How to Discipline a Two-Year-Old

How to Discipline a Two-Year-Old

I've reached that point in motherhood where I have a constant throbbing pain behind my right eye and a can of something caffeinated in my hand constantly. I try my best not to lose it, while practicing my breathing techniques, when my son does something else ridiculous that I feel I have no control over.

If you couldn't tell by my overly worded and annoying intro, the terrible twos have absolutely knocked our door down and moved in. So the real question is what on earth are you supposed to do to keep this from happening? What can our young toddlers understand?

For all their adorable qualities, our little tots are full of independence and strong opinions on just about everything. With that new found independence comes a limited self-control, which is manifested in those sweet little things we like to call tantrums. For my little love, it's laying on the floor (yes any floor, anywhere) throwing a tantrum over not getting a fourth bag of fruit snacks. Their little minds have a hard time processing their emotions and combined with a limited vocabulary, they run into a lot of frustration during the day. But also frustrating for mamas everywhere is the short attention span that comes with our tots wanting to explore everything! All of this developmental magic adds up to one heck of a parenting challenge.

 Here's a short list of ideas for helping toddlers work through their terrible twos, so that we can all have a few more smiles and a few less meltdowns:

Be Consistent

Our tots soak up everything! So make sure that when you're trying to break a bad behavior, or let your little one know that something isn't allowed, you need to be consistent. Our kids will respond so much better if they know what to expect from us when they behave certain ways. And that doesn't just mean when they behave poorly. If our little toddlers know we'll respond positively when they're being sweet and appropriate, they will seek out that type of attention.

Short and Sweet

Toddlers definitely understand more than we give them credit for. Because of this, we need to make sure we keep our reprimands short and in terms our little ones can understand. If we want to make sure they aren't playing with the controls on the stove, their attention spans are not going to hold on to more than a few words. So make sure you get your point across so your toddler understands when things aren't safe or appropriate. Words like, "no, don't, stop" work great for the immediate issue, but you should follow up with something like, "not safe," so they understand why they're getting in trouble. 

Avoid the Fights

When our kids are young, we have a lot of control over the types of situations they are put in. So do your best to make sure you're not putting them into situations where their lack of control and short attentions are going to be put into overdrive. If you know your little one has a hard time staying in the same place for too long (shocker), make sure they've got a little bit of space to at least walk around and blow off that steam. Also, make sure to pack yourself full of activities and toys that will work to swap out each time they run out of attention.

Be Understanding

Just like us, our kids need to know that their feelings are being validated. When my son has a hard time understanding why I won't let him take things out of the trash as a fun afternoon activity, it's important to let him know that you understand why he's so sad. It can be as easy as saying something like, "I know that this makes you sad," or "Mama knows that it's hard when you can't do what you want," before dragging him away from the trash can. This will let him know that I care about his feelings, helping him later when he can process and understand how to control his feelings. 


Aw yes, one of the most popular discipling techniques. But it's popular for a reason. One of the best ways to keep our cool as mamas, and to make sure our tots don't continually seek out the attention we give them when they act up is to ignore the tantrums. Take some deep breaths, let your little one cry it out for a minute, and let them know that when they calm down you can try playing with something different. Another thing that works in our home when my son is about to meltdown is asking if he needs a hug. Whatever the reason, it brings him right over (most times) and he gets a tight squeeze before we move on to something else. Do your best, and pick your battles with your little tots.

Being a mama of a two-year-old is definitely packed full of fun, but our days can be long when our little ones can't express themselves. We're all doing our best to make sure our kids are happy and healthy, and disciplining and teaching comes with the territory, so keep your cool and take control mama.

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