Your baby has turned into a toddler, and all of a sudden may start displaying behaviours that take you by surprise!

When my daughter first whacked me out of the blue I was shook and then when she started to hit her little
friends at playdates, we were absolutely horrified and embarrassed! We wanted to know how to make her
stop and how to teach her right from wrong. 
So, we did what every desperate parent does in this situation and googled for solutions! We were met with sooo much information it was overwhelming. We read things like use time out, teach her that hitting is wrong by tapping her on the back of her hand, if she bites, bite her back, tell her teeth are not for biting (but teeth actually are for biting things!) or just ignore the behaviours. None of these suggestions sat well with us and some made no sense at all!
We questioned whether we were being too soft or too tough and we began to spiral. So today we want to take that overwhelm away for you and break down ways to teach and support your toddler in respectful ways that protect the relationship and effective ways that resolve the unwanted behaviours like;

* When they touch things they know not to touch
* When they splash all the water out the bath? * Does she need consequences for these unwanted behaviours?

Toddler Discipline 101

Here we will break down what toddlers need to learn right from wrong using 5 tried and tested strategies that can be applied to most challenging toddler behaviours.

5 tips to managing your toddlers behaviour

1. Toddlers need confident leaders who set boundaries.
Decide what you can and can’t allow and then communicate that to your toddler in a respectful, calm, and simple way. Set limits early before you reach your limit and feel more agitated. Toddlers rely on adults
for consistency and guidance. We want them to trust and rest in our decision making. Remember to consider if your expectations match their age and stage of development or else you might find yourself very frustrated. We are here to help with that.
Explain the boundary;
Example:” I can’t let you hit Ari, I am here to help you stop”

2. Be empathetic, validate and label toddlers’ emotions
Our job is to set the boundary, their job is to feel however they need to feel about it. It is not our job to keep our toddlers happy. In fact the sooner you can accept that they are allowed to feel upset (and likely will when you set boundaries) the easier this phase will be. These are opportunities for teachable moments where you can guide your toddler by using the words they might
be feeling, this will help them to learn about emotions and over time be more aware of what feelings might be driving their behaviours. They will also feel your connection when you empathise with their experience.
Example: “I wonder if you are feeling sad because we have to leave the park”

3. Toddlers learn from logical and natural consequences
Toddler brains are impulsive and lack the logic and reasoning skills to adjust their behaviours, They need our help. Any time you see them behaving in unwanted ways and even smirking at you while they do so, it is a clear sign they are stuck in impulsive mode. At times they need us to take action to remove them from this mode or allow the situation to unfold as it will without fixing it. A logical consequence is a decisive follow through, for example; “It looks like you are having a hard time using gentle hands, so we will need to move away from Sarah now”. (logical). A natural consequence is when we resist the urge to fix situations in order for them to learn cause and effect, for example, “Oh dear you splashed all the water out the bath, we will need to hop out now as there is not enough water left” (natural)

4. Redirect toddlers to replacement activities they can do
Toddlers can get stuck wanting to repeat a certain behaviour, especially if they keep being told they can’t do it. Try shifting your communication to what they CAN do. This could be in the moment, for example; ‘Looks like you feel like climbing, I can’t let you climb the dining table, it isn’t safe but you CAN climb your climbing frame.” or it may be teaching skills in order to equip them for next time they are in a situation, for example: “Next time you want the toy you can say to Ari “Can I have a turn with the car next please”. This takes time, repetition and ongoing patience and support on your part, but this is what toddlerhood is all about!

5. Toddlers need us to stay on the same team as them In order for your toddler to learn right from wrong they DO NOT need to feel bad, be isolated, have harm inflicted on them, have fingers pointed at them or voices raised. They actually need to know we have their back. They need to know that we understand their impulsive brains & big feelings and we are on their team to help support and guide them. Our unconditional love during these times might look like carrying a screaming toddler away from a park or blocking flailing hands trying to whack us in the face. It isn’t easy that is for sure and it doesn’t always look peaceful but the work pays off as they grow and develop and your relationship thrives!

We cover all the details of how toddler guidance looks and sounds across a range of scenarios with scripts to help you help your toddler (while staying sane yourself) in our Raise Toddlers Membership. You can join here.

Screen Shot 2021-05-21 at 8.56.56 am

About the author

Mandy Richardson is a qualified Early Childhood Educator and also holds a Masters in Childhood Studies. She is currently completing her PhD in Respectful Parenting Methods. She is passionate about promoting a positive parent-child relationship and a natural, slow paced, peaceful and fulfilling childhood.

Past Posts


The Regulation Station


Toddler Temperaments 101


Saying Goodbye to the Dummy

Scroll to Top