How to discipline a child according to age

Are time outs no longer working for you either? I need new consequences and luckily a big group of moms have shared their creative punishments for kids.

About age 5 my boys seemed to have no change in behavior when I sent them to time out. They would come out of timeout and the first thing they would do is the same behavior that got them in trouble in the first place.

How to discipline a child according to age

Why Consequences Stop Working

Even when I use a new consequence and it worked, after a few months it just isn’t as effective. I always feel as a parent I have to stay a few steps ahead of my kids and keep them on their toes. A new consequence every once in a while can really make them start thinking.

7 Creative Punishments for Kids

1.Make the sibling’s bed or do their chores – When the poor behavior is being mean to a sibling a great natural consequence is that they have to do something for the sibling. I use making the other’s bed or doing the other kids chore for the day. I tried this and I found that the offended sibling really likes this as a punishment for the sibling that bothered them. They can then get over the issue really fast because they feel vindicated.

2. Early bedtime/No books – This one works great for my older boys. They really like to stay up later than their younger sister so it is painful to them to have to go to bed the same time as her. And that’s when I realized this is a great punishment for the two older boys…when they really fought it. For a punishment to be effective it has to be a real pain point for them and this is one my boys best ones.

3. Pay to Fight – I have always loved the book Love & Logic by Foster Cline. I highly recommend it. One of my favorite tips is to charge kids $1.00 a minute to listen to them fight. If they don’t have the money they must earn the money by doing chores.

4. Writing Sentences – Let’s go old school here. Writing “I will not disrespect my mom.” 50 times can be a great incentive for them to not do it again.

5. Extra Chores – There are all sorts of systems for this method. Some assign tasks based on the offense. Such as not listening means 1 room of baseboards cleaned. Some have a jar filled with slips of paper with chores on them and the child must pick a chore out of the jar.

6. No PlayDates – I have never been able to do this because I feel it punishes another child who has been planning and looking forward to it but sometimes we need a total reset. I actually have done something really sneaky to make this work for us.

Here is what I did. I have a great neighbor that played along with me. I had told one of my boys that had misbehaved badly before school that they would not be allowed to play with friends after school. He didn’t seem to care about the punishment at all. So I talked with my neighbor during the day and asked her when the bus came that afternoon if she would ask me in front of my son if he could come over and play and my response could be “sorry, he can’t play today because of his poor choices this morning.”

It worked great and whenever my son wanted to meltdown over those same issues (which socks to wear..go figure) I would remind him of what happened last time.

7. Positive Incentive Charts – I had to add this because we all know we are supposed to reward positive behavior and hope it limits the punishments needed. I completely agree but let’s get real…we sometimes need punishments for kids with bad behavior too. Let’s just make sure we are rewarding the good behavior in our house at the same time.

Parents tend to have different approaches when it comes to disciplining their kids and child behaviour. In fact, there are as many philosophies on how to discipline a child as there are parents. However, kids respond to each and every approach based on their age and their readiness to accept things in their own way and parents do not need to rush their discipline-building methods.

It all depends on the child’s developmental stages and parenting methods whether he accepts any rules and parents should adapt to these stages to train their kids accordingly. Here’s how to discipline children in the most appropriate way according to their age.

Disciplining 1-2 Year Olds

Children at this age are curious and want to investigate new things rather than creating mischief. Parents should understand that toddlers at his age do not understand most of the rules and your demands. As they always try to mimic your behaviour and learn by repetitive actions, show good model behaviour and implement repeated actions like making them sit in the cradle every time they try to reach the stairs or open the refrigerator.

3-7 Years

By now, children can understand and even learn to comply with your rules. Some of the most common scenarios where they disagree with you include going out when you do not want them to go and watching TV over having dinner. Frequent temper tantrums are also common during this time. If possible, parents should try implementing a time-out according to the child’s age and should also give clear and consistent instructions every time to avoid confusion.

8-12 Years

This is the stage where disciplining becomes tough and maintaining a strong bond with the child will rather help a lot in building good behaviour. Threatening and punishment seem to have no effect and you should more rely on encouraging the child for proper behaviour through positive talk. Parents should take the time out to talk about their interests and involve them more in daily tasks. Most importantly, it is always best to reflect good model behaviour and never use profane language.

13-19 Years

Now that your kids have become teens, they need to be part of the rule making process. However, parents should be careful about not letting them to set their own rules altogether. They should be given more freedom without becoming too unruly. Staying out with friends and driving on their own, thanks to the newly acquired driving licence, are some of the common scenarios with children at this age. Setting a curfew to reach home at a particular time and allowing them to ride small distances first might help. Parents can bond well with them by understanding their desires and accepting their perspectives which is too important during these times.

Most of the behaviour that children reflect at this age has a lot to do with their hormonal changes and social/peer pressure. The influences can trigger frustration and may even result in tearful tantrums and parents should avoid responding to them with equal emotions. Emotional outbursts are sometimes better dealt after the child has calmed down. Rewarding their good behaviour and letting them know the natural consequences of their behaviour, whether good or bad, has a long way to go in bringing up more disciplined kids.

At what age can you start disciplining your kid? Depends on how well you want it to work.


How to discipline a child according to age

Trying to discover how to discipline a toddler is a fool’s errand. Because the maddening truth at the heart of trying to discipline toddler age kids is that, in this developmental phase, parents (and not kids) are actually the ones who need discipline.

Toddlers are agents of chaos. That’s essentially how they explore their world. And that exploration can be frustrating for observers. But disciplining a 2-year-old who’s in the middle of learning important things isn’t constructive — and is bound to fail. It’s far better for parents to adjust their expectations.

When defiant toddlers throw their bottles, frustrated parents often turn to parenting expert Catherine Pearlman, author of the book Ignore It! The tough but fair answer she gives is that disciplining a toddler isn’t possible. Generally speaking, you can’t effectively discipline a child until they’re at least 2 years old — about the same time your toddler-age kid is ready for potty training. “If they’re ready for potty training, they’re ready for consequences,” Pearlman says.

The Pitfalls of Ineffective Toddler Discipline

Meanwhile, ineffective discipline can exacerbate parental frustration — which can result in yelling. A 2013 study published in Child Development highlighted just how dangerous regularly yelling at your kids can be. They found that harsh verbal discipline, such as yelling, swearing, and using insults, was as harmful as hitting or spanking toddlers. Likewise, 50 years worth of research suggests spanking and harsh punishment can lead to mental health problems, cognitive difficulties, aggression, and antisocial tendencies later in life. And yet one in six parents are still doing it. Perhaps, Pearlman suggests, parents flip out at their kids because misguided attempts at discipline don’t stick.

How to Discipline a Toddler

If your kid isn’t developmentally ready for discipline, it’s not his or her fault. The point of discipline, Pearlman says, is behavioral training — creating consequences to prevent actions from happening repeatedly. If the child is as yet unable to mentally link the consequence to the action, you’re just screaming into the void and your child isn’t sure why. “A toddler running into the street and nearly getting hit, then being pulled back in and scolded, isn’t going to teach an 18-month old not to run in the street,” Pearlman explains. “They don’t have the capacity for this.”

Instead, Pearlman recommends redirection. If your kid won’t stop throwing a toy, take the toy away. If that infuriates your little darling (it will) regale them with silly voices. “They don’t need to be punished at that age, they just need to stop doing what they’re doing,” Pearlman says. So redirection is key.

Around age 2, it’s time to introduce consequences. But Pearlman says it’s crucial that parents not let punishments become sneaky ways for kids to grab more attention. “When a kid misbehaves they get all kinds of attention from us,” she says. “That in itself is reinforcing and more likely to make the behavior continue.” One alternative to timeout, the ultimate attention grabber, is simply ignoring your child for a short period of time. This makes timeouts less of the game that they’ve become — where kids attempt to win more attention by not facing the wall — and turns timeout into more of the hard reset it was always meant to be. Besides, ignoring is far more relaxing than yelling or policing.

The Four-Pronged Approach to Starting Discipline

  • Wait to discipline a toddler until they’re also ready for potty-training.
  • Distract rather than discipline children under 2-years-old, whose attention can be easily redirected.
  • Avoid harsh verbal discipline, such as yelling, swearing, and using insults, which can be harmful to a child’s development.
  • Create consequences to prevent actions from happening repeatedly, not to simply punish. Allow them to learn from mistakes.

The bottom line is that if a kid isn’t learning from what a parent’s doing, it’s not technically discipline. And if your child is not developmentally ready for behavioral training, you’re just wasting your breath (and potentially causing long-term damage by yelling and punishing too harshly). In any case, no one learns and everyone has a bad time. So don’t think of it as abdicating your parental duties to curb misbehavior. Think of it as saving your strength for bigger battles.

Increase discipline effectiveness based on your child's needs

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast.

Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.

Have you ever noticed how two children from the same family can be drastically different? One child might be a happy, easy-going child who is eager to please while the other one might be cranky, defiant, and attention-seeking.

Clearly, behavior differences don't always stem from the environment. Each child is born with a unique temperament. As a parent, it's important to tailor your discipline strategies to your child's individual needs.

Traits That Make Up Temperament

A child's personality differs from their temperament. Personality refers to attributes such as intelligence and abilities, while temperament only refers to in-born traits.

Researchers have found a child’s temperament is made up of nine traits:

  • Activity Level. Does your child tend to be very active, moderately active, or inactive compared to other children their age?
  • Regularity. Does your child seem to have a natural tendency to have a routine? Does your child want to eat and sleep at the same times each day?
  • Approach or Withdrawal. Does your child enjoy trying new things and meeting new people? Or do they prefer to observe others and hang back when presented with new situations?
  • Adaptability. How quickly does your child adjust to changes? Do they adapt quickly or become upset if their schedule is changed?
  • Intensity of Reaction. How much of an emotional reaction does your child show when they experiences positive and negative situations?
  • Threshold of Responsiveness. How does your child react to sensory stimulation such as tastes, textures, smells, and sounds?
  • Distractibility. Can your child stay focused on a task or are they easily distracted by noises or activity going on around them?
  • Attention Span and Persistence. Is your child able to work on a task until it is completed or do they tend to give up or lose interest before it’s finished? How do they handle transitioning from one activity to the next?
  • Quality of Mood. Does your child seem to be in a fairly good mood most of the time, or does their mood shift often and seem dependent on whatever is going on around them?

Temperament Categories

Based on these traits, researchers have developed three main categories of temperament for kids.

Keep in mind that researchers also noted that about 35% of kids don’t fit into any one category; rather, they're a combination of more than one temperament.

  • Easy or Flexible (40%). Kids who are considered to be “easy going” have the most stable moods and a positive outlook on life. They are fairly flexible with changes to their routine and are not disturbed by new experiences. Their routines are fairly predictable.
  • Active or Difficult (10%). Active or difficult kids are often considered to be “moody.” Their routines are less predictable. They dislike changes to their routine and may be fearful of meeting new people. They tend to be very sensitive to stimulation, such as loud noises or certain textures. They also exhibit dramatic reactions to things that they dislike.
  • Slow to Warm (15%). Slow-to-warm kids are less active, can be 'fussy,' and are more fearful of new people and situations. With gradual exposure, they can warm up to new things if they are given ample time to observe and learn before participating.

Finding a Good Fit With Discipline

It’s important to match your discipline strategy to your child’s temperament. For example, praise can be effective with a slow-to-warm child because it can motivate them to try new activities.

A child who is slow to warm may also respond well to a reward system that provides further motivation and encouragement.

Active or difficult children might respond best to ignoring, time out, or loss of a privilege. A token economy system can also be a good discipline tool, as it encourages good behavior while maintaining a difficult child’s attention.

Easy or flexible kids do well with a variety of discipline strategies. A combination of positive and negative consequences can be effective behavior management tools.

Before you decide how to discipline your child, consider their unique needs. Then, strive to match your interventions to their individual temperament.

Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.

Disciplining a preschooler requires a combination of art and science. It also requires some serious agility. What worked last week may no longer be effective.

Patience and consistency can be key to addressing behavior problems for your three-, four-, or five-year-old. At the same time, you might need to use a little trial and error at times to see what discipline strategies work best for your family.

How to discipline a child according to age

Typical Preschooler Behavior

A preschooler’s budding development means your child will want to be independent. This quest for autonomy can present new parenting challenges in terms of behavior and discipline needs. And your child might enjoy experimenting with new behaviors just to see how you'll respond.

The transition into preschool may cause your child to experience separation anxiety.   Or, they may have fears about interacting with other children and teachers.

Children ​at this age may also be experimenting with pushing boundaries and limits and may show defiance. They may feel frustrated about not being able to do what they want to do because their motor skills are not as refined yet. These frustrations and anxieties can often lead to behavior problems such as defiance, back talk, dawdling, and more.

Preschoolers have a basic understanding of right from wrong. They can follow simple rules and often aim to please adults. However, they don’t understand adult logic, so they sometimes struggle to make healthy choices.

Although they should be developing improved impulse control, your child will still need a lot of work in this area. They might yell, say mean things or exhibit outbursts. They often test rules and limits but should start developing a better understanding of the direct consequences of their behavior.

Can follow simple rules

Developing impulse control

Reverting to baby talk

Common Challenges

Lying is a common challenge in preschoolers.   Sometimes, their stories are an attempt to get out of trouble and at other times, they’re simply using their imaginations to tell far-fetched stories.

Whining is another common issue during the preschool years.   Preschoolers often think if you say no the first time, begging and whining will force you to change your mind. But note, if they’re successful at annoying you into submission once, they’ll be convinced they can do it again.

In many homes, baby talk is near the top of the list of annoying preschool behaviors. But reverting to baby talk can be a normal part of preschool development. Sometimes, preschoolers use it to gain attention. Other times, they regress due to stress or anxiety. For example, a child may begin to use baby talk right before they enter kindergarten because they are nervous about the transition.

Although preschoolers often want to be helpful, they also like to assert their independence. It’s common for them to say, “No!” when you tell them to do something just to see how you'll react.

Most preschoolers have gained a little mastery over temper tantrums but still haven’t gained enough impulse control to prevent the occasional aggressive behavior. Hitting, kicking, and biting may still be a problem.

Discipline Strategies That Work

An effective discipline should include negative consequences that deter misbehavior from being repeated and positive consequences that motivate your child to keep up the good work.   While your plan should be tailored to your child’s temperament, the following discipline strategies are usually most effective for preschoolers.

Praise Good Behavior

Provide lots of praise and encouragement to promote good behavior. Just make sure your praise is genuine. Rather than saying, “You’re the best kid in the whole world,” say, “Thank you for putting your dish in the sink when I asked you to.”

Place Your Child in Time-Out or Calming Corner

Use an automatic time-out for major rule violations, like aggression, or for those times when your child doesn’t listen to a directive. You might say, “It’s okay to be disappointed, but it’s not okay to hit. It’s time to go to the calm-down corner and practice our belly breathing.”

Remove Privileges

If your preschooler refuses to go to time-out or the offense isn’t worthy of a few minutes away from the action, try removing a privilege connected to the behavior. Communicate to your child: "Since you threw the toy at your friend, the toy is in time-out for ten minutes."

Create a Reward System

If your child is struggling with a specific behavior, like staying in their own bed all night, create a sticker chart. Then, tell them once they earn a certain amount of stickers (like three or five), they can get a bigger reward, like picking a special movie to watch. Reward systems can slowly be phased out after your child has learned the skills they need to meet their goals.

Keep in mind that it is important to determine the reason underlying the behavior. Why is your child having trouble staying in their bed at night? Discuss this calmly and directly, with lots of empathy. Once you determine the reason for the behavior, you can problem-solve together.

Preventing Future Problems

When it comes to disciplining a preschooler, prevention can be the best strategy. Stay one step ahead by being mindful of situations that are likely to be difficult for your child.

Most preschoolers struggle to manage their behavior when they’re hungry, overtired, or overwhelmed. So pack snacks, allow for plenty of rest, and plan outings for when your child is likely to be at their best. Establish a daily routine so your child knows what is expected of them throughout the day. Preschoolers do best when they have plenty of structure.  

Create clear rules and limits as well. Explain your expectations before entering new situations (such as how to behave in the library), and warn your child about the consequences of breaking the rules.

Many of the behavior problems preschoolers exhibit result from their struggles managing their emotions—especially anger. Teach your preschooler simple anger management skills. For example, blow bubbles with your child as a way to teach them to take deep, calming breaths and teach them to use “bubble breaths” when they feel mad.

Establish house rules about aggressive behavior. Teach your child that it is okay to feel angry but not okay to hurt anyone or destroy property.

Communication Tips

While your preschooler has a better understanding of language skills, it’s important to keep your communication brief and effective.   Skip the lengthy lectures and establish good communication habits with your child now. Here are several effective ways to communicate with your preschooler:

How to best discipline children can be a difficult task to learn, but it is crucially important. Some claim that physical discipline (corporal punishment) such as spanking is the only method the Bible supports. Others insist that “time-outs” and other punishments that do not involve physical discipline are far more effective. What does the Bible say? The Bible teaches that physical discipline is appropriate, beneficial, and necessary.

Do not misunderstand—we are by no means advocating child abuse. A child should never be disciplined physically to the extent that it causes actual physical damage. According to the Bible, though, the appropriate and restrained physical discipline of children is a good thing and contributes to the well-being and correct upbringing of the child.

Many Scriptures do in fact promote physical discipline. “don’t fail to correct your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death” (Proverbs 23:13-14; see also 13:24; 22:15; 20:30). The Bible strongly stresses the importance of discipline; it is something we must all have in order to be productive people, and it is much more easily learned when we are young. Children who are not disciplined often grow up rebellious, have no respect for authority, and as a result find it difficult to willingly obey and follow God. God Himself uses discipline to correct us and lead us down the right path and to encourage repentance for our wrong actions (Psalm 94:12; Proverbs 1:7; 6:23; 12:1; 13:1; 15:5; Isaiah 38:16; Hebrews 12:9).

In order to apply discipline correctly and according to biblical principles, parents must be familiar with the scriptural advice regarding discipline. The book of Proverbs contains plentiful wisdom regarding the rearing of children, such as, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). This verse outlines the consequences of not disciplining a child—the parents are disgraced. Of course, discipline must have as its goal the good of the child and must never be used to justify the abuse and mistreatment of children. Never should it be used to vent anger or frustration.

Discipline is used to correct and train people to go in the right way. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). God’s discipline is loving, as should it be between parent and child. Physical discipline should never be used to cause lasting physical harm or pain. Physical punishment should always be followed immediately by comforting the child with assurance that he/she is loved. These moments are the perfect time to teach a child that God disciplines us because He loves us and that, as parents, we do the same for our children.

Can other forms of discipline, such as “time-outs,” be used instead of physical discipline? Some parents find that their children do not respond well to physical discipline. Some parents find that “time-outs,” grounding, and/or taking something away from the children is more effective in encouraging behavioral change. If that is indeed the case, by all means, a parent should employ the methods that best produce the needed behavioral change. While the Bible undeniably advocates physical discipline, the Bible is more concerned with the goal of building godly character than it is in the precise method used to produce that goal.

Making this issue even more difficult is the fact that governments are beginning to classify all manner of physical discipline as child abuse. Many parents do not spank their children for fear of being reported to the government and risk having their children taken away. What should parents do if a government has made physical discipline of children illegal? According to Romans 13:1-7, parents should submit to the government. A government should never contradict God’s Word, and physical discipline is, biblically speaking, in the best interest of children. However, keeping children in families in which they will at least receive some discipline is far better than losing children to the “care” of the government.

In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are told not to exasperate their children. Instead, they are to bring them up in God’s ways. Raising a child in the “training and instruction of the Lord” includes restrained, corrective, and, yes, loving physical discipline.

Freedom and Discipline: Two Sides of the Same Coin

How to discipline a child according to age

The misconception that Montessori children are always allowed to do “whatever they want” is a common one. In truth, discipline is an integral part of every Montessori classroom, with the ultimate goal being to teach children to regulate themselves. It is important to understand that self-discipline is not a skill that is learned overnight; rather it is the result of many years of development.

“Let us always remember that inner discipline is something to come, not something already present. Our task is to show the way to discipline.”

Freedom and Discipline: Two Sides of the Same Coin

In the Montessori classroom, children are, in fact, given the freedom to choose the activity that interests them at that particular moment. This is to maximize the child’s learning experience through tapping in to his/her sensitive periods. (For more information about sensitive periods, please click here.) However, the children are choosing activities from a carefully prepared environment. This is key! Without the carefully prepared environment, we cannot provide true freedom of choice for the child. Through careful observation of the child, teachers (and parents) can provide the right activities for the child’s development. The child is drawn to these appropriate activities which lead to spontaneous activity. Spontaneous activity leads to concentration, which then leads to what Maria Montessori called “normalization.”

“The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality.”

What is Normalization?

In the right environment, children will engage in lessons of their own choosing.

How to discipline a child according to age

Given the right environment and the freedom to choose their own tasks and pace, even the most exuberant children can become calm and amazingly focused. This transformation is called normalization, and it is a central principle of the the Montessori method. The idea is to help children find their inner calm, focused, and eager-to-learn nature, which Montessori teaches us is inherent in all children. As Maria Montessori discovered, all children have an innate hunger for learning and will work diligently at tasks that meet their specific needs and are appropriate for their particular level of development. It is the child whose needs are not being met who becomes temperamental, restless, and “naughty.”

It isn't always easy to know how to meet each individual child's needs. This is where a carefully prepared environment and freedom of choice work together to set the child up for success. In the right environment, children will engage in lessons of their own choosing. They will naturally find their inner teacher and tap into their innate desire to learn. Parents and teachers can help guide children toward tasks that foster skills such as concentration and self-discipline.

“It is a question of rapid, and at times, almost instantaneous change that comes from the same source. I would not be able to site a single example of a conversion (normalization) taking place without an interesting task that concentrates the child’s activities….”

Dr. Maria Montessori

What is Self-Regulation and Why is it Important?

According to Age of Montessori’s Professional Development Webinar entitled Freedom and Discipline, Self-regulation is “a vital competency that is at the core of all success in learning and life. It is the ability to identify and modulate emotions, control impulses, delay gratification, make thoughtful, and consciences choices, and set goals and achieve them.”

Self-regulation is not an arriving point in children’s development, but a journey. It is one of the most vital skills for children to master in order to be successful in learning and in life. (This blog is continued here. )

For an in-depth study and discussion of these key concepts, sign up to watch Freedom and Discipline, a Professional Development Webinar presented by Age of Montessori. For more information about this and other Age of Montessori webinars, click here or anywhere on the image below.

Discipline is helping your child learn how to behave – as well as how not to behave. It works best when you have a warm and loving relationship with your child.

Discipline doesn’t mean punishment. In fact, discipline and discipline strategies are positive. They’re built on talking and listening, and they guide children towards:

  • knowing what behaviour is appropriate, whether it’s at home, a friend’s house, child care, preschool or school
  • managing their own behaviour and developing important skills like the ability to get along well with others
  • learning to understand, manage and express their feelings.

Choosing an approach to discipline

Choosing an approach to discipline is about finding the right balance.

Not enough discipline can leave children feeling insecure and parents feeling out of control. Too much negative discipline, and not enough praise and rewards, might get children behaving well, but out of fear. This can lead to problems with children’s self-esteem and anxiety later in life.

Discipline works best when it’s firm but fair. This means you set limits and consequences for your child’s behaviour, while also encouraging good behaviour with praise, rewards and other strategies.

Your approach to discipline will also depend on things like your parenting style, your child’s stage of development and your child’s temperament.

Physical punishment – for example, smacking – doesn’t teach children how to behave. When parents use physical punishment, children are more likely to have challenging behaviour, anxiety or depression. There’s also a risk that smacking might hurt your child.

Discipline at different ages

The ways that you use discipline will change depending on what’s happening for your child at different stages of development.

Babies do things to test their developing skills. They also enjoy making things happen. For example, your baby probably likes getting a reaction when he pulls your hair.

But babies don’t understand consequences. They also don’t know the difference between right and wrong.

This means that negative consequences, or punishment, don’t work for babies.

Instead, babies need warm, loving care so they feel secure. So when your baby pulls your hair, you might say ‘no’ and show him how to touch your hair gently. You’ll probably need to do this over and over again because your baby might not remember from one time to the next.

Our Baby Cues video guide helps you to work out what your baby is trying to tell you through her behaviour and body language.

Toddlers often struggle with big feelings like frustration and anger. Their social and emotional skills are only just starting to develop, and they might be testing out their growing independence.

You can help your child behave well by tuning in to his feelings, changing the environment, distracting him and planning ahead for challenging situations. Our tips and tools for toddler behaviour management explain these and other discipline strategies.

From the age of three years, most preschoolers start to understand what’s acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. They’ll test out different behaviours, and they might behave in certain ways more than once as they learn about consequences. You can help your preschooler by setting boundaries and being clear about the behaviour you want to see.

Our tips and tools for preschooler behaviour management have information on tailoring discipline strategies to your child’s behaviour.

School-age children
School-age children might know how to behave in different places – for example, school, home or the library. But they still need you to remind them of the limits and reward them for good behaviour.

Our tips and tools for school-age behaviour management take you through ways to use discipline with your child.

In Australia, most teachers have positive strategies for managing challenging behaviour in the classroom and playground. If you’re worried about your child’s behaviour, talking with your child’s teacher is a great first step.

Four steps towards discipline and better child behaviour

Clear expectations for your child’s behaviour are the foundation of discipline for your child. Here’s how to get started.

1. Decide on family rules
A good place to start is with 4-5 family rules. For example, your family rules might be things like:

  • We speak nicely to each other.
  • We look after other people.
  • Everyone helps out around the house.
  • We look after our own belongings.

Children as young as three can help you make the rules and talk about why your family needs them.

2. Be a role model for the behaviour you expect
Children learn by watching what you do. Showing your child the behaviour you like by doing it yourself will help your child learn. For example, if you want your child to sit down to eat, sitting down together to eat family meals can help children learn this behaviour.

3. Praise your child for good behaviour
Praise is when you tell your child what you like about her or her behaviour. When your child gets praise for behaving well, she’s likely to want to keep behaving well.

Descriptive praise is when you tell your child exactly what it is that you like. It’s best for encouraging good behaviour. For example, ‘Ali, I really like how you used please and thank you just then. Great manners!’

4. Set clear limits and consequences
Decide on a consequence for breaking a family rule. For example, if your eight-year-old hasn’t done his household chores, the consequence might be the loss of pocket money for the week.

When you use consequences in the same way and for the same behaviour every time, your child knows what to expect.