Your baby is now one year old. He’s not a baby anymore, he has become your toddler. Your job has to change to keep up with his development. Your task now is to help this little one understand that there are rules to this game of life. Yes, your toddler can walk, but he cannot walk in the street without holding mommy or daddy’s hand. He cannot play with matches, nor can he play with the kitchen knives. There are some rules on which mommy and daddy will not compromise.

There is a thing called discipline and a thing called punishment. Discipline is teaching children what you expected of their behavior. Punishment is beating them up because they don’t meet your expectations. What we know is that discipline works and punishment does not. We have a giant penal system that locks people up for bad behavior but doesn’t necessarily fix their behavior.

In order for discipline to work you have to be consistent and persistent. You have to give the same response each and every time. For example your little angel begins to scale the fireplace and you respond with, “No, you cannot climb on the fireplace.” and you take him down. Again, “No, you cannot climb on the fireplace” and you take him down. And again, “No, you cannot climb on the fireplace” and you take him down. You are obnoxious, you are nauseating, but you don’t budge. You have to give the same response each and every time. Your toddler is a bright little guy and understands the concept of divide and conquer. So, the fifth time you say, “No, you cannot climb on the fireplace,” and you take him down, he will go over to the TV and start pushing the buttons on the remote. As soon as you say no to the TV, you have another battle on your hands and by the end of the day he will have opened five of Pandora’s boxes and you forget which issue you began with.

The trick to the game is to never take on more than one major battle per day. That means the fireplace is the battle for today, but you’re not going to let him trash your expensive TV either. Instead you redirect his attention. You say nothing about the TV, but suggest he come and help you bake cookies, or put away the laundry. Make a mental note that today is fireplace day, tomorrow is TV day. Once you have disembarked on disciplining any single issue, you never, ever give in.

By the fourth issue you attack in this manner he will recognize the tone of your voice and will begin to understand, “When mom talks like that she won’t give in. She is driving a truck with no reverse. Mom is generally a soft touch but when she talks with discipline there is no way around her.”

It requires you to be consistent, and persistent; giving the same response each and every time. Initially, it is very difficult but once you have it as part of your parenting skills, it becomes an invaluable and extremely powerful tool.