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Respect your child’s body by avoiding harsh discipline practices.
Corporal punishment (e.g., spanking) can be emotionally and physically painful, it can lead your child to anger and rebellion, a low self-esteem, fearfulness and hate, chronic anxiety, lying and deception, and inhibits effective communication; all of which are contributing factors to later substance abuse. Harsh discipline shows disrespect for a child’s body. If you respect your child’s body through gentle handling and respect, they will subsequently learn to value and take care of themselves and naturally want to avoid anything that may be harmful.
Allow your toddler to say "no" sometimes
Resisting peer pressure to use alcohol and drugs requires a simple "no" and a firm stand. Toddlers are very good at saying "no" and while it is often our first instinct to discourage this behavior, there are times when we need to respect their wishes. In situations that are minor, allow your child to assert themselves and have the upper hand. For example, if you want your child to wear a particular shirt and they resist, ask them which shirt they want to wear or if your child says "no" to a hug from grandma, don't take it personally. Toddlers often like to do things in their own time and on their terms.
However, there are times when your child refusing to do something is non-negotiable. For example, certain rules like sitting in their car seat or remaining seated when eating are times when you have to override their wishes. Calmly explain why you are enforcing this rule and acknowledge their feelings (e.g., It's okay to be mad. I know you don't like to sit in your car seat but I have to buckle you in so you are safe when we’re in the car. Mommy has to buckle up too."). Keep in mind that your child is practicing and learning a skill that will give them the courage to say no to alcohol and drugs as well as other harmful situations later on.
Teach your child to label their emotions and understand needs
It is important for children to grow up knowing exactly how they feel and what they need. It is equally important for their needs and feelings to be acknowledged and responded to. Help them label their emotions by reflecting on what you think your child is thinking and feeling and teach ways to work through those emotions. For example, if a sibling takes your child's toy and triggers a tantrum, help your child identify the feeling and why (e.g., "When she took your toy that made you angry because you were still playing with it" or "That dog scared you when he barked"). Also, you shouldn't tell your child to feel differently (e.g., "I don’t know why you're crying.") or try stop him from expressing him feelings because this is a healthy release.
Be patient with temper tantrums
Temper tantrums are often misinterpreted for misbehaving. This is often a reaction to your child not getting what they want or not being able to tell you how they feel. However, research has shown that crying and raging can have beneficial effects and are healthy ways to release stress. Learning safe and healthy ways to express emotions like anger and sadness early on will make it less likely for them to turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to manage (i.e., self-medicate) when they are adults. Once a tantrum has begun, try to avoid sending your child to an isolated place like their room or time-out or punishing them because this will only increase their frustration. Accept your child’s emotions and stay with your child to let them know that you will remain beside them until they feel better. If you know the source of your child's tantrum (e.g., want something out of reach or want to play with something that isn't a toy), explain to them why they can’t have it.