Little Kids

Your discipline questions answered

Are you dealing with toddler temper tantrums, unexplained fears or potty training woes? Our resident discipline and behaviour expert is here to help.

By Alyson Schafer, parenting expert
Your discipline questions answered

Your discipline questions answered

Discipline tactics

We've all been there. It can be hard to discipline effectively at times and seeking out the right tactic to handle the situation can be difficult.

Here are some great tips from our resident discipline and behaviour expert based on questions sent in by Today's Parent readers. Check back soon as we add new Q&As to our ongoing gallery.

Your discipline questions answeredPhoto: DragonImages/

Potty training woes

Q: My daughter uses our excitement about her toilet training success to delay bedtime by making frequent trips to the potty. Lately it has developed into nightly meltdowns and tears. How do I encourage her training without having a two-hour routine each night?
— Olga Brilant, General Manager,

Here’s how to change it up: When you are in the bathroom brushing teeth for bed, announce it’s “last call for using the toilet.” Then, move a potty and wipes into her bedroom and let her know that if she needs to use the potty again, she can help herself independently. If she is incapable, work on those skills in the daytime, and let her know that until she is trained to use the potty on her own at night, she’ll need to wear a diaper to bed. No more repeat trips to the bathroom.

Your discipline questions answeredPhoto: ricosuave82/


Kids and masturbation

Q: My three-year-old has been humping one of her stuffed animals for over a year. I have no idea why or what to do!
— Laura Jerome

A: Children discover self-stimulation innocently and repeat what feels good. Masturbation is normal, and to raise a child with a healthy attitude toward her body and sexuality, you have to avoid shaming her. Explain that while you know it does feel good for her to rub her private parts, it’s an activity that people do in private. If she humps, simply say, “Looks like you need privacy,” and walk her to her bedroom. Be sure not to use her room as a form of punishment, but to reinforce the notion of public versus private behaviours.

Your discipline questions answeredPhoto: pick_uppath/

Discipline tactics

Q: What other kinds of discipline can you try for a four-year-old when time outs aren’t working?
— Marcia Moody-Lebert

A: Once it’s clear the “time out” chair isn’t effective for your child, it’s time to retire it. I suggest switching it up for something called “the reverse time out,” which means instead of moving the child, you move YOURSELF! When they misbehave or act aggressively you can say, “I need to feel safe in my house — can you calm yourself or do I need to go?” If the child continues to behave aggressively, state, “I see I need to go,” then leave the room. Let them know that you’ll come back when they are less agitated

Your discipline questions answeredPhoto: princessdlaf/

A toddler's fear of babies

Q: My two-year-old is so scared of babies, she won’t even be in the same room as them, especially if a baby is crying. I’m not sure how to overcome this, and I wonder how she would handle a new sibling.
— Melanie Woods

A: It’s not uncommon for children to be afraid of things that can suddenly and unexpectedly make loud and startling noises. To reduce the fear, reassure her that she (and the baby) are both safe, then teach her to cover her ears to muffle the sounds. Try explaining that babies cry when they are asking for things, then ask her what she thinks the baby might be saying. She will be relieved to learn that those blood-curdling sounds don’t mean the baby is in any kind of danger.

Your discipline questions answeredPhoto: StevieS/


More parenting tips

Your discipline questions answeredPhoto: Glow Images
This article was originally published on Oct 30, 2012

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