how to discipline a toddler

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how to discipline a toddler

One of the biggest struggles that I’ve had in the first years of motherhood was finding out how to discipline a toddler in a gentle and effective way. Luckily, I found 3 questions that help me decide if a disciplining method is right for us and I’m glad to share them with you!

After a disciplining moment, how could you know if what you did was right or wrong? How could you make sure that you found a good approach, one that will help your child do better in the future?

Sometimes you know that you could have handled things better. You feel it. Other times, there is a glimpse of doubt.

Some time ago I wrote about a step-by-step strategy that has proven to be the best way to discipline my child. A few days later I received a message from a mom. She was asking me how could she be sure she’s doing the right thing when disciplining her kids.

There is no easy way to answer this. Every parent has a different view on how to discipline a child. And I’m not claiming that I know any better than other moms.

But I do know from my own experience that positive discipline works. That it feels good. That it has given me the chance to be the mom that I want to be.

This is why I’m so glad to share all I learn about positive discipline with other moms who want to raise their kids in a gentle way!

When it comes to knowing if a disciplining method is right or wrong, I always ask myself 3 questions that offer me the answers I need.

I’ll share them here with you and I’m pretty sure they will offer some good inspiration to you too.

The 3 questions to ask yourself about disciplining your child

The first 2 questions were inspired by a conference of Tina Payne Bryson that I’ve attended two years ago. (If you want to discover her great disciplining tips. her is a very helpful book she wrote together with Dr. Dan Siegel: “No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind“).

The last question was inspired by watching other people’s interactions with my son (mostly teachers and close family members). It’s amazing how much I learned from this! Watching these interactions offered me a much clearer vision of the kind of parent I want to be.

1. Is your child learning a meaningful lesson that will help them do better next time?

What does your child learn at the end of the disciplining moment? Does the child learn a better way to behave? Or does the child only learn that misbehavior brings a punishment or a time-out?

If you were punished as a child, think about those moments. What were you thinking about when you were punished?

Were you thinking about better ways to behave next time? I don’t think this happened often.

Or were you thinking that your parents are unfair? And maybe even thinking about a way to avoid being punished next time? (like hiding things from your parents)

Also, if the disciplining method involves rewards, what does the child learn? Would the child be motivated to act the same way if it weren’t for the reward?

Here is a step-by-step disciplining method that works great for us and doesn’t involve punishments or rewards: .

how to discipline a toddlerphoto credit: Nina Buday /

2. Are you and your child feeling better after the disciplining moment?

“You can’t teach kids to behave better by making them feel worse. When children feel better, they behave better.” (Pam Leo)

Discipline is not meant to make children feel worse. It’s meant to teach them to do better.

When kids are punished, yelled at, spanked, they feel bad. When a parent yells or says angry words, they feel guilty as soon as things calm down.

All these negative feeling will only make things worse. Kids will feel more disconnected and this will reflect on their behavior.
Parents will feel more frustrated. The relationship will suffer.

But things don’t have to be like this! This question will help you find a disciplining method that can make both you and your child feel good about it.

Here is a great article from AHA Parenting that I enjoyed a lot: Why punishment doesn’t help raise great kids.

how to discipline a toddlerphoto credit: VGstockstudio /

3. What would you think if someone else would discipline your child the same way as you do?

Imagine you see another person (teacher or grandparent) disciplining your child. What would you like them to do?

Would you want to see them spanking your child? Or gently explaining to the child what was wrong?

Would you want to see them yelling at your child? Or being kind and offering support and guidance?

Would you like to see them punishing your child for any mistake? Or teaching the child to do better?

how to discipline a toddlerphoto credit: Yuganov Konstantin /

I don’t think parents should use tougher methods because they have “more rights”. If those methods were the right ones, why would we mind if someone else is using them?

Watching other persons interact with my child has taught me important lessons about the way I want to treat my child. And the way I don’t want to treat him.

These 3 questions may seem simple. But if you actually answer them, you’ll get a very clear vision about disciplining your child.

Passing every disciplining method through these 3 filters will help you see if it’s right for you or not.

I’m sure every parent has different approaches to these questions. But they will get you one step closer to finding a disciplining method that allows you to be the parent that you want to be.

I used these questions to find answers about time-outs, consequences, reward charts. And many other methods that promise to improve children’s behavior.

And I will continue to do so with every method I discover!

What about you? What answers do you get when you ask these questions about your current disciplining method?

how to discipline a toddler

how to discipline a toddler how to discipline a toddler

photo credit preview photo: Evgeny Atamanenko /

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