The toddler age range is complicated as your child starts developing their independence. One moment your baby is cooing and sweetly eating whatever you offer them, and the next, their opinionated little selves are walking and getting into all sorts of things.
But while they are starting to develop their independence, they are still mostly reliant on you for most of their daily necessities—this introduces the frustrating cycle of wants, boundary setting, and meltdowns. From experience, I can say that being the parent of a toddler is hard, but with the right game plan, you can learn how to discipline a toddler so you two can develop your relationship stronger than ever!
If you want to learn how to navigate this milestone and learn effective discipline techniques, you won’t miss this enlightening article!
When Does My Baby Become a Toddler?
When our children are newborns, the days can seem long as you navigate sleepless nights, constant feedings, diaper changes, and exciting firsts. But what are the signs that your baby is now a toddler?
- They’ve had their first birthday. The CDC classifies children ages 1-3 as toddlers.
- They’re learning to walk or toddling.
- You hear a lot of “No!” which is often the first and most frequently used word toddlers use.
- Hand gestures like waving, clapping, pointing, and reciting their ABCs.
- They stop wanting your help and often get frustrated if they can’t figure something out.
- You also don’t have to do some things for them, like feeding them with a utensil or dressing them.
- Battles and power struggles are your new normal.
- They start sleeping 8-12 hours every night, not including naps.
- Everyone and everything has a name, real or made up.
- They have their little personality.
How to Discipline a Toddler
As a parent, it’s your job to teach your child how to behave. It’s not an easy job, but it’s one that you will see the rewards from each year of their lives.
Unfortunately, discipline for toddlers is unique because they won’t understand much of what you tell them, but it’s important to persevere.
Discipline doesn’t always have to be something bad! These seven healthy toddler discipline strategies can help you effectively teach your children how to manage their behavior and emotions to develop healthy responses to life’s trials.
1. Show Them How to Act
Your children are always watching you and will often directly respond to situations how they’ve seen you react.
By being a good example, your children will always know the best way to respond to something. If you get mad or make a mistake, you should apologize and explain how you should have reacted instead.
2. Have Clear and Consistent Rules
If you set limits that don’t change, your children will effectively learn what they can and can’t do.
Create rules your toddler can understand, and even use pictures or images to help.
3. Consequences and Rewards
Your children should clearly understand what will happen if they do or do not follow your rules. These consequences should be hard and fast but shouldn’t be something they genuinely need.
4. Listen to Them
Let your child finish telling you why they did something before you jump to a conclusion. It can be tempting to fill in the blanks and get to the solution, but when you listen, you may pick up on repetitive behaviors that lead to the issue’s root.
5. Know When NOT to Respond
If your toddler wants your attention and knows throwing a temper tantrum or crying is an easy way to get it, they will learn that direct cause and effect quickly.
Learn how to encourage positive behavior and ignore bad behavior, so they don’t use that to take advantage of you.
Ignoring bad behavior is an easy way to put a stop to it!
6. Be Prepared for Trouble at Any Time
One of the most definitive things any parent who has gone through the toddler phase knows is that a temper tantrum can come anytime and often at the worst times.
Plan for how you react when you take your toddler somewhere and talk with them about new activities before you arrive so they know what to expect.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Call a Time-Out
When your child gets frustrated, a time-out can be a useful tool to help them calm down. It’s recommended to practice 1-minute per year of age, and as they get older, you can encourage them to stay in time out until they feel that they are in control of their emotions again.
This self-management tool will be useful for them as they grow up and encounter difficult situations for them to face.
Effective Discipline Techniques
Your children aren’t born with social skills, so effective discipline for toddlers and encouraging their responses are something you will have to nurture over time.
The rules and consequences you implement for your toddler will stick with them through childhood and adulthood.
These tips for effective discipline can help you develop conflict resolution techniques that they can utilize throughout their lives:
- Don’t yell or spank
- Expect rough spots and bad days
- Pick your battles. Remember that not every misstep requires discipline
- Keep your statements short and sweet
- Learn to distract and redirect when possible
- Focus on correcting the behavior, not the child
- Introduce choices to encourage them to use their opinions positively
- Praise good behavior
- Act immediately to correct bad behavior
- Be a good role model for the behavior you expect
Where to Start
When first learning how to discipline a toddler, it can be challenging to identify where to start. To ease this transition, start by focusing on the effective discipline techniques and then ease yourself into the different healthy discipline tools listed above.
In each step, it’s crucial to focus on your unique relationship with your toddler. Disciplining a toddler doesn’t have to be scary and should never be mean, but you should stay focused on helping your child learn how to manage conflict as they grow.
For more helpful parenting articles and useful dad tips, check out my blog. Parenting a toddler isn’t easy, but remember that we’re all on this crazy ride together!