Toddler Discipline Strategies To Keep You From Going Crazy

parenting Jun 09, 2020
Toddler Discipline Strategies To Keep You From Going Crazy

Every parent will tell you to watch out for the terrible twos, but hardly anyone tells you that this doesn’t only last for the year your child turns two. These tough tantrums can go on well beyond just two years. Some kids might not technically be toddlers (AKA ages four and above) but can still retain toddler behavior.

The toddler years, and the ensuing chaos and bad behavior, are what usually trips up parents. The best way to prevent this? Preparation — learning what to do and what not to do, reading about the best ways to handle discipline for a toddler, and practicing these techniques to get the ball rolling early on.

The Truth About Punishments

We often say this in our blogs and videos: but punishments don’t work. This is especially true when it comes to physical punishments and there are many studies supporting this.

At the end of the day, what really helps your toddler learn right from wrong isn’t the punishment — it’s the discussion you have with them before or after their punishment, explaining the consequences of their actions.

Discipline is not synonymous or interchangeable with punishment. There are still a lot of ways you can discipline your child without taking away their gadgets, putting them on a time-out, or spanking them.

Instead of immediately resorting to punishment, try out one of our eight tried and true tips for disciplining a toddler below!

Be Empathetic

Empathy is key when it comes to toddler discipline. Before reacting harshly, try to see things from your toddler’s perspective.

Put yourself in their shoes. How would it feel to be learning so many things in a small amount of time — yet not have the ability to express your curiosity, frustration, or excitement? It’s a lot to handle!

Empathy can help you better understand the root cause of their tantrums or rebellious behavior and will guide you in making discipline decisions that resonate with your child’s experience, making them more likely to listen and respond positively.

Affirm Their Feelings

Affirming or validating your young child’s feelings is one of the best ways to empathize with them.

When your toddler is acting out, it can be frustrating and sometimes tempting to dismiss their emotions. However, acknowledging their feelings and letting them know that it’s okay to feel a certain way can help prevent even worse tantrums.

For example, saying something like “I get why you’re angry,” and following it with, “I would be angry about that, too,” lets them know that they have your attention and you understand their feelings. This will help them calm down and make it easier for you to reason with them.

Don’t Take Things Personally

Look, your tiny innocent two-year-old is not out to get you, no matter how it might seem like it. Your kids aren’t purposefully trying to get you mad, push your limits, or ruin your day — they literally do not know what they are doing. Toddlers are just trying to navigate the world and communicate the best they can, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always go so well.

When toddlers act out, it’s often not a reflection of your parenting or an attack on you, so remember that they are still learning and developing their emotions and communication skills.

Provide Choices

Your tiny tots are at the age where they’re starting to explore the idea of control. A fairly common cause of toddler tantrums is not having control or having control taken away from them.

Offering choices is a powerful tool for toddler discipline. Giving your child options lets them feel like they have some control and autonomy — they get to choose what they want, which can reduce the need for power struggles.

Give your kids options and not ultimatums. Instead of saying “Put on your jacket now,” try asking “What jacket do you want to wear?” This way, the kids feel like they have a say in the matter and are more likely to cooperate.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is another discipline strategy that we constantly preach about — it’s easy, too.

Instead of constantly pointing out what your toddler is doing wrong, all you need to do is the opposite. Focus on the good rather than the bad. It’s as simple as acknowledging when they do something right, thanking them for a good deed, or giving them compliments.

Positive reinforcement can go a long way in shaping their behavior and it makes them feel good and appreciated, which can only lead to fewer tantrums and bad behavior.

Ignore Them

Yup, you read that right. Sometimes, the best way to handle a tantrum is by ignoring it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean completely ignoring your child’s needs or safety — especially if you’re in public — it simply means not giving in to their attention-seeking behavior. Because oftentimes, that’s all their tantrum is about — getting you to notice them and give them your undivided attention.

When you ignore your toddler, you’re not giving them what they want. Eventually, your toddler will learn that throwing a fit won’t get them anywhere. This will be more effective if you pair it with a gentle admonishment like, “I’ll be happy to listen and talk after you calm down,” and you stick to your guns.

Distraction or Redirection

Another useful discipline strategy for toddlers is distraction or redirection. Toddlers have a pretty short attention span — and you can use this to your advantage when they get into a tantrum.

The next time your kids are whining or crying about something, try distracting them with something else they like.

If your toddler wants an extra dessert, try distracting them with a toy, or you can try redirecting their energy by engaging them in a game or asking for their help with a task. This has the added benefit of potentially tiring them out for even fewer chances of remembering what they originally wanted.


Once is never enough when it comes to positive discipline for a toddler. Your child’s still young and their ability to understand everything you teach them isn’t at its best yet.

So, be patient and master the art of repetition. Teach toddlers that good behavior gets rewarded and praised, while tantrums won’t. Practice the toddler discipline techniques we recommended above regularly, especially positive reinforcement.

With constant repetition, we’re sure you’ll be able to weather the terrible toddler tantrum years. It will take a lot of effort and patience but you’ll get there. And don’t worry if you make a mistake — that’s all part of the parenting journey!

Watch the "Toddler Discipline Strategies To Keep You From Going Crazy" video here:

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