Peaceful Toddler “Discipline” – Monkey See, Monkey DO!

As new parents, we know that eventually, we will have to discipline our children. When a child is born, he has no idea at all about the outside world, much less any idea about how to behave in society. Someday, he’ll have to learn what to say, when to say, how to say, and what and what not to do. But think back to the day when you held your tiny newborn in your arms. What were you feeling in that moment? In addition to a myriad of emotions new parents have, ultimately, the overshadowing feeling was LOVE. Deep, nurturing love for that little bundle of joy – whose smile meant everything to you, and whose soft pink skin couldn’t get enough kisses.
So why does that deep, nurturing love have to turn into stoic, punishing words and actions when our little child starts to test his boundaries? I truly believe that there is NO reason for this change of face, and that “traditional” disciplinary tactics are unneeded when you approach discipline from a peaceful position. Traditional tactics, like scolding, spanking, finger-wagging, time-out enforcement, and “do as I say!” commands are truly harmful to the child, and don’t do anything at all to form a kind, safe, and moral child. If I told you that the best way to form such a child was to opt out of punishments cold turkey, I’m sure a lot of you would laugh in my face or start to disagree… but I’m telling you: It’s the way to go!
There are a lot of resources out there that stress the importance of peaceful parenting and gentle discipline techniques, but no story or definition can amount to the feeling that you get when you actually apply them in your own life and see the difference it makes. Here is my own experience:
For the past few weeks, my husband and I have been following a few peaceful parenting ideas that have made a molehill out of the mountain of new behaviors our lovely going-on-two-years-old Abbey was throwing at us. I have always been an “attached parent”, meaning that I follow methods of the attachment parenting movement that stress the importance of allowing the natural relationship between mother and child to work to your advantage (as nature intended it to!) … instead of trying to force your child to grow up too quickly (as mainstream society would have you do). But when Abbey hit 21 months, we had a huge transition in our lives – moving from Texas to Maine on military orders… and it seems to have fueled Abbey’s toddler transitioning (which I have been told is usually a little less rapid) into a raging wildfire of newfound independence, assertion, and curiosity that left me BAFFLED and FRUSTRATED when Jed left for his first underway deployment.
Here I was, alone, in a new place, with a new child in front of me…. who used to LOVE to please me, but now LOVED to challenge me. Who used to ask to hold my hand, and now was pulling away – even while crossing the street! Who used to let me dress her, and now would scream, hit, and shriek if I tried to even help. And that is just the beginning.
So, now, I’m starting a new installment on my blog…Every Friday for the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting about peaceful parenting ideas that have been a GODSEND to our household. They might seem strange at first, but remember as you read them that this type of discipline is about making “disciples” of love, kindness, and morality of our children – instead of “disciplining” our children into submission, to have them do as we want them to. This type of parenting molds children to develop their own moral compass – to understand right and wrong for the pride they feel in deciding for themselves what to do – instead of having a child “behave” out of fear of punishment. It takes practice, consistency, and determination, but the results of gentle discipline and peaceful parenting speak for themselves.
Peaceful Parenting Technique #1
“Monkey See, Monkey DO!”

- If you want your child to grow up to be neat, you must model neatness yourself.
- If you want your child to grow up to be kind, you must model this by speaking respectfully, asking kindly, using courtesies, and being caring toward others (this includes your spouse!)
- If you want your child to learn to control their emotions (instead of throwing tantrums, screaming, hitting, or yelling when they are frustrated), you must deal with your emotions in an appropriate and peaceful manner (This one is really hard for me, as I deal with anxiety on a daily basis as a personal challenge…but it’s that much more important to show her how to deal in a peaceful manner)
Parenting really is a huge game of “Monkey See, Monkey Do” – your children are watching your every move, and they LIVE to mimic you. A great example of a success story in our house is the way that Abbey cleans up after herself. Now, granted, this doesn’t happen for every spill or mess, but after almost every meal, Abbey grabs her napkin, wipes her own face and hands, and then proceeds to wipe up any mess that she’s made on the table and chair (to her best effort). She’s not even two, but Jed and I have always modeled neatness for her in the house, and especially at the dinner table, and so she LOVES to clean up after herself. She likes to dust, swiffer, and sweep, too. And she helps me to wipe up messes (usually spilled water) off the floor. This is because we have consistently shown her the behavior we want her to exhibit in everyday living.
The key for this technique is to follow through with your modeling of a behavior, even if your child doesn’t seem to be paying attention, or doesn’t do the action himself. For example: If you excuse yourself politely through a crowd of people, but your toddler is barging through like a bulldozer, don’t grab your child and scold him for not saying excuse me like you did. Simply pick him up (you can explain that it’s for safety if he protests) and continue calmly excusing yourself through the crowd. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when your toddler starts to use the behavior at home or the park, excusing himself through a group of stuffed animals, or a group of friends.
Be calm, be consistent, and follow through with your modeling. Remember, your child LIVES to mimic you. She wants to be just like you. It might be a good time to take inventory of your not so terrific traits and do some cleaning up of your act (My husband and I both have been working on softening our impatience for people and things, and also on giving ourselves a time out to calm down when something gets us riled up). Others might find that they need to tone down their language, or cut out “baby-talk” and/or insults or jokes, at least when their child is awake. Those who scold and spank as a part of their discipline should think about what type of model that sets for his/her child. Another blogger that shares my views on this idea is Zoey over at Good Goog. The principal of modeling behaviors is also present in the Montessori methodology for young children, which has been observed for years for it’s way of “raising children from birth by preparing them to think and act responsibly, intelligently, and with compassion.”
Is the behavior you use consistently peaceful, compassionate, and responsible?

Because there is a little monkey copying your every move, and what he learns now will form him for life.
Peaceful toddler discipline takes more personal growth and self-discipline on the parents’ part, but it’s results are much more positive and long-lasting than the results of scolding and punishment. Does it sound more enjoyable to lead your child through the maze of life, enjoying every twist and turn together… or to run after him, yelling and threatening, and then scolding and spanking him when you find him at a dead end?


  1. I totally agree!


  1. [...] today by being stubborn and asking, then pleading, then demanding “Respect!” while not following my own advice and showing respect so Abbey could reflect it [...]

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