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How to Discipline Toddlers

How to Discipline Toddlers When You're Pushed to the Limit

We all know those parents of 2-year-olds who claim they've got the terrible twos under control and their kid is perfectly disciplined because they have the secret behavioral formula. But for most moms of toddlers, it can be incredibly frustrating trying to keep under control a child who is at an age when he is not exactly a rational human being.

That's why moms like Danielle P. want to know what is reasonable when setting behavior standards for toddlers. She says she's tried and failed at "everything" to try to discipline her "independent, determined, stubborn, and adventurous" 22-month-old daughter. Lisa A. feels similarly frustrated, noting, "Sometimes I feel like I'd get more of a response talking to/disciplining a rock."

So what do you do when you're pushed to the limit and feel like nothing is working with your misbehaving toddler? While there's no one-size-fits-all approach to discipline — some moms maintain a good spanking is the key to disciplining a toddler, while others are adamant about avoiding spanking — many readers agree on the following tried-and-true strategies for helping tots learn good behavior and helping moms not feel so frustrated in the process.


Stay in Control by Staying Calm

The key to staying in control when your toddler is having a meltdown at the grocery store, say readers, is to try to keep your composure even when your blood is reaching a boiling point. Regina P. says losing control will quickly fuel the situation, so she suggests staying as calm as possible in stressful situations. "Go for the calm . . . Force, threats, and stern tones don't work. A calm voice with explanation gets her to move eventually."

Eve G. agrees, sharing that she works hard to control her temper when her toddler is making her stressed out. "You have to control your hands, violence only breeds violence, what you do to her, and she'll turn around and do to her animals, friends, cousins, and siblings."

Of course, dealing with the stress caused by a toddler's strong will isn't easy. As Regina P. notes: "I've had to learn not to get so frustrated, and that take a lot of time and patience."

Set Clear Expectations and Rules

Many readers advise that you can't expect toddlers to behave in a certain way if you haven't told them what is proper and what is not acceptable. Heidi B. explains: "I like to remember that discipline is about teaching, not hitting. . . . I let my child know what is appropriate. For example, I tell her there is no ball-throwing in the house. If I have to ask her to stop throwing the ball in the house, if she does not stop, I tell her again what she can do, and then what the consequence will be if she continues throwing the ball. I never want discipline to be about hurting her feelings or treating her with disrespect."

Similarly, Lisa A. says using a warning method has helped: "One thing that I have found that works a bit is when he misbehaves I give one warning, telling him if you do that again I am taking away your favorite toy. When he does do it again, I take that toy away. If he continues to do it after that I take ALL of his toys and put them in his room with the door shut."

Be Consistent With Consequences

Order and routine bring predictability to a toddler, which makes them feel safe and they tend to be more behaved and calm, say readers like Missy Long. "This age is all about autonomy," she says. "They have realized that they have an opinion and they want their independence. Consistency is key. Be firm on what your expectations are. Toddlers need to know their boundaries. If they know that breaking rule 'A' always results in action 'A', they won't have reason to test it as much."

Part of being consistent is creating logical consequences, says Kathleen B. "When she potties on the floor, make her help you clean it up," she says. "Once she has to help with the stinky mess, she will probably cease doing it." Teresa D. also believes it is important to be consistent with logical consequences. She too makes her toddlers clean up the mess when they potty on the floor. "They will probably realize it's disgusting enough to quit if they have to clean it. Just closely supervise to prevent bigger mess and then clean them up afterwards," she says.

Reinforce Good Behavior

As important as disciplining a child properly is, moms like Valerie H. are quick to point out that moms also need to reinforce their toddler's good behavior. "Focus on what she is doing right to help that to grow," she says. "When you see anything good name it including: helpfulness, friendliness, cooperation, obedience, kindness, gentleness." She suggests offering up statements like this to your toddler: "I see your friendliness when you smile at Mommy. Or, I like it when you obey me like you just did by coming to the table." The trick is to "name the virtue and how you see it to help your child grow," she adds.

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Jill14759330 Jill14759330 4 years
First I didn't know what Terrible Twos meant but I found out with my 2 boys.. It was a difficult time for us, not really knowing what to do.. Luckily I read an article on a blog and tried the method they talked about. Wow, that really opened our eyes. It worked and our boys behave now. Can really recommend it!!
regansrigley1371509642 regansrigley1371509642 4 years
i completely agree with others that have written what are you supposed to do when youve done everything here and still nothing works. i have been trying for 2 years now to stop my 2 1/2 year olds bad behavior and nothing seems to work. i have been at it since she turned one, ive done research, asked friends, family, disciplined her myself and not one thing works. i also have a 1 year that she acts upon when she doesnt get her own way... i could go on and on about my child but if anyone has any advice or tips please do let me know
AlishaRadtke AlishaRadtke 4 years
Look the "little Johnny" disapline only works for soo long and right now looking at kids now it is obvioulsy not working. I disapline the way I see fit for the behavior she is doing. If she misbehaves she gets one warning she does it again she get a swat on the butt and a time out on the stairs. If she continues her behavior and I feel my temper flairing she gets sent to her room and has to sit on her bed for 4 minutes ( she is 4 now) no toys with her arms and legs up ( legs up off the floor and her arms up but not over her head) and my youngest (10 months) gets put in her play pen then I go and sit out side for my time out. After our time outs we talk and I explain to her that for every action there is a consequence for it may it be good or bad and I explain to her why she got a time out for what she did and how it affects others and I tell her I love her and that no matter what happens I will always love her but some of her actions I do not love.
LoriBradley36169 LoriBradley36169 4 years
This is all very well and good advice, but what happens when you've done all these things and they still continue with their bad behavior?? I do all of these things with my 3 and a half year old daughter, when she's doing something she's not supposed to, knows she's not supposed to, I tell her if she doesn't listen to me I'm going to take one of her favorite toys, she doesn't listen, I follow through and take the toy and she still doesn't listen! I then tell her I'm going to put her in time out and take yet another toy, and she STILL disobeys me! So at that point, when she's sitting in timeout, all of her toys are in my room and she's screaming and I'm pulling my hair out of my head, THEN WHAT??? I ALWAYS praise her when she's doing something good, she has a routine, I don't believe in spanking, I think I'm doing everything right but clearly I'm not and I'm at my wits end.
OpeyemiJooda1369738756 OpeyemiJooda1369738756 4 years
Firmness in our decision at home will help in discipline. Settting little-little rules might also help. And mothers should learn to comment on their child good behaviour always.This has helped my 14months old daughter to know when am angry or happy with her behaviour.
YaraSaltzberry YaraSaltzberry 4 years
I think this makes alot of sense.. I feel its ok to give a child a spank in their butt in extreme cases of misbehavior.. However, I have found with my 2 and 3 1/2 yr old boys that if I tell them to stop a behavior, then if they dont listen and i have to warn them, and after that what i just said was gonna be a consequense happen, then the next time they are a little more quick to stop misbehaving. With my two boys, which are both very strong willed children, putting them in the corner for a time out or taking a favorite toy away or not giving the dessert after dinner is a bigger punishment than spanking them.. I think that it is because if we hit them it hurts for a bit but the pain eventually goes away, but if they have to sit quietly in the corner or have no dessert than they see the consequense of their bad behavior, and they also know how to change to not have that happen again.. Just my opinion... I have my two boys and 3 stepchildren all boys and all under the age of 10 yrs old, and this tips above have worked for me..
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