How To Discipline A Toddler

Learning how to discipline a toddler is important. Many people associate the word “discipline” with punishment, but discipline does not mean punishment. In fact, discipline is actually about teaching. Disciplining a toddler is about teaching correct behaviors and guiding actions.

Tips for Disciplining A Toddler:

  • Have Consistent Rules and Boundaries: Toddlers learn by watching, interacting, and observing. They learn by seeing consistent cause-and-effect relationships. It’s easiest for your toddler to learn which behaviors are acceptable and which behaviors are not if you have consistent rules. For example, if your child is sometimes told “no” when standing on furniture and sometimes ignored, it’ll be hard for your little one to understand what the real rule is. Disciplining a toddler begins by setting simple, consistent rules and sticking with them.
  • Choose Your Battles Wisely: They don’t call it the “terrible twos” for nothing! This is the age of power struggles and temper tantrums. It’s important to have firm rules and boundaries, but it’s also important to choose these rules wisely. You want to let your child have some say in the unimportant decisions so you can spend your time enforcing the important issues. When disciplining a toddler, stay firm if there is a principle or moral involved. If not, consider letting your child have a choice.
  • Intervene When You First Notice a Problem: Parenting is a big job that often requires a lot of multi-tasking. Sometimes this multitasking prevents us from disciplining right when a problem arises. It’s best to step in at the very beginning of a problem and simply remind your child of the rules.  Ex: “No, we don’t take toys from friends.” Giving a verbal reminder is an essential element in toddler discipline.
  • Redirect Behavior: Toddler discipline can sometimes be as simple as redirecting your toddler’s behavior to an acceptable choice. Redirecting is a great element of toddler discipline because it doesn’t focus on the “bad” behavior for long but instead helps teach your little one what choices are good choices. Ex: Is your tot stacking up the DVDs again? Why not redirect your tot to stacking up some blocks? Is your toddler throwing the remote again? Why not redirect your tot to a game of catch with a made-for-toddlers ball?
  • Choose Consequences That Teach: How do you discipline a toddler?… By teaching! Remember that teaching should be at the heart of every discipline step you take. By having consequences that teach, the discipline is more effective. For example, if a toddler throws all the books off of the bookshelf, a teaching consequence may be for the toddler to help mom or dad put the books back. If a child was being too rough with a toy, a teaching consequence may be for the toy to be taken away for a little while.
  • Take a Timeout: Sometimes your little one may need a moment to be alone and calm down after making a poor choice. Some toddlers are old enough to have a timeout as part of discipline, some are not. As a parent, you have to decide if timeouts will benefit your toddler or not. Sometimes it may be useful to have your child sit alone for a moment after behaviors like hitting, biting, kicking, etc.
  • Stay Calm and Be Positive: As a parent, you have to set a good example. That includes staying calm yourself even while being firm with discipline. Don’t allow yourself to yell or scream while trying to discipline your toddler. Often times, adding negative energy into the mix will only detract from your message. Also, keep your explanations short and simple. You may need to repeat your key points, but don’t turn it into a long lecture. Toddlers simply won’t understand.
  • Don’t Forget the Compliments: Remember, disciplining your toddler is about teaching! How can you discipline properly without acknowledging your child’s good behaviors as well? Remember to acknowledge when your little one is following the rules. Ex: “Wow, great job picking up your toys.” “Thank you for being so nice to the dog.” “I am so proud of you for coloring on paper and not on the table.” “You were so good during story-time at the library today!”
  • Extra Naughty Probably Needs Extra Attention: If your little one seems to be acting up a lot more than usually, s/he is probably in a phase where s/he needs more of your attention. Try spending more one on one time with your child. You can play together, read together, or even just do chores together. Your toddler may soon decide to start being your “little helper” again, and you can worry less about disciplining your toddler!

Follow these simple tips and you’ll no longer be wondering how to discipline a toddler. Remember that consistency is the key to teaching your little one which behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not!

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