My daughter is a very active 18-month-old who is also strong-willed. My question is: How do you curb dangerous impulses and teach your child to listen to you when you tell her she can't do something when she is so young? I have spoken to other parents who have a child the same age as my daughter, but they don't seem to have the same problems because their children are just learning to walk and talk. My daughter has been walking since she was 8 months old and is starting to talk quite well. I don't want to squash her natural curiosities and zest for life, but I am starting to feel frustrated with her power struggles. Also, we are expecting our second child in a few months and so I am sort of desperate to get some of these issues settled.
I look forward to your answer to my dilemma. Thank you.
You obviously have a very intelligent child with "a zest for life," as you say. I'm so glad you do not want to curb this. I hope you will get a copy of the book, Positive Discipline, and learn more about what is developmentally appropriate. Your child is at the age where she is developing her sense of "autonomy vs. doubt and shame."
Your child obviously has the type of personality that resists your attempts to "control" her. It is much more effective to "guide" her. With children this age, you don't try to curb dangerous impulses or try to reason with them. What you do is supervise and distract. Show her what she CAN do instead of telling her what she can't do. Often you need to "shut your mouth and act." If she is running into the street, pick her up (without saying a word) bring her back to safety, and hold her hand. Spanking is never effective. The following is a long quote from my book, Positive Discipline:
When I discuss the issue of spanking during my lectures, someone inevitably argues, "I have to spank my child to teach her not to run in the street." I ask this parent if she would be willing to let her toddler play near a busy street unsupervised after she has been spanked to "teach" her to stay out of the street. The reply is always "No". I then ask how many times she would need to spank her child before she would feel it is safe to let her child play unsupervised near a busy street. Most parents agree that they would not let their children play unsupervised near a busy street until they are somewhere between five and eight years of age, no matter how many times they spank the child to "teach" them to stay out of the street. This illustrates the fact that maturity, or readiness to learn certain responsibilities, is the key—not spankings.
Adults still need to take time for training while children are maturing, but it is more effective and less humiliating to use other methods instead of punishment to help children develop responsibility. One method would be to use a logical consequence, which in this case would be to put the child in the house or backyard every time she gets too close to the busy street. This is called distract and redirect, which is an excellent method for very young children. Taking time for training is an essential method that involves teaching her about dangers every time you cross the street together. Ask your toddler to look up the street and down the street to see if any cars are coming. Ask her what might happen if they tried to cross the street when a car was approaching. Ask her to let you know when she thinks it is safe to cross the street. She will actually learn more from this than from a spanking, but will still not be ready for unsupervised play until she is older.
This quote provides just one example of why spanking does not make sense. Too many people think the only alternative to spanking is permissiveness. I do not believe in permissiveness either. What's more, most parents would prefer not to spank if they knew what else to do that would help their children learn self-discipline, responsibility, and problem-solving skills. All of the Positive Discipline tools help children learn these essential life skills.