So, I have noticed a few things about my children, in regards to discipline, over the past year. Here goes:
We're a bit old fashioned and have used corporal punishment in the past. Never with paddles or "weapons" of any kind, just a swat to the behind as a last resort on occasion or a flick to the lip if the mouth gets out of control. In all actuality, I've realized that this tends to be more laziness than a real last resort.
The most helpful advice I can offer the parents of a toddler who is less than well-behaved is a stable reward system. A few other things that can help are structure and routine at home, non-negotiable family time on a regular basis, a constant dialogue about the morals and values you want to instill, and regular chances for creative expression.
Stable Reward System:
By this I mean only that you should use rewards regularly to motivate your children to use good manners, practice good hygiene, help out around the house or any other little thing you'd like to get them to do.
I use anything my kids like as a reward, television, candy, certain toys that require supervision, even going outside to play. When I was having the toughest of times with them, I dropped $50 at the dollar store and purchased a ton of tiny toys and a bin for rewarding good behavior on a daily and weekly basis. With this, I had a chart with behaviors we were working on and if they did as I required to the best of their ability for the day, they got a sticker on their board- I made the board myself from stuff I purchased from the dollar store, as well.
Another way to use the rewards system is to withhold the reward when behavior is bad, of course. Some lenience should be practiced with this, however, always give your child a chance to earn the reward back.
Also, the best reward you can give to a child is praise and affection. This is not to say that you should be cold and distant when they are having their bad moments, but laying on the love extra thick is a fantastic reward. I use this in addition to other treats, but I am a bit over the top about it when education is involved. I value education and intelligence so I be sure to tell them how great they are while I squeeze them and give them lots of kisses when they answer a question right or when they offer information I had no idea they were privy to.
This is a more proactive and preventative approach to parenting.
As I said, anything the child enjoys can be a reward. No one knows your little one as well as you do. My advice is to pick something you have no doubt about and be creative with how you use it. It is going to take trial and error, don't give up, though. You will find your niche eventually and your family will be a happier, calmer one for your efforts.
Why it works:
Children are people too. We get wrapped up in our little ones, especially when we are struggling with them, and we forget to employ logic. As people, we all want to be rewarded for our efforts and if life is just constant consequence, we tend to be unpleasant. Everyone needs a little motivation once in a while. Children are no different.
Children want rules and structure (Berk, 2008). They enjoy stability and predictability. It makes them feel safe and secure in their environment (Berk, 2008). Toddlers are constantly testing their limits to see what they can get away with. In order to show them those limits you have to stick to them, this includes time constraints, budgets, manners, hygiene, etc.
A bit about family time:
Regardless of bad behavior, your little one adores you. In infancy a child attaches to one or a few people, and this is essential in development (Berk, 2008). The lack of such can cause emotional and mental complications throughout his/her life. That bond MUST be nurtured for a happy, healthy adult to develop. The best way to do that is to make time in your busy schedule to show your little one that s/he is a priority. It doesn't matter what you do or for how long, really, as long as your attention is focused on your little one and you're enjoying yourselves.
A bit about dialogue:
A bit about creative expression:
Giving your child a means to express his or her self is not only great for his or her confidence but is also great for mental health and dealing with stress. It is a good idea to help your child find hobbies as soon as they are old enough to have them. Having strong interests and talents to nurture can be a means to keep them out of trouble in their teen years (Berk, 2008).
Berk, L. (2008). Infants and children prenatal through middle childhood. Pearson Publishing