Toddler discipline: 10 common mistakes new parents make

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — November 26, 2019
  • Misunderstanding the purpose of discipline
    1 / 10 Misunderstanding the purpose of discipline

    Two is a good age to start considering discipline – if you haven’t done so. Discipline aims to teach your young child to follow rules and behave. It is not about controlling your toddler, but teaching her self-control.

    Don’t just warn her about what she can or cannot do; it’s important to encourage her to think about her behaviour instead.

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  • Over-reacting
    2 / 10 Over-reacting

    Don’t respond to every single act of misbehaviour. Sometimes, it is best to ignore minor infractions. Otherwise, you’ll end up in confrontations with her throughout the day.

    Related: 10 discipline laws for step parents

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  • Lack of explanation
    3 / 10 Lack of explanation

    Your toddler is more likely to follow rules when she understands their purpose.

    So tell her, for example, why she is not allowed to explore the contents of the under-the-sink cupboard

    (“You can’t go in there because you may get hurt.”) or why she should tidy her toys (“When you put your toys away, that makes me happy.”).

    Related: 6 discipline secrets from Singapore moms

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  • Overusing punishment
    4 / 10 Overusing punishment

    It’s very easy to rely on punishments, but the more you use them, the less effective they become.

    If you find that you are using more punishments than rewards, try to redress the balance. Make sure, also, that punishments are fair and carried out at the time of her misbehaviour.

    Related: Toddler discipline: 8 steps to control kid’s tantrums at parties

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  • Empty threats
    5 / 10 Empty threats

    Don’t make a threat that you won’t carry out. For instance, warning your young one: “If you do that again, I’ll throw all your toys away and you’ll have none left,” is unrealistic.

    She simply learns that you don’t mean what you say. As a result, she starts to ignore your threats because nothing has happened.

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  • Nagging
    6 / 10 Nagging

    The constant niggling, tantrums and misbehaviour of a two-yearold can wear any parent down. And you may have to snap at her, chastise her, and complain about her – all the time.

    If you are nagging at her all day, stop and rethink your approach. Maybe you don’t need to be so critical.

    Related: 5 ways to discipline children without caning or hitting

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  • Misusing timeouts
    7 / 10 Misusing timeouts

    Timeout – in which a toddler is removed to calm down when she misbehaves – must be used properly. For it to work, she should never be left alone. There must also be a fixed period for time-out (for example, two minutes).

    Finally, she must be told how she can avoid a timeout in the future.

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  • Bribery
    8 / 10 Bribery

    This is the promise of something positive before your two-year-old behaves well – she does what you want to get the reward – and she may start to expect or demand a reward for everything she does.

    Related: Should you discipline someone else’s child: 7 rules that work

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  • Rewarding misbehaviour
    9 / 10 Rewarding misbehaviour

    You may think that a reprimand will discourage her misbehaviour, but she may enjoy your attention – negative attention is better than no attention.

    Reward her good behaviour with your attention instead of focusing on bad behaviour; for example, praise her positive actions.

    Related: Toddler discipline: 14 secrets only teachers know

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  • Criticising your kid
    10 / 10 Criticising your kid

    Reprimand her for her behaviour, not her. Don’t say: “You were very nasty hitting your friend during that play date.”

    Instead, you should tell her: “I was very upset when you hit your friend because you are usually such a kind and caring child.”


    Related: What to do when parents have different discipline styles

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