S.T.E.A.M. Day

Disciplining your toddler effectively

It’s called the “terrible twos” for a good reason. Children at this age are eager to explore their recently acquired language (mainly “no!”) and motor abilities, but lack the social awareness and maturity to deal with consequences. Disciplining your toddler might seem ineffective and make you want to give up, but this is a critical period of development. Parents should use this time to model socially acceptable behaviors while fostering their little one’s sense of independence and trust me, it’s a tough balance to navigate. 


Common issues

  • Tantrums; toddlers often have trouble fully expressing themselves and rely on their body to communicate.  
  • Lying; based on your body language and tone, toddlers can sense when you are not happy and might lie, intentionally or not. 
  • Aggression; according to Piaget’s Theory of Development, toddlers are egocentric and struggle empathizing which leads to hitting, biting, or throwing. 


Effective discipline strategies

1. Show rather than tell

Telling your child not to do something is only a starting point. Behavior correction mostly occurs when you explicitly show your child what to do instead. Physical guidance is such an important aspect of disciplining your child as it reinforces a positive alternative to their defiant behavior. Parents should provide ample opportunities for their child to make positive choices to create good habits and prevent tantrums. 


2. Remove your child from the conflict

Sometimes the best move is to simply remove your child from the situation. It might be going to the park or grocery store; on some days it’s just best to cut your trip short and try again another day. 


3. Positively reinforce desirable behavior 

Positive reinforcement– adding a reinforcing stimulus to increase the likelihood of a behavior- is an extremely powerful motivator. Positive reinforcement could come in the form of a compliment, high-five, tangible rewards, or a simple thumbs up. It’s much easier to nip defiant behaviors in the bud rather than going through a grueling process of discipline and correction. 


4. Ignore mild misbehaviors 

Sometimes toddlers misbehave just because they can, sometimes it’s because they want attention. If parents pay too much attention to their toddler, it provides positive reinforcement for their undesirable behaviors. Every so often the best course of action is to simply pretend you cannot hear your child, and reply to them when they have calmed down.