Tools for toddler discipline

Teaching right from wrong at a young age is difficult, but essential. 

Here are some tools to help you through this process.

Guide the little hands

Exploring hands are always looking for things to handle, so give the young explorer word associations to help him sort out what he may touch. Try “yes touch” for safe things; “no touch” for objects off-limits; and “soft touch” for faces and animals.


Get behind the eyes of your toddler

Kids do annoying things – not maliciously, but because they don’t think like adults. You are likely to have a miserable day if you let every kid-created mess bother you. Remember that what they are doing is developmentally appropriate. They are exploring and learning and they won’t do this anymore when they are six. Getting out of yourself and into your child saves mental strain. They are simply exploring.

Distract and divert

Your one-year- old is toddling toward the lamp cord. Instead of scooping him up and risking a protest tantrum, first get his attention by calling his name or some other cue word that you have learned will stop him in his tracks long enough to distract him. Then, quickly divert him toward a safer alternative.

Set Limits

You decide what behavior you cannot allow and stick to that limit. You decide you don’t want your toddler to throw trash around, so you keep the lid on the trash can closed. You keep the door to the kitchen closed because you don’t want the shelves mindlessly emptied. Scissors and sharp knives are off-limits. You learn to keep them out of reach, and you firmly “distract and substitute” when the inevitable happens. Setting limits helps the whole family. The toddler needs to learn how to share the house with the whole family and parents need to be realistic about their tolerances.

Take Charge

Examine your roles as authority figures. Clearly be in charge of our toddlers so that they would feel safe and secure with someone standing between them and the dangers of the big world, with a place to go for help. Help them in two ways. First, by letting them know by your tone of voice and your actions that you are the mature adults. Secondly, by being available as a safe and secure homebase they can leave and return to at will for comfort and reassurance.

Provide structure

Create structure, which does not mean being inflexible, repressive, or domineering. Structure is setting the conditions that encourage desirable behavior to happen. Structure protects and redirects. You free the child to be a child and provide the opportunity to grow and mature. Structure creates a positive environment for the child and it changes as the child grows. At all developmental levels restructuring the child’s environment is one of your most valuable discipline strategies. When your infant reaches the grabby stage, you are careful to set your coffee cups out of his reach. The preschooler who fights going to sleep at night gets a relaxing bedtime routine. The nine-year- old struggling to keep up with her homework gets a quiet, enticing place to work in, as well as firm restrictions on school-night television. Structure sets the stage for desirable behaviors to override undesirable ones.


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