Tips And Tactics For Effectively Disciplining Your Toddler

Originally Published: 
How To Discipline A Toddler
simarik/Getty Images

Your toddler is throwing a tantrum. You told her she couldn’t eat chocolate before dinner, and she is not having it. So now she’s having a full-out meltdown to manipulate you into letting her have her way. Which, let’s be honest, is a smart albeit frustrating tactic since there’s nothing worse than a toddler temper tantrum. Most toddlers misbehave by either throwing tantrums or whining or fussing, because (1) they can’t express their emotional needs and (2) they aren’t getting what they want. And we know, Mama — it’s all too easy to cave when your child is behaving like the Hulk. But if you learn how to discipline a toddler effectively, it’ll be much easier to stick to your guns. How else will your child learn how to behave?

As a parent, it’s one of your (many) jobs to discipline your child. Disciplining is the delicate balance of teaching your child the difference between right and wrong… not about punishment. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it! Of course, you’re probably thinking, How do you discipline a toddler? If you’re struggling with keeping your little rascal in line, here are some child discipline tactics that really work.

How to Discipline a Toddler

Offer Your Toddler Choices

Toddlers are all about independence. They’re not babies anymore, remember? So, offering them two choices gives them a little of the autonomy they crave, while also implementing necessary boundaries (they don’t get to call all the shots). If they’re fussing at bedtime, you might want to offer them the choice of which bedtime story they want to read or whether they want to get into their PJs first or brush their teeth.

Keep your cool

There’s no use trying to fight fire with fire when it comes to your toddler. Your tot thrives on attention at this age — whether it’s bad or good — so if you get really upset over their bad behavior, you can bet that they will probably do it again. Why? Because they know it will get a reaction from you. Your best bet is to handle their transgressions with a calm yet firm voice. Keep your discipline short and sweet when explaining why dumping their food on the floor isn’t the best choice.

Pick your battles

They’re not called the terrible twos for nothing, Mama. Your toddler will test your patience with their behavior on the regular. Hey, it’s not their fault — they’re still figuring out this life stuff. Rather than constantly telling them “No” or disciplining them all the livelong day, it’s best to pick your battles. Choose which behaviors you can relax on and the ones that you won’t, and stick to your choices. By choosing not to respond to every little annoying thing your kid does (like scream whenever you take a Zoom call), your kid will eventually get bored and move onto something new (LOLZ!) or outgrow that behavior (yay!).

Give them your attention

Sometimes your toddler crawling over the dining table or dropping their cookies onto the floor is not a behavior flaw, but just an effort to get your attention. So give it to them. Listen to your child. Hear them out. Reinforce good behavior and discourage bad behavior. In time, your child won’t be such a tiny — albeit super-cute — delinquent.

Think twice before giving your toddler a time-out

Maybe that tantrum has gotten a bit out of control, or maybe they hit their sister at the playground. Now what? Your first inclination might be to give them a time-out. And, hey, when the time-out method is done correctly, it can be effective. It may help your toddler to realize that if they don’t change their behavior, they’ll go without the two things they most treasure in their little world: Their freedom and you. In that respect, a time-out can be an effective tool that allows your kid to calm down and lets them know that their behavior has consequences. Once your toddler is in time-out, calmly explain to them what they did wrong and why it’s not okay to whack their sister with a toy. Typically, time-outs range from one to five minutes, max.

However, we’d be remiss not to mention that some experts believe time-outs are ineffective and potentially damaging to a young child’s psyche. So, perhaps consider it among your last resorts when you’re mulling over your toddler discipline options.

Toddler Behaviour Management Strategies

Baby proof everything. Like most toddlers, your tot probably gets into everything. To avoid telling them no or tugging them from things they shouldn’t touch, child-proof your home. This will keep them from breaking things, hurting themselves, and help you save your breath.

Give your nugget space. It’s natural to want to keep your child safe, but give them the chance to experiment and explore. Not only is this important to their growth, but loosening the strings will make both of you much less stressed. You can still monitor your kid and let them play as long as they’re not hurting themselves.

At what age do toddlers understand discipline?

Sometimes we give tots the benefit of the doubt when they do something wrong because we’re unsure if they understand their actions. At about eight months, your nugget may not completely grasp what’s right, but they do understand discipline and can learn to catch on to your expectations. For example, at this age, you can teach them that slapping isn’t nice by (1) removing your face, and (2) ignoring their naughty behavior. At this age, babies thrive off attention, so take yours away for a short while or until they stop acting silly.

This article was originally published on