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Discipline Tactics for Toddlers – The Teaching Conversation

Since my earlier difficulties in getting Gavin to apologise, I think I’ve discovered a tactic that works pretty well.  I read about it from “Raising a Happy Child” by Steve and Shaaron Biddulph.  It is called the “teaching conversation”.  It is intended for toddlers in possession of some amount of language skills because they are required to respond.  It goes something like this:

  1. Take your child aside (to that special discipline place or just somewhere away from the site of the incident) and wait until he is ready to talk.
  2. Then ask:  What happened?  What did you do?
  3. Then ask:  What were you thinking and feeling?
  4. Then ask:  What do you think you should have done differently?
  5. Then ask:  What will you do to fix this now?
  6. Then ask:  So will you do that now?

Depending on his language skills and ability to articulate you might need to help him along with an answer or run further discussion to clarify.

We had an “incident” last night which involved a tantrum, screams, crying and an upset Daddy (the tantrum, screams and crying was from Gavin, not Daddy).  I can’t go into the full details because I wasn’t present to observe what had happened.  All I managed to glean from Daddy’s account was that Gavin had been making unreasonable requests again and throwing a tantrum at Daddy who was trying to help.

I took Gavin aside and helped him express his feelings – which I surmised to have been his distress when I left the room because he stopped crying immediately when I said, “You’re upset because Mummy left the room?”  When he was semi-calm again, I ran through the “teaching conversation” – not exactly but something similar – and received the quickest apology I’ve ever gotten out of Gavin and it was to his Dad which makes it even doubly significant.

The teaching conversation wasn’t quite as smooth as I’m making it sound – there was a bit of discussion that took place and I had to help him out considerably with his words because he was still a bit too distressed to say them.  I talked to him about how Daddy’s feelings were hurt and about what he could do to make it better.  Since he was unable to come up with a solution, I suggested an apology which he was initially unwilling to give.  Finally, I said, “Okay, you can say ‘sorry’ to Daddy when you’re ready.  What do you want to do now?”

To my surprise, he went straight to Daddy and tried to apologise!  Perhaps that’s where I’ve been going wrong all this time – my insistence that he had to apologise now!  By offering him the autonomy to decide when he was ready to say “sorry”, he was more willing to volunteer it.  Or perhaps he’s just growing older and more willing to apologise?

I found “Raising a Happy Child” to have lots of very practical parenting tips for babies to children up to age 6.  My BFF recommended another book by the same authors called “The Complete Secrets of Raising Happy Children” which I’ve been looking for everywhere but it’s out of stock.  Usually when she recommends a book, it’s a pretty good one, so I was pretty determined to get it.  Since it was out of stock, I settled for “Raising a Happy Child” (which I found in Borders).  It isn’t quite as “complete” but pretty useful nevertheless.

I’ve since discovered “The Complete Secrets of Raising Happy Children” on Amazon UK and might actually order it, too.  Steve and Shaaron write about parenting with an approach that appeals to me.  With their light-hearted and humourous style of writing, I find their book not only educational but a rather enjoyable read.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Discipline Tactics for Toddlers – The Teaching Conversation

  1. Upon your recommendation, i’m also considering getting these books, just that we got no idea what’s the difference. FYI, i think it can be found at SG Kino…at least i saw it on their bookweb, so it should be there. It’s around $33 for the “Complete Secrets of Happy Children” Ok i should go there and check it out soon. 🙂


  2. Grace – If you can find “The Complete Secrets of Happy Children” then I recommend getting that one instead. I managed to buy a copy online through Amazon UK and it is much, much more thorough than “Raising a Happy Child” which is more like a handbook for quite review. Complete Secrets also covers a lot more ground.


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