What Works for Disciplining Toddlers?

Happy Tuesday!

I’d love to hear your ideas, methods, beliefs, theories about discipling toddlers, specifically in the range of 1-2 years old. Young toddlers (ages 1-2ish) are at the stage where they can’t fully communicate, yet they usually can understand most of what you are saying. I think it can be difficult to figure out how to discipline at this young age and what the best way is for your child.

I was talking with a group of moms the other days and it seemed everyone shared different opinions- which is of course how parenting is and how it should be. Some were doing spankings this young, some would do time outs, some would just ignore bad behavior, some would talk firmly with them, and some were doing anything at all. It’s obviously going to depend on your parenting style and on your child, too.

On another note… when do you start discipling?

I would love to hear what you do in your family and what works for you!

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

15 thoughts on “What Works for Disciplining Toddlers?

  1. Yep, we do time outs starting at about 2. Before that we just tell them No and give them something else to do or direct them to something else.

  2. We started disciplining as soon as they started deliberately disobeying. Two good books on this topic are “Shepherding a Child's Heart” and “Raising Real Men” (if you have boys 🙂

  3. We do time outs, spanking, hand slaps, whatever the behavoir warrents. and we started as soon as he started disobying. but no matter what the behavior or the punishment we always get on his level tell him waht he did, why he can't, and what he should have done. we then pray about it. if he hurt someone he then has to go apologize, or if he made a mess he has to go clean it up (with our help) I beleive the punshiment should fit the crime and the child. my son doesn't respond to being spanked so we save those for really big issues but he hates to be removed from a situation so time out is the perfect thing its super effective.

  4. I think at the younger stage it's more about them finding their boundaries than being naughty. We were just really firm and consistent about what Ingrid could or couldn't do, and if she stepped beyond that we told her no and why and then redirected her. I think that helps–tell them why. Even this young they can get the whole consequence thing. If you do this, then this will happen, or we don't want this to happen. But mostly just try to keep your kid in areas they are allowed do explore, since that's what they're into.

    Now, she's over two and really pushing buttons. But I find again that it's usually not her wanting to be naughty, she's asking for attention. Being in tune with moods is a helpful way to not have to discipline in the first place 🙂

  5. I try to redirect and/or remove the object or the 13-month-old kiddo from the situation. I try to praise the good things he does. He doesn't respond to spanking, but that doesn't stop the other adults in the house from doing it. I don't think he's intellectually ready for time-outs.

  6. Our girl is almost 2 and we have spanked her. Most of the time it's a cautionary word, raised voice, etc. We use redirection and ask her to speak her words if it arises from communication issues. (I'm screaming because I want a drink but can't remember how to ask, for example). Spanking typically keeps her from repeating whatever it is and is kept for deliberately disobeying or telling us no to something–ie a direct order. As in, 'no, mom, I'm not going to do that' and then taking off laughing. At 13 months, my child didn't know she was doing something wrong. You will see it in their eyes when they deliberately do something wrong and test you. There's a twinkle that says .. 'am I going to get by with it?' — Once you see that, you know you need to add whatever form of discipline works for your parenting style.

  7. Discipline is different than punishment, IMO.

    I believe that hitting (or spanking, if that's what you'd rather call it) is never appropriate. I also think that time outs are not a great solution for most kids, especially sensitive kids. The root of the issue doesn't go away after a minute or two in their rooms.

    Most toddler “disobedience” is rooted in a different problem that likely has a much better solution than hitting the kid or sending him to sit alone in his room. A tantrum in the grocery store is more likely a result of being bored, or hungry, or tired. Not because the kid is bad and in need of a swat. Plan your grocery trips better.

    Touching something off-limits is a young toddlers way of finding out exactly what those limits are. A firm “no” usually works, unless they are in danger of really being hurt by said object. Put things that absolutely can't be touched up high or in a room the toddler can't go in.

    Hitting , biting, screaming, etc usually stems from being really frustrated and not having the words to communicate such frustration. Sit with him to show you care about him even when he's frustrated. Offer a hug when he calms down and then go do a different, less frustrating activity together.

    I have found good advice in the “No Cry Discipline Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley (author of the No Cry Sleep Solution… also great!), and in “Playful Parenting” by Lawrence Cohen. I get good advice from other moms on the Gentle Discipline board at Mothering.Com/Discussions

    My 2 year old is very well behaved dispite being a strong-willed child. No spankings, hand slaps, or time outs necessary.

  8. I should have also included “Attached at the Heart” by Barbara Nicholson and “Discipline Without Distress” by Judy Arnall as great guides for raising happy, well-adjusted kids without hitting or time outs.

  9. My little one is 18 months and I have found that firmly stating NO and physically changing the undesired behavior works perfectly for us. I just don't think she would understand time out right now.

  10. I remember when my daughter (now 3) was 16-17 months old and I asked some friends about time outs and if she would really understand. and they said YES, she will get it. I felt so bad the first time, but she DID understand!!

    we started doing timeouts with my son a few months ago (he's now 19 months) and while he's still learning, he knows when he does something wrong. we sit him in a chair facing a wall and he sits there for 1 minute. the “rule” is 1 minute per year of age. At least right now, we haven't found a reason to spank, but that might change. After the time out is done, we explain what he did wrong and make him go give his sister a hug (if he hit her).

  11. Lisa, I completely agree with you! I have a 13 month old and we are just at the stage of him really showing his will! 🙂 I love how the Dr Sears say that discipline starts at birth, it's about the parent-child relationship more than anything else. If you could recommend one book, which is your favorite? I would love to read one of the ones you suggested! 🙂

    Gentle discipline has been working very well for us this far, we use humor a lot. Such as, during a diaper change if Caleb throws a little fuss when I lay him down instead of saying “No-no, we have to change your diaper, you be a good boy, etc…” I will say “Oh, it's time to change your diaper” (smiles, giggle, tickle the belly, kiss the cheeks and neck) perks him right up as he doesn't like the diaper change time, it's his least favorite.

    I agree with the tantrums on outings too. It's more of a sign that your child is over tired, bored, hungry, etc. We always make sure that Caleb is well fed, has had enough sleep, has toys to play with, is in the sling with me if possible, etc. We haven't had a tantrum yet, he is a happy boy when we are out! 🙂 We get lots of comments “oh what a good boy!” My family is just amazed at his behavior around others and in stores, out to eat, etc.

    I'm not trying to boast about my son Caleb, I mean…he is perfect! 😉 But, I am just sharing how effective this type of “discipline” is. I'd like to call it a deep knowing and understanding of my child though, but I do love the word discipline. To discipline is to train, in my eyes. To effectively train, I believe that a child must trust his or her trainer.

  12. Dude, I JUST wrote two posts about this! Sparrow was pretty good until he hit about 20 months and then he has been naaaaughty. Time outs, warnings, and (rare) spanks work for the most part. We only spank when he is being super naughty or when he does something very dangerous like running into the street. However, NOTHING has helped the screaming. Sparrow has this high pitched screech that he likes to use to piss people off. It's awful. He has done it ever since he was a baby and NOTHING stops him, time outs, spanks, warnings, telling him he's hurting Mommy's ears, nothing. It's horrible.

    Good luck!!

  13. I believe that the word “discipline” means “To teach”, so technically, I “discipline” my kids from the moment they are born 🙂 I believe in gentle discipline, so I never believe that corporal punishment is the answer, no matter what the age. For 1-2 year olds, we simply distract and stay consistent.

  14. All the comments had good ideas. I wanted to add that every single kid needs something different. I have three and they are all so very, very different. If I only had my middle child, I would be preaching gentle discipline from the rooftops because it works very well with him. My youngest is mischievous but quite compliant. Once he understands what I want he'll usually do it even though he is just 10 months. My eldest, however…. yikes!!! I had no idea that youngsters came in such stubborn packages. I guess she takes after her Mom. She responds the best to very consistent, very firm and very strong discipline. Much stronger than I enjoy giving out. So while I don't enjoy being a strict disciplinarian, I feel that I must do what is best for each child, to teach each one to be safe and secure. I look at discipline methods like a toolbox. The more tools and tricks you have, the better you're going to do. And the “power tools” should be used extremely carefully and sparingly, but not thrown out altogether.

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