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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Effective Tips for Disciplining Toddlers

toddlers photo

How do you discipline a toddler?

This question may be in your mind if you have a toddler. Toddlers may test limits and try to get what they want by throwing tantrums, crying, whining, or they may not follow directions even when they know how. So, how do you discipline a toddler when they are behaving in this way?

Know that it is natural for toddlers to test limits. They are beginning to attempt to have more independence and learning to explore the world around them on their own. They still need their parents, of course, but they are learning to have a bit more say in what happens and how they experience the world.

Discipline helps kids to stay safe, helps them to ultimately feel secure (by setting consistent limits and expectations), and also helps children to learn appropriate behaviors and self-management.

Discipline doesn’t have to be seen in a negative light. Discipline can include setting limits for your child by creating daily routines. This helps toddlers to have some structure and security in their lives.

Also, threatening toddlers with consequences for bad behavior that will happen later, such as “Clean up your toys or you won’t get ice cream this afternoon.” is probably not going to be very effective. Make discipline happen in the moment and, more importantly, making discipline more natural is more effective than non-related consequences.

For example, taking away a toy after the child threw it at his sibling is an appropriate and natural consequence whereas taking away a child’s dessert for throwing a toy at his sibling is not really a related or natural consequence.

Another useful technique is to focus on what you want your toddler to do rather than what you don’t want them to do. Being positive as much as possible and telling your toddler what to do is more effective than frequently saying things like “Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” For example, say things like “Push the car on the track.” rather than “Don’t throw the car.” Of course, it’s okay to tell your child what they shouldn’t be doing, but just be sure that you are focusing much more on the positive side of things and telling your toddler what they should be doing instead.

Effective Tips for Disciplining Toddlers

Heather Gilmore

My name is Heather Gilmore. I am so happy to be able to have a space to share helpful insights and resources to other moms out there. Being a parent is hard work and I hope to be able to give you tips and strategies to make it at least a little bit easier and more enjoyable. We love our kids but any mom knows that they can also be exhausting and overwhelming at times, as well. I have a master's degree in social work. I work as a children's therapist. I am also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and work with children with autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, I am a freelance writer specializing in topics related to children and families. I have my own company called Hope Family Resources which provides resources in person and online to help families find greater hope, health, and happiness. See my site and learn more about me at: or email me at I have also published books on Amazon. Search for "Discpline and Parenting Strategies for Kids with ADHD," "Have Peace: How to Have Peace in Your Busy, Chaotic Life," and "Sibling Rivalry: How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry so You Won't Have to Anymore,"

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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2017). Effective Tips for Disciplining Toddlers. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Jul 2017
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