How to discipline a 2 year old

They don’t call them the ‘terrible twos’ for nothing. When a toddler reaches his second birthday it is not uncommon for him to start testing authority and boundaries. At this stage, you are probably wondering how to discipline a strong-willed 2-year-old.

Strong-willed children are independent and outgoing. They want to see and experience things for themselves. Often they think that they have all the answers. They are passionate and intensely focused. Unfortunately, they also appear to enjoy confrontations and arguments.

Disciplining a Strong-Willed Child

Nobody ever said that parenting was going to be easy but a strong-willed child is even more difficult. There is no doubt that you probably have your hands full. However, there are ways that you can discipline your toddler without breaking his spirit.

Avoid Being Controlling

A strong-willed tot will reject a controlling attitude. Control will automatically make his sense of independence flair up and a full-blown rebellion will ensue. Instead of trying to strong arm a situation, respectfully and calmly explain to the child your side of the situation. You will be amazed how much your 2-year-old will grasp.

Get them Sidetracked

Independent and passionate toddlers often have a one-track mind. If they become focused on something they will continue to pursue it to what seems like the ends of the Earth.

Instead of confronting them over the issue try to sidetrack them away from their focus point so eventually they will forget the problem. This is extremely helpful if you are in a store and your little one is about to have a fit over something they want. Change gears and refocus.

Offer Choices

Your tot is independent and thinks he knows everything so foster his feelings by giving him choices, according to Family Education.

Know When to Walk Away

The first time your toddler says ‘no’ you might be shocked and your natural reaction may be to immediately and angrily address the issue but remember that it is more than likely exactly the reaction your toddler is hoping to achieve with his act defiance.

He wants to shock and awe you. Instead of feeding the flames, it is better to just give your little one a disapproving look, turn around, and walk away. It will deflate your child’s sails and they will be befuddled at your lack of a heated reaction.

Never Give In

The minute you give is the minute that you lose control and your child becomes the leader. Even if he is having a full-blown fit in the middle of the supermarket and everyone is looking at you funny you must never give in to his demands.

Instead, you will need to simply pick him up and calmly walk out of the store. You can also opt to just ignore the entire display and continue shopping as if your child was not behaving like a demon spawn. Either way, do not give him what he wants. Stay strong and in control at all times.

Ask Instead of Tell

Yes, typically, parents are supposed to be in charge so asking your 2-year-old to do something might seem to contradict your natural need to demand. However, an independent toddler with a mind of his own will automatically rebel when you demand he does something.

Sometimes simply nicely asking will avoid any confrontations and encourage him to do the action you require. Giving respect means you will receive respect.

Here are some other things you can do to improve the situation:

  • Remain Consistent: Remaining consistent is a key to maintaining control over a hard-headed toddler. If you start to waver over certain rules or give in sometimes but not other times then the child will view you as weak and a pushover.
  • Be Persuasive: Telling, demanding, and screaming will get you nowhere with a strong-willed child. Instead, you must be persuasive and negotiate.
  • Timeout: When all else fails and your little one is being a completely rebellious hellion then you might just want to give him a timeout for a couple of minutes. That will give you time to reboot and him time to think about the behavior that landed him a timeout.

The Perks of Raising a Strong-Willed Child

Parenting is hard work but when it comes to a strong-willed child it might seem like an insurmountable task. The first time your 2-year-old stands up to you and says, ‘no’, can be a daunting experience, even if you are a seasoned parent.

You will need to find a balancing point when it comes to discipline and laying down the law. It is not going to be easy but you can take solace in the fact that an independent child with a mind of his own has many perks.

A strong-willed tot is a natural born leader. He will likely grow up to know exactly what he wants and have a strong focus on how to achieve his goals. His take-charge-personality is exactly what makes a leader. Many professions such as military, physicians, first responders, and business leaders all have strong-willed personalities.

What the Experts Say

Dr. James Dobson reports in his book, The New Strong-Willed Child, on an informal but sizeable survey of 35,000 parents that revealed some amazing findings. He stated: “The compliant child typically enjoys higher self-esteem than the strong-willed child. . . . Only 19 percent of compliant teenagers either disliked themselves (17 percent) or felt extreme self-hatred (2 percent). Of the very strong-willed teenagers, 35 percent disliked themselves and 8 percent experienced extreme self-hatred.”

“What sets us off, is your finger in our face as you tell us to ‘do it or else.’ If you use your authority in a way that suggests we don’t have a choice, there’s almost always going to be trouble. We usually don’t respond well when you simply issue orders to be obeyed,” states Cynthia Ulrich Tobias in her book You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded).

You should consider yourself blessed to have a strong-willed child because he will grow up to a be trailblazer. You won’t have to worry about him blindly following the masses or becoming embroiled in bad behaviors because of peer pressure.

Instead, your hard-headed tot will grow up to be a leader and an independent thinker. All you have to do is make it over the hurdle of how to discipline a strong-willed 2-year-old and you will be well on your way to guiding your child into a successful adulthood.

They don’t call them the ‘terrible twos’ for nothing. When a toddler reaches his second birthday it is not uncommon for him to start testing authority and boundaries. At this stage, you are probably wondering how to discipline a strong-willed 2-year-old.

Strong-willed children are independent and outgoing. They want to see and experience things for themselves. Often they think that they have all the answers. They are passionate and intensely focused. Unfortunately, they also appear to enjoy confrontations and arguments.

Disciplining a Strong-Willed Child

Nobody ever said that parenting was going to be easy but a strong-willed child is even more difficult. There is no doubt that you probably have your hands full. However, there are ways that you can discipline your toddler without breaking his spirit.

Avoid Being Controlling

A strong-willed tot will reject a controlling attitude. Control will automatically make his sense of independence flair up and a full-blown rebellion will ensue. Instead of trying to strong arm a situation, respectfully and calmly explain to the child your side of the situation. You will be amazed how much your 2-year-old will grasp.

Get them Sidetracked

Independent and passionate toddlers often have a one-track mind. If they become focused on something they will continue to pursue it to what seems like the ends of the Earth.

Instead of confronting them over the issue try to sidetrack them away from their focus point so eventually they will forget the problem. This is extremely helpful if you are in a store and your little one is about to have a fit over something they want. Change gears and refocus.

Offer Choices

Your tot is independent and thinks he knows everything so foster his feelings by giving him choices, according to Family Education.

Know When to Walk Away

The first time your toddler says ‘no’ you might be shocked and your natural reaction may be to immediately and angrily address the issue but remember that it is more than likely exactly the reaction your toddler is hoping to achieve with his act defiance.

He wants to shock and awe you. Instead of feeding the flames, it is better to just give your little one a disapproving look, turn around, and walk away. It will deflate your child’s sails and they will be befuddled at your lack of a heated reaction.

Never Give In

The minute you give is the minute that you lose control and your child becomes the leader. Even if he is having a full-blown fit in the middle of the supermarket and everyone is looking at you funny you must never give in to his demands.

Instead, you will need to simply pick him up and calmly walk out of the store. You can also opt to just ignore the entire display and continue shopping as if your child was not behaving like a demon spawn. Either way, do not give him what he wants. Stay strong and in control at all times.

Ask Instead of Tell

Yes, typically, parents are supposed to be in charge so asking your 2-year-old to do something might seem to contradict your natural need to demand. However, an independent toddler with a mind of his own will automatically rebel when you demand he does something.

Sometimes simply nicely asking will avoid any confrontations and encourage him to do the action you require. Giving respect means you will receive respect.

Here are some other things you can do to improve the situation:

  • Remain Consistent: Remaining consistent is a key to maintaining control over a hard-headed toddler. If you start to waver over certain rules or give in sometimes but not other times then the child will view you as weak and a pushover.
  • Be Persuasive: Telling, demanding, and screaming will get you nowhere with a strong-willed child. Instead, you must be persuasive and negotiate.
  • Timeout: When all else fails and your little one is being a completely rebellious hellion then you might just want to give him a timeout for a couple of minutes. That will give you time to reboot and him time to think about the behavior that landed him a timeout.

The Perks of Raising a Strong-Willed Child

Parenting is hard work but when it comes to a strong-willed child it might seem like an insurmountable task. The first time your 2-year-old stands up to you and says, ‘no’, can be a daunting experience, even if you are a seasoned parent.

You will need to find a balancing point when it comes to discipline and laying down the law. It is not going to be easy but you can take solace in the fact that an independent child with a mind of his own has many perks.

A strong-willed tot is a natural born leader. He will likely grow up to know exactly what he wants and have a strong focus on how to achieve his goals. His take-charge-personality is exactly what makes a leader. Many professions such as military, physicians, first responders, and business leaders all have strong-willed personalities.

What the Experts Say

Dr. James Dobson reports in his book, The New Strong-Willed Child, on an informal but sizeable survey of 35,000 parents that revealed some amazing findings. He stated: “The compliant child typically enjoys higher self-esteem than the strong-willed child. . . . Only 19 percent of compliant teenagers either disliked themselves (17 percent) or felt extreme self-hatred (2 percent). Of the very strong-willed teenagers, 35 percent disliked themselves and 8 percent experienced extreme self-hatred.”

“What sets us off, is your finger in our face as you tell us to ‘do it or else.’ If you use your authority in a way that suggests we don’t have a choice, there’s almost always going to be trouble. We usually don’t respond well when you simply issue orders to be obeyed,” states Cynthia Ulrich Tobias in her book You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded).

You should consider yourself blessed to have a strong-willed child because he will grow up to a be trailblazer. You won’t have to worry about him blindly following the masses or becoming embroiled in bad behaviors because of peer pressure.

Instead, your hard-headed tot will grow up to be a leader and an independent thinker. All you have to do is make it over the hurdle of how to discipline a strong-willed 2-year-old and you will be well on your way to guiding your child into a successful adulthood.

How to discipline a 2 year old

It’s a familiar drill. You’ve asked your child to do some task, but they flatly refuse to do it. You’ve tried all the tricks: You’ve used the “mom voice,” counted to three, and broken out all the stops, and your child still defies you. It’s enough to make any parent frustrated!

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When it’s time to get serious and discipline your child, do you know if you’re disciplining them correctly? Are you sure you’re making the right choices? Where do you draw the line?

Pediatrician Edward Gaydos, DO has some dos and don’ts for you to follow when it comes time to discipline your little one.

1. Don’t view discipline as punishment

Discipline may feel as though you’re punishing your kids. However, discipline is more of a means of actively engaging with kids to help mold their moral character — a way to teach them right from wrong. And this is a skill that is vital to functioning in society.

“With discipline, we’re teaching our children self-control and restraint,” explains Dr. Gaydos. “Punishment is a direct, pointed penalty or a loss of privilege that serves as retribution.”

While discipline is far more effective than punishment, know that it does require a little more work. Just remember that it’s a process.

2. Do find opportunities for praise

It’s important to pay attention to what your child is doing that’s good, and recognize that aloud to your child, Dr. Gaydos advises.

Make an effort to notice when your child is actively engaged in appropriate behaviors, “being good,” and compliment them accordingly. Giving positive attention to good behavior can go a long way. It can help mold your child’s behavior, but it can also build their confidence in themselves too.

“Take the time to listen fully to what your child has to say, and agree when appropriate. If you disagree, say so. Make sure you take the time to let them know why,” Dr. Gaydos says.

Parents who are available to, and show empathy toward, their children serve as excellent role models, he notes. Communication is always the key.

3. Do set limits and keep them

We all have to abide by limits in our world, and your child needs to understand those boundaries too. Take the time to let youngsters and adolescents know the appropriate behaviors you expect from them. But once you set your limit, be sure to stick to it. A good example of this is setting a curfew.

“We set these limits, then we follow through with them,” says Dr. Gaydos. “If your child falters, they should know that there will be a consistent, expected consequence. There are no surprises, no new negotiations and no retractions.”

4. Do be specific

Assuming your child should know what you want and not being clear about what you expect in advance will lead to frustrations for both you and your child. Set clear, realistic limits with your child. And be specific with goals.

“Warning children, ‘You better be good,’ is too broad and general a message,” says Dr. Gaydos. Being specific with tasks — like letting them know exactly what “good” looks like — helps them understand what’s expected of them. Good may mean not interrupting an adult who’s speaking, for example, or not running through a crowded airport.

5. You’re their parent, not their buddy

It may be tempting to treat your kids like they’re your best friend. But kids need you to lead and teach them as they grow. Disciplining your child and setting limits will instill confidence as they learn to navigate through life.

“With discipline, we’re not passive observers suddenly required to react. We’re actively involved as teachers,” says Dr. Gaydos. “It’s an ongoing process and requires work.”

But disciplining will pay dividends as you watch your youngster grow, become more confident and develop a good moral compass.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Children have the right to use their bodies to express their feelings, but they don’t have the right to hurt someone. Even if you generally let other kinds of misbehavior slide, you need to draw the line at letting your child hit you in anger.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that when your 2-year-old hurts you, it’s okay to hurt him back. If your child hits you and you spank him or discipline him by force, you’ll only teach him that aggression is an acceptable way to express his feelings or to get what he wants. Instead, take your child’s hands and say, “No hitting. I know you’re angry, but we don’t hit people. Hitting hurts.”

Some experts suggest that parents offer an angry child a harmless way to “vent” his pent-up fury, such as pummeling a special pillow. This, in my opinion, is a mistake. Anger is a feeling, and feelings don’t get “used up.” In fact, it’s clear from recent research that “harmless violence” is a contradiction in terms. A child who’s encouraged to wallop his pillow in anger is more — not less — likely to see walloping a person as an acceptable alternative.

When your child behaves aggressively, be clear with him that it’s not his anger you disapprove of, but his violent expression of it. Don’t tell him not to get angry or not to show that he’s angry. Simply acknowledge his feeling — and perhaps even sympathize with it — but then remind him that it’s much more constructive to use his words to tell you why he’s upset. This way, the two of you can try to come up with a solution to whatever’s vexing him.

What’s normal behavior for a 2-year old? How do you discipline a toddler without using timeouts? Here are 10 positive parenting tips to help you parent your 2-year-old (and your 3-year-old too!).

How to discipline a 2 year old

“Juice.” Your toddler says, banging on the refrigerator door.

“Sorry honey, we’re out of juice. How about some…”

“NOOOOOO. Want juice!” He screams as he crumples to a heap on the floor, sobbing.

Lack of juice doesn’t seem like a huge problem to you, but it obviously is the end of the world to your toddler.

Before you run to the store to buy juice or yell, “stop that crying, it’s just juice” let’s take a peek into the world of a 2-year-old.

What to expect from your 2-year-old?

Every child is different. Some children are more intense or more sensitive, some are easy-going. Some kids exceed developmental milestones by leaps and bounds, some get to them eventually.

In general, you could expect these behaviors from a toddler:

  • Tantrums.
  • Showing BIG, BIG feelings.
  • Claiming everything as “mine” (even if it’s not theirs).
  • Wanting to “do it myself.”
  • Still wanting to be babied.
  • Thinking they’re big, feeling sad/frustrated/upset when they realize they’re not
  • Difficulty sharing, waiting, taking turns, impulse control, etc.
  • Difficulty with transitions.
  • Change in eating and sleeping habits.

Positive Parenting Tips for Toddlers.

Like most things in parenting, there is no 3-step procedure to curb all of your child’s unwanted behavior. Many parents turn to “quick-fixes” like timeouts or ignoring.

Your child needs your help to regulate their big emotions, and to do that, you need a variety of strategies, tips, and tricks.

These 10 things work together to provide your child with support, encouragement, and safety during this time of growth and development:

  • Empathize: You may not care that the blue plate is dirty, but your child does. Put yourself in their shoes and let them know that you understand the challenge (even if you don’t agree). “You were really hoping for the blue plate today! I know it’s your favorite.”
  • Limit “no”: Save the word “no” for dangerous or really serious situations. Instead, use redirection, “Those are mommy’s pens, let’s find some crayons for you to use.” Or, turn a “no” into a “yes, with a condition” by saying, “You may go outside after we change your diaper!”
  • Make observations: Toddlers learn by doing. Instead of doling out consequences for these “learning activities,” talk about what happened. “Wow, all of the blocks fell out of the basket when you dumped it over!” Or, “You pulled all of the books off the shelf!” (then move on to teaching…)
  • Teach: Act as your child’s guide to better behavior by taking the time to explore and practice new ways to manage difficult situations. “You both want the ball. I’m going to roll my ball to you. Can you roll it back?” Act it out together, use their toys, tell a story, draw a picture, etc.
  • Be silly: Channel your inner-child by bringing some joy, laughter, and silliness into your day. Use a robot voice to make a request, chase them around the room walking like a gorilla, or put a pair of their pants on your head. Look for ways to turn boring or mundane things into a game.
  • Give them the words: Your child may not be able to verbalize her thoughts or feelings in a way that is rational and logical (or coherent). Model alternative ways to express her need: “Your shoe is too tight.” or “You need one more hug before mommy goes bye-bye.”
  • Set boundaries: Help your child feel safe and secure by clarifying the boundaries in their life, such as, “no running in the street,” to “you can be mad and we do not hit others.” Expect some resistance, and stay consistent and empathize with their feelings.
  • Slow down: Toddlers move at their own pace. (Sometimes this pace requires a lot of patience from you!) Look for ways to go with their natural rhythm. Instead of always forcing him to “hurry up,” plan a lot of extra time so he can look at each and every bug on the way to the car.
  • Change the environment: Use baby gates, cabinet locks, and limit access to breakable or unsafe objects. Give them access to age-appropriate things using low coat hooks or stools. And, find areas of the house or community where they can be loud, messy or energetic!
  • Encourage independence: Your child may be capable of more than you realize! Your first instinct may be to step in and do it for them, but kids learn a lot through struggle and challenge. Give them opportunities to help with tasks or try something new before you intervene.

And one more thing…

Enjoy this time!

Pretty soon your child will stop calling trains “choo-choos” and cats “meows.” They will stop asking for you to push them on the swing or help them feed their baby dolls.

Even though you can’t imagine it right now, as you stand in your juice-less kitchen with a crying toddler…but, you may actually miss these days.

Still not so sure?

Sometimes, reading a blog post can leave you feeling even more confused or overwhelmed. If the toddler phase is a little too overwhelming or if you’re struggling to understand just how these pieces actually work for your child, I offer Parent Coaching to parents worldwide. We will meet “face-to-face” and talk through these challenges, finding personalized solutions that work for you and your child. Learn more about Parent Coaching!

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About Nicole Schwarz

Welcome! I am an imperfect mom to 3 girls and a Parent Coach with a License in Family Therapy. My goal is to help you feel less angry, manage anxiety, talk to your kids with empathy, and learn to discipline without punishment. If you are frustrated, stuck or unsure how to make changes in your parenting, I provide online Parent Coaching sessions in the US and internationally.

Comments have been turned off to retain the privacy of all families. If you have a question or comment on the topic, you’re always welcome to contact me or send me an email.

Imperfect Families Mission

To authentically connect parents to themselves and their families for a healthier home.

Meet Nicole Schwarz

How to discipline a 2 year old

Founder of Imperfect Families, Imperfect mom to 3 girls and a Parent Coach with a License in Family Therapy

Getting your 3-year-old to behave can be a challenge. The trick is consistency and learning to pick your battles.

Acting authoritative — without becoming authoritarian — isn’t easy to do, especially in the heat of the moment. These techniques can help:

Pick your fights. Battle your 3-year-old over every bad behavior and you’ll be at war all day. Instead, list the top few behaviors that really bother you — because they’re dangerous, uncivil, or annoying. For those you deem forbidden — riding a tricycle in the street or leaving the house without an adult, for example — set clear, specific rules and logical consequences. Biting back, for example, is not a logical consequence for a child who bites because it simply teaches that the bigger person gets to bite. A reminder of why it’s not nice to bite and a brief time-out in a boring place make more sense. Always follow through on whatever discipline you decide on. Lack of consistency confuses kids and promotes rebellion.

For less-serious misconduct — lying, not sharing, swearing — develop an overall policy, but deal with each case as it arises. When your child is feeling tired, sick, or hungry or is facing stress (from a move or a divorce, for example), you need to be flexible.

Practice prevention. Use your knowledge of your child to head off needless blowups. If he likes to clean out the kitchen cupboards while you’re cooking breakfast every morning-and it drives you crazy-buy cabinet locks; if he can’t keep his hands off the VCR, put it far out of reach. Childproofing works wonders in reducing family feuds.

Also, plan ahead. If your child tends to be happy and energetic in the morning but is tired and grumpy after lunch, schedule trips to the store and visits to the doctor for when she’s at her best. Prepare her for any new experiences, and explain how you expect her to act. To stave off boredom, pack a bag of toys or snacks. Also prepare her for shifting activities: “In a few minutes we’ll need to pick up the toys and get ready to go home.” The better prepared a child feels, the less likely she is to make a fuss.

Stay calm. If you cannot avoid bad behavior, then face it calmly. Try to use a quiet, unruffled tone of voice and words that are neutral and positive. And keep in mind that suggestions (“Why don’t you wash your hands now so you’ll be all set to eat when supper’s on the table?”) promote far more cooperation than commands (“Go wash your hands at once!”) or criticism (“Your hands and face are really dirty!”).

It also helps to turn “you” statements into “I” messages. Instead of saying, “You’re so selfish that you won’t even share your toys with your best friend,” try “I like it better when I see kids sharing their toys.” Another good technique is to focus on do’s rather than don’ts. If you tell a 3-year-old that he can’t leave his trike in the hallway, he may want to argue. A better approach: “If you move your trike out to the porch, it won’t get kicked and scratched so much.”

Finally, make sure your tone and words do not imply that you no longer love your child. “I really can’t stand it when you act like that” sounds final; “I don’t like it when you try to pull cans from the store shelves,” however, shows your child that it’s one specific behavior — not the whole person — that you dislike.

Listen carefully. Kids feel better when they know they have been heard, so whenever possible, repeat your child’s concerns. If she’s whining in the grocery store because you won’t let her open the cookies, say something like: “It sounds like you’re mad at me because I won’t let you open the cookies until we get home. I’m sorry you feel that way, but the store won’t let us open things until they’re paid for. That’s its policy.” This won’t satisfy her urge, but it will reduce her anger and defuse the conflict.

Explain your rules. It is rarely obvious to a 3-year-old why he should stop doing something he finds fun — like biting, hitting, or grabbing toys from other children. Teach him empathy instead: “When you bite or hit people, it hurts them”; “When you grab toys away from other kids, they feel sad because they still want to play with those toys.” This helps your child see that his behavior directly affects other people and trains him to think about consequences first.

Offer choices. When a child refuses to do — or stop doing — something, the real issue is usually control: You’ve got it; she wants it. So, whenever possible, give your preschooler some control by offering a limited set of choices. Rather than commanding her to clean up her room, ask her, “Which would you like to pick up first, your books or your blocks?” Be sure the choices are limited, specific, and acceptable to you, however. “Where do you want to start?” may be overwhelming to your child, and a choice that’s not acceptable to you will only amplify the conflict.

Provide alternatives. When you want your child to stop doing something, offer alternative ways for him to express his feelings: say, hitting a pillow or banging with a toy hammer. He needs to learn that while his emotions and impulses are acceptable, certain ways of expressing them are not. Also, encourage your child to think up his own options. For instance, you could ask: “What do you think you could do to get Tiffany to share that toy with you?” Even 3-year-olds can learn to solve problems themselves. The trick is to listen to their ideas with an open mind. Don’t shoot down anything, but do talk about the consequences before a decision is made.

Use time-out. For moments when reasoning, alternatives, and calmness have no impact, use time-outs: Send your child to a dull place to sit for a brief period and pull herself together. This gives you both a chance to cool down and sends the message that negative behavior will not get your attention. The less you reward any negative behavior with attention, the less your child will use that behavior to get her way.

Admit your mistakes. Be sure you let your child know when you’ve goofed by apologizing and explaining why you acted the way you did. This will teach him that it’s okay to be imperfect.

Bestow rewards. It’s highly unlikely that your child will always do whatever you say. If that happened, you’d have to think about what might be wrong with her! Normal kids resist control, and they know when you are asking them to do something they don’t want to do. They then feel justified in resisting you. In cases in which they do behave appropriately, a prize is like a spoonful of sugar: It helps the medicine go down.

Judicious use of special treats and prizes is just one more way to show your child you’re aware and respectful of his feelings. This, more than anything, gives credibility to your discipline demands.

What’s normal behavior for a 2-year old? How do you discipline a toddler without using timeouts? Here are 10 positive parenting tips to help you parent your 2-year-old (and your 3-year-old too!).

How to discipline a 2 year old

“Juice.” Your toddler says, banging on the refrigerator door.

“Sorry honey, we’re out of juice. How about some…”

“NOOOOOO. Want juice!” He screams as he crumples to a heap on the floor, sobbing.

Lack of juice doesn’t seem like a huge problem to you, but it obviously is the end of the world to your toddler.

Before you run to the store to buy juice or yell, “stop that crying, it’s just juice” let’s take a peek into the world of a 2-year-old.

What to expect from your 2-year-old?

Every child is different. Some children are more intense or more sensitive, some are easy-going. Some kids exceed developmental milestones by leaps and bounds, some get to them eventually.

In general, you could expect these behaviors from a toddler:

  • Tantrums.
  • Showing BIG, BIG feelings.
  • Claiming everything as “mine” (even if it’s not theirs).
  • Wanting to “do it myself.”
  • Still wanting to be babied.
  • Thinking they’re big, feeling sad/frustrated/upset when they realize they’re not
  • Difficulty sharing, waiting, taking turns, impulse control, etc.
  • Difficulty with transitions.
  • Change in eating and sleeping habits.

Positive Parenting Tips for Toddlers.

Like most things in parenting, there is no 3-step procedure to curb all of your child’s unwanted behavior. Many parents turn to “quick-fixes” like timeouts or ignoring.

Your child needs your help to regulate their big emotions, and to do that, you need a variety of strategies, tips, and tricks.

These 10 things work together to provide your child with support, encouragement, and safety during this time of growth and development:

  • Empathize: You may not care that the blue plate is dirty, but your child does. Put yourself in their shoes and let them know that you understand the challenge (even if you don’t agree). “You were really hoping for the blue plate today! I know it’s your favorite.”
  • Limit “no”: Save the word “no” for dangerous or really serious situations. Instead, use redirection, “Those are mommy’s pens, let’s find some crayons for you to use.” Or, turn a “no” into a “yes, with a condition” by saying, “You may go outside after we change your diaper!”
  • Make observations: Toddlers learn by doing. Instead of doling out consequences for these “learning activities,” talk about what happened. “Wow, all of the blocks fell out of the basket when you dumped it over!” Or, “You pulled all of the books off the shelf!” (then move on to teaching…)
  • Teach: Act as your child’s guide to better behavior by taking the time to explore and practice new ways to manage difficult situations. “You both want the ball. I’m going to roll my ball to you. Can you roll it back?” Act it out together, use their toys, tell a story, draw a picture, etc.
  • Be silly: Channel your inner-child by bringing some joy, laughter, and silliness into your day. Use a robot voice to make a request, chase them around the room walking like a gorilla, or put a pair of their pants on your head. Look for ways to turn boring or mundane things into a game.
  • Give them the words: Your child may not be able to verbalize her thoughts or feelings in a way that is rational and logical (or coherent). Model alternative ways to express her need: “Your shoe is too tight.” or “You need one more hug before mommy goes bye-bye.”
  • Set boundaries: Help your child feel safe and secure by clarifying the boundaries in their life, such as, “no running in the street,” to “you can be mad and we do not hit others.” Expect some resistance, and stay consistent and empathize with their feelings.
  • Slow down: Toddlers move at their own pace. (Sometimes this pace requires a lot of patience from you!) Look for ways to go with their natural rhythm. Instead of always forcing him to “hurry up,” plan a lot of extra time so he can look at each and every bug on the way to the car.
  • Change the environment: Use baby gates, cabinet locks, and limit access to breakable or unsafe objects. Give them access to age-appropriate things using low coat hooks or stools. And, find areas of the house or community where they can be loud, messy or energetic!
  • Encourage independence: Your child may be capable of more than you realize! Your first instinct may be to step in and do it for them, but kids learn a lot through struggle and challenge. Give them opportunities to help with tasks or try something new before you intervene.

And one more thing…

Enjoy this time!

Pretty soon your child will stop calling trains “choo-choos” and cats “meows.” They will stop asking for you to push them on the swing or help them feed their baby dolls.

Even though you can’t imagine it right now, as you stand in your juice-less kitchen with a crying toddler…but, you may actually miss these days.

Still not so sure?

Sometimes, reading a blog post can leave you feeling even more confused or overwhelmed. If the toddler phase is a little too overwhelming or if you’re struggling to understand just how these pieces actually work for your child, I offer Parent Coaching to parents worldwide. We will meet “face-to-face” and talk through these challenges, finding personalized solutions that work for you and your child. Learn more about Parent Coaching!

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About Nicole Schwarz

Welcome! I am an imperfect mom to 3 girls and a Parent Coach with a License in Family Therapy. My goal is to help you feel less angry, manage anxiety, talk to your kids with empathy, and learn to discipline without punishment. If you are frustrated, stuck or unsure how to make changes in your parenting, I provide online Parent Coaching sessions in the US and internationally.

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Imperfect Families Mission

To authentically connect parents to themselves and their families for a healthier home.

Meet Nicole Schwarz

How to discipline a 2 year old

Founder of Imperfect Families, Imperfect mom to 3 girls and a Parent Coach with a License in Family Therapy

How to discipline a 2 year old

The “terrible twos” don’t have to be so terrible! Most of your work during this developmental stage will be in the form of education and re-direction. You will learn that consistency is key and that “no” doesn’t have to be the most-used word in your home.

The third year of life is marked by an increased need to explore, discover, assert independence, and experiment with cause and effect. These features (along with limited communication skills and low frustration tolerance) have lead to the infamous label: “The Terrible Twos.” Training and discipline at this stage of development are a must.

Here are some tips for disciplining your child in his third year of life:

  • Notice what is going right. Try saying “yes” more often than “no.” They learn that little two letter word fast enough – they don’t need Mom and Dad demonstrating its power multiple times a day. If you walk into the living room to find your little dear sitting on the couch correctly, say, “You are sitting on the couch just like you are supposed to!” However, if you walk into the living room and see him jumping or standing on the couch, simply walk over to where he is, pick him up and place him on the floor in another room. Remember, actions speak louder than words.
  • Point out misbehaviors on the shows he watches. Inevitably your child will encounter a TV character demonstrating less-than-desirable behaviors. Ask, “What is he doing wrong?” and “What could he do instead?” Whether your little one can answer these questions isn’t the point. You can provide the answers. By doing so, you are laying the groundwork for some invaluable skills such as discernment and critical observation. Of course, you want to monitor the quantity and quality of the programs he watches. Watching a half-hour of a parent-approved show together is one way to do just that.
  • Avoid escalation. Rational arguments with a raging two year old is not going to provide you with any desired results. Keep your child safe while speaking calm and soothing words. For more tips, read How to Manage a Temper Tantrum.
  • Have a consistent routine. You may cringe at the idea of having a rigid routine to your day, but your toddler craves this kind of predictability. As he explores his surroundings, he is bombarded with new and unfamiliar information and experiences. Keeping his routine as predictable as possible will help him navigate unfamiliar territory with greater ease. A consistent routine includes regular bedtimes, meal times, nap times, errand routes, and rituals (such as where his coat and shoes go when he enters the house). Some kids will love the use of a pictorial schedule containing the order of the events in his or her day. Display cards like these on your refrigerator so your little one knows what is coming next.
  • Keep ’em busy. A bored toddler is a destructive toddler. Make sure that you provide lots of constructive outlets for that boundless energy. Here are some great suggestions.

Using these tips will help you communicate a sense of safety and security in a year of your child’s development that is marked by exploration and experimentation. He needs to know that Mom and Dad can keep him safe. This is communicated through love manifested by structure and consistency.