Skip to main content

The 4 best ways to discipline a toddler

Toddlers are generally in a period of exploration and experimentation. As a parent, you may see some of their actions as misbehavior. Nevertheless, parents need to know that their toddlers are trying to be independent as well as learning the skills to be such. Experts reveal that children will “misbehave” when parents’ expectations are beyond their abilities. Toddlers are in the stage of learning social skills, self-control, emotional regulation, empathy, and comprehension. Regardless, some of their behaviors do not pass as not being misbehaviors. Thus, parents are encouraged not to think that their toddlers are too young to understand rules and consequences, thereby letting them off the hook.

Imagine you are working at your home desk having a deadline to meet and your toddler son walks up to you with his favorite toys. He wants you to play with him. You calmly inform him that you cannot play for now, but you will play with him in less or about an hour. He then walks back, not too far, and starts crying profusely. How will you handle this situation?

Child crying while mother is on phone
Fertnig / Getty Images

Dealing with toddler misbehaviors requires correctional disciplines. As such, the rules and consequences implemented by parents for their toddler during their learning phase remains throughout childhood and adulthood. Inculcating disciplines in the right way without negatively impacting your toddler and their development becomes pivotal. This article will provide you four of the best ways to discipline a toddler.

It is evidently established that toddlers express their frustration through temper tantrums, since they may not have the words or proper language to communicate how they are feeling or what they need. When this happens, try one of these four methods (these disciplinary methods are in no order).

Ignore them

Quite harsh? Not so. The key to this method for disciplining your toddler when they start expressing a temper tantrum is to not engage it. Toddlers have tantrums as a result of their emotions having the best of them, and trying to use other discipline methods or talking with them may not work at that moment. However, be sure they are safe while you allow them exhaust their tantrum. At the moment of calmness, give your toddler a big hug with a huge smile and go on with the day.

It is noteworthy to mention that a toddler does not have tantrums purposefully except when they have learned that it is an easy way of getting your attention. Also, informing them that they are being ignored because of their misbehavior will breed the rule-and-consequence idea. Lastly, encourage your toddler to use words and not start a tantrum if they want something.

Distract and divert their attention

This method is really helpful in disciplining toddlers. It is a preventive measure, though all misbehaviors and tantrums cannot be prevented. Instinctively, parents scoop up their children and move them away from whatever potentially dangerous object they’re headed toward that may lead to an expression of frustration from toddlers. How about distracting and diverting their attention? This method should be considered mostly when safety is not at stake. You can call their name to grab their attention from whatever it is they are doing or headed. Then, you call them over to you once they are fixated on you and show them something else that is safe. A toddler’s attention can be distracted before they get upset and express a tantrum by offering other safe or interesting options.

Give them what they want on your terms

Disciplining your toddlers in this way helps your toddler learning process. It also reinforces the notion of rule and consequence. For example, your toddler is trying so hard to open a container of juice. You could yell at your child to put down the juice knowing that it may end badly. Instead, a better way is to inform them that you will open the bottle and pour them a glass while you choose to gently request and take the container from them. Lending a helping hand to your toddler reinforces your genuine love, so they know to ask for your help when they need it. But if you do not want them to have it, explain the reason for your decision.

Little girl in dress frowning
Weekend Images Inc./Getty Images

Introduce consequence

Your toddler should learn the natural outcomes of their behavior — otherwise known as cause and effect. For example, if your toddler loudly insists on selecting his pajamas (which takes an eternity), then your child is also choosing not to read books before bed. In this scenario, the cause is prolonged PJ picking, and the effect is no bedtime story. Next time, your toddler may choose their pajamas more quickly or let you pick them out.

Conclusively, you have the best interest of your toddler at heart. Always end a discipline discussion with positive comments and remind your child that you will always love them.

Editors' Recommendations

How to relieve constipation in your toddler safely
Tips to help your toddler with this common issue
Child on a potty

No one likes feeling constipated, and that includes toddlers. Fortunately, there are ways to relieve constipation in your toddler safely. It can be easy for toddlers to suffer from constipation and if parents don't help them alleviate the discomfort, it can lead to a very cranky little one. It requires patience, but how to help toddlers with constipation can be far less intense than it seems.

Constipation can be caused by not drinking enough water, not eating enough fiber, getting sick, taking certain medicines, stress, or deliberately holding in stool during potty training because it hurts. It could also happen if they are scared of the potty, they don't want to stop playing to go, or it might be a control issue. Thankfully, several simple solutions ensure this issue doesn't drag on or get worse.

Read more
The 4 main different parenting styles, explained
See if one of these parenting styles fits with how you want to raise your kids
A family playing a game together.

If you don't have kids, it's so easy to judge how someone else parents theirs. "I would never do that to my child," or "My child wouldn't behave that way," or whatever thought pops into your head the second you see a child having a meltdown in the aisle at Target. But when you have children, it's interesting to watch what parenting style another parent uses on their kid.

There are four main parenting styles for raising those little humans. Well, four that have been studied and researched, but these are the parenting styles used the most, so you'll know where you land with your skills.

Read more
Experts say this is how to discipline a kid who doesn’t care about consequences
Discipline tips when you have a child who's given up on caring
Parent working while child jumps on couch beside her.

It doesn't matter if you're a seasoned parent or experiencing the joy of raising another human being for the first time, when you have a tween or teen at home, discipline poses a challenge. Because every child is different, what "worked" on one child may have little to no impact on the other. Or you may have a child who is testing the waters to see what they can get away with and doesn’t blink an eye at the slightest consequence.

Disciplining children often remains shrouded in mystery. Or does it have to? When a child doesn’t care about consequences, you can try to apply the following advice from the experts.

Read more