Naughty Step as little ones can’t self-regulate or properly process a time out to understand the consequences of their actions. Instead, we like to teach parents to implement a time in called ‘The Thinking-Time Space’.

Here are the simple steps for you to follow to help create firm and gentle discipline structures with your little one:

Before: Breathing Techniques

Before implementing the steps below we advise you to practice some breathing techniques with your child in everyday settings, such as being in the car, getting dressed, after brushing teeth or before sleep. A nice simple one to practice is asking your little one to take a deep breath in and then asking them to try and “blow me away with your big breath!”. Breathing techniques are the beginning foundation of mindfulness, and your little ones will develop their own self-soothing techniques to calm themselves in difficult moments. Specify the breaths, “breath in a surprise”, and “blow away all the petals of a flower”. Your child practising these breathing techniques in calm moments sets your little one up for their time in during the Thinking Time-Space.

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Before: Timers

Invest in some sand timers – they’re an excellent visual for the passing of time, and your child has the autonomy to turn them over. We use them in The Thinking Time Space, and they’re brilliant for activity endings rather than the arbitrary “in 5 minutes!”

During: Move Away Together

So they're having a meltdown. Perhaps they’ve snatched toys repeatedly from their friend during a playdate, they’ve pushed their peer out of the way to get on the slide, or they’ve not used kind hands repeatedly with their sibling. Take your little one away from the situation to sit with you - it could be a step, a stoop, the couch, or the stairs, but create that physical distance away from the activity play in a quiet space.

A collage picture of parents and their children

During: The Thinking Time Space - ‘Calm’ Stage

Next, we begin the ‘Calm’ stage. For the first few seconds, give them emotional space to calm down. You stay near them physically, but you don’t say anything. You can hug or stroke them to calm them down, and if you’ve been practising breathing techniques with your little ones already, now is a good time to model them so they can try and copy you.

During: The Thinking Time Space – ‘Awareness’ Stage

With a calm voice and gentle tone, you reflect back with them on the situation that has just happened to ensure they understand why they have been removed from where they just were. This can either be explained to them, such as “I have removed you from playing on the slide because you kept pushing the other children,” or if they are slightly more aware of themselves, you can ask them to reflect, “Why do you think I have removed you from your playing?” Depending on your child’s understanding, you can ask them some reflective questions here, such as: “How do you feel that you hit/bit/ hurt so” “What emotion were you feeling before you did that?” or “What can you do instead of hitting/biting /hurting next time?” Guide to answers that include: using the breathing methods, going to tell an adult, leaving the room/ space they are in if they are getting frustrated and practising calming strategies like positive affirmations as they hold their tummy, “I will be ok, I can breathe through this.”

A collage picture of parents and their children

During: The Thinking Time Space – ‘Time’ Stage

Finally, the ‘Time’ stage: Start the timer (watch/phone alarm or sand timer) and explain the length of time you are setting for your little one. A suggestion is to try 1 minute less than their age, so if they’re 2, they’ll ‘time in’ with you for 1 minute, and if they’re 3, they’ll time in for 2 minutes and so on up to 5 minutes. Only start the timer once you see they are calm and no longer distressed. Please don’t feel the need to rush through this process to make your little ones happy again, as they can be quite upset about being removed from the activity. They need to understand and learn to regulate their emotions, which is what the previous stages will help embed. Turn the timer, and you can allow your little ones to watch the sand shift. At the end of the timer, finish the ‘Thinking Time Space’ with a short reminder question. Depending on their level of awareness, you can explicitly question, “When we go back to the slide, you will practice kind hands. Can you show me how you use them now?” or you can ask them, “When we go back to play what might you say or do?”

A collage picture of parents and their children

After: Share with Fellow Caregivers

The ‘Thinking Time Space’ strategy is important to share with those other caregivers in your little one’s life! Tell them step by step how it works in your home and ask them to copy this, even down to your wording! The more consistent the approach for your child, the quicker they will learn the boundaries which will not be pushed and recognise your gentle, firm and healthy disciplined structures in place everywhere!

By Gemma Arnold and Sophia Ziff - at ToddlersTeensAndBetween

If you thought this was useful, subscribe to ToddlersTeensAndBetween’s ‘The Younger Years Course for parents of 0-6-year-olds and access strategies and support for the behaviour and wellbeing of your baby, toddler and early years child, check out our InstaLive with MamaMade Founder Sophie or even book a Bespoke 1-1 Support Session and receive tailored advice, approaches and tips to improve the mental health, behaviour and wellbeing of your toddler, teen or between. For more, follow ToddlersTeensAndBetween on Instagram and Facebook too – we’re here to help you help them.

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Thank you so much to Gemma and Sophie for these super-helpful and actionable tips! If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, check out Instagram live where we talk all about building a growth mindset, setting boundaries, and developing emotionally literate children, along with answering YOUR burning question!

If you’re on the hunt for some more relating content, check out these blogs “How To Build A Growth Mindset Through Praise - Tips by Toddlers Teens & Between”, “5 Ways To Encourage Your Child To Try New, Healthy Foods”, “The Basics Of Daily Affirmations: Guide Yourself And Your Kids Towards A Positive Mindset” and “5 Ways To Raise A Decent Human Being”.

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