6 Discipline Techniques to Consider Trying With Your Toddler

As in most parenting situations, there is no one-size-fits-all method of discipline for toddlers. The more discipline tools you have at your disposal the better. Parents of toddlers may find that the more they rely on one single method, the less effective that method becomes. Try some of these techniques and pay close attention to your child's reaction. Be as consistent as possible, but remain flexible when your method of choice isn't working any longer.


a toddler holding a soccer ball
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You can use all the passion and energy your toddler is putting into misbehavior and use it for good. For example, if your toddler is throwing sand at a playmate, you can remove him from the sandbox and offer a ball instead. That way, your toddler is still doing something he wants to do (throwing) but you've turned it into a positive instead.


Distraction is similar to redirection but instead of focusing on similar activities, choose activities that are unrelated to or opposite of the behavior your child is exhibiting. For example, if your child is picking at a loose strand on the living room rug and you're afraid he'll unravel it, you can set up a finger painting activity in the high chair. This gives your toddler something fun to do and you time to fix or remove the rug for later repair. This method works best with behaviors that are not always inappropriate, but that you or others might find annoying. It's not the best method for more serious behaviors or repeated issues that need more work.


Ignoring can be hard to pull off, but it can be extremely effective. There are times when drawing attention to the unwanted behavior has the effect of making it worse.

For example, if you don't normally swear, but happen to do so one day and your toddler repeats it, let it go. It probably won't happen again unless you make a big deal about it.

Or if siblings are arguing but no one is getting hurt, you should try not to get involved so they can work on their problem-solving skills together.

You can also put an end to many temper tantrums if your toddler realizes you're not going to give back the same volatile reaction. Always make sure she's safe and then ignore the behavior in question.

Natural Consequences

A bit of inconvenience and discomfort can be a very effective teacher and is in no way abusive if you use common sense. Let your child experience the consequences of his actions whenever you can. Do not spare your child every sadness or try to make things too easy. Watch carefully for these teachable moments—most of the time you won't even have to lift a finger for it to work. Just reinforce verbally: "I asked you to get your toy several times and you didn't, so now it's at Grandma's until next time."

Not-So-Natural Consequences

It doesn't have to be natural to be effective, but be careful. Make sure your toddler is starting to put together cause and effect on his own first. Some parents don't like this method because it feels like punishment. Look at it more like getting a speeding ticket. There's a rule there and if you don't follow it, you have to pay a fine and may even lose your privilege to drive. It doesn't take long for kids to learn this. Just be fair and consistent.

Use "If-Then" statements. "If you take your brother's toy away from him then you will have to leave the playground," or "If you keep throwing rocks at the window then we're going inside."

Remove privileges or toys if this motivates your child. "You cannot watch Dora today until you get dressed."

Time Out

Time out can be effective as a way for your toddler to regroup when having a tantrum. It can also help him stop misbehaving or start behaving in ways you'd like. The main goal is to help him learn how to control his own behavior and this method can be quite effective.

Use when your child is outwardly exhibiting anger or is out of control. Say, "I can't understand you when you are yelling," or "I understand you're angry, but you need to calm down." Then physically lead your child to a time-out area, allowing him to rejoin you when he's regained control.

You can also use brief periods of time out after giving your child a warning about his behavior and, in time, he will learn that your rules are important and he will make better choices.

A Word From Verywell

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