Wondering How to Discipline a Toddler Effectively?

little boy cryingOne day you wake up, probably with your toddler screaming with her fists of fury stretched high into the air, and you realize that your perfect little baby isn’t a baby any more.  She’s a full-grown toddler!  You’re told this is the “cute stage” when she’s still baby-like, but more active and fun to play with.  The reality is that the reason most people tell you this is the “fun stage” and to “enjoy every minute of it because it flies by” is most likely because they, themselves, did not in fact enjoy this stage of their child’s life and didn’t take full advantage of the “fun” of having a toddler.  Now that years have passed and the words of wisdom are coming from parents of older kids well beyond this challenging phase, they can fondly look back and tell you to “just relax and enjoy your toddler.”  But how do you enjoy the once angelic, peaceful baby that’s now turned into a 30 pound fighting machine?

But those fists of fury can be tamed!  Let’s look at how to discipline a toddler in a way that will dampen the defiance and create a stronger relationship with you in the process, shall we!  Maybe, just maybe, in a few weeks you will be able to enjoy your toddler and still keep your sanity.  Below are 7 Tips for Disciplining Your Toddler from Parent’s Magazine.

1. Start with Picking Your Battles

Do you find yourself always saying “No” to your toddler?  Start by defining what’s important to you and set limits accordingly.  Ask yourself the “Who cares?” question when you start to tell your child “No”.  Does it really matter if your daughter wants to wear a princess dress to the grocery store?  My own daughter owned more size 3 princess dresses than she did size 3 clothes.  My wife and I just looked at each other and said, “Who cares?”  Sure you might get strange looks from the stiffs in the grocery store, but does it really matter?  You’re trying to raise her to be an independent, creative person aren’t you?  Your toddler is just expressing herself and her own unique individuality and you didn’t have to start a power struggle over something that just doesn’t matter.  Step 1 in how to discipline a toddler is to simply not discipline over minor irritations or otherwise insignificant things.  You need to save the discipline for those flagrant, over the top behaviors that you cannot tolerate.

2.  Know Your Child’s Triggers

Some misbehavior is preventable.  If you can anticipate what will ignite your toddler’s tantrums, then it is a good idea for you to be proactive and remove these triggers if at all possible.  If your toddler loves to pull all of the tissues out of the tissue box, then put the tissue box where your child can’t reach it.  This avoids the toddler tantrum in the first place.  No discipline required!  Make sure your child eats healthy snacks and gets enough sleep, as being hungry and tired are 2 of the most preventable, and yet most prevalent, reasons for toddler tantrums.


Your toddler is just beginning to make sense of her world.  So be as consistent as possible with your discipline and your expectations.  Being inconsistent with what you will and will not allow only creates confusion for your toddler.  If you let your child hurl a ball across house yesterday, but give him a time-out for tossing it three feet today, then your toddler is going to be confused and is not learning the important life lesson of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior.

4. Don’t Get Emotional

I totally get how hard it is to stay calm when your toddler is dragging the dog around by its tail or refuses to put on her coat when it’s 8 degrees outside.  But the truth of the matter is that when you react in anger, your child will see the emotion and not hear what you’re saying.  Your message totally gets lost in the emotion your child is feeling from you.  So Keep Calm and Carry On!  Take deep breaths, count to 10.  Resist the urge to yell and instead get down on your child’s eye level, be firm, be stern, be serious, and most importantly be calm.

5. Keep it Short and Simple

To put this bluntly, QUIT REASONING WITH YOUR TODDLER.  If you’re wondering how to discipline a toddler, you have to first remember that she’s a toddler.  She doesn’t understand adult logic and reasoning.  Her brain is simply not developed enough to understand adult conversation.  Over-talking while disciplining your toddler is just as ineffective as yelling.  Instead, speak in short phrases, repeat them a few times and use facial expressions whenever possible.  For example, if your toddler hits you, say, “No, Emma!  Don’t hit Mommy.  Hitting hurts.  No hitting.” and make a facial expression that shows that you were hurt.

6. Give a Time-Out

I could spend days writing about this tip alone, so I won’t go into too much detail now.  There are hundreds of variations of time-out techniques.  At Behavior Management Coaching, we utilize a time-out method that has been proven highly effective after years of rigorous research!  Whatever time-out method you choose, though, just be sure to implement it CONSISTENTLY.

7. Stay Positive

No matter how stressed you feel, don’t vent about it in front of your toddler.  Your toddler looks to you for guidance, support, and nurturing.  Complaining about your toddler in front of him will undermine everything you’ve worked so hard to accomplish while learning how to discipline your toddler effectively and developing that strong, positive relationship that we aspire to build with our children.

Need help learning how to discipline your toddler?  Or wondering how to tame those terrible tantrums before they get out of control?  Learn effective, researched methods that will give fast, long-lasting results!  Behavior Management Coaching can help. Talk to us today.