How to Discipline a Toddler

Learn how to discipline toddler using redirection, time out for kids and other logical consequences. It may seem too early to start disciplining a child when they are only 6 – 18 months old, but in my experience it is never too early to teach children what they should and shouldn’t do. To be honest, I realize now that if I had done more of the techniques outlined below, I may not have had as many behavioral challenges in my older son when he was in the terrible twos or three years old.

Discipline for toddlers can sometimes be confused with some type of harsh consequence as a method of behavior modification, but this is not necessarily true. Consequences do not have to be harsh in order for them to be effective. It is important for any inappropriate or negative behavior to have a consequence that discourages it from occurring again.


The first method of how to discipline toddler and young children is often referred to as redirection. This simply means when they are doing something you don’t want them to do, you attempt to show them what they should or can do instead. You redirect them to a better alternative behavior.

For example, if they are trying to get into your cupboard, you would say, “No, no.” Then pick them up and put them in a different area with a toy. If they are pulling the dog’s hair, you would say, “No, no. Be gentle.” While taking their hand and physically prompting them to gently pet the dog. If they are throwing a toy (except a ball of course), you would say, “No, no. Let’s play with the toys.” While playing with the toy appropriately, prompting them to do the same. If redirecting fails to get the behavior to stop then you would move onto using logical consequences.

Logical Consequences

The next method of how to discipline a toddler or other young children would be doing things that discourage the behavior in a logical manner. For example, if your child is in his high chair and throws food on the floor you may say, “That is so sad, it looks like lunch is all over.” Get your child down and discontinue the meal.

If a child is throwing toys you have given them to play you may say, “That is so sad, it looks like you are done playing with that toy.”Put the toy up where they can’t use it for a period of time.” If a child won’t stop pulling the dog’s hair say, “That is so sad, it looks like you can’t play with the dog.” Then put the dog and child in separate areas.

A great book, that goes into further detail of how to discipline a toddler with this method is Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood. It provides wonderful ideas for logical consequences to start with children at birth. I only wish I had found it sooner for my older son, but since I started using from birth with my younger son, it has made such a huge difference already!

How to Discipline a Toddler Using Time Out

Finally, if redirection and logical consequences fail to work or are not possible the time out method may be used. Discipline for young children, less than one year, will be a modified version of the one outlined at the link above.

At this age, if the child is crawling or walking around and doing something inappropriate you may choose to simply put them into a play pen with toys each time redirection does not work. How long they stay there is not really important since you are giving them toys and it is not intended to be aversive at this age.

For children ages 1-2 years old, you may choose to continue doing the same or when redirection fails, simply say in a low, firm tone of voice, “No (state specific behavior), time out.” Then place them in a chair with a seatbelt (a booster seat works well) or a play pen without toys for 1-2 minutes (1 minute per year old). There is no need to further discuss the event with a child this young that won’t necessarily understand. As they develop language, you can learn how to discipline toddlers that are older using the method of time out provided at the link above.