How to Discipline a 2 Year Old Child

Written by Melanie

April 13, 2020

One of your roles as a parent is to ensure that your child is well behaved, and to do this you have to cultivate acceptable behavior from the word go. Discipline involves setting rules to stop your child from engaging in aggressive, dangerous, and inappropriate behavior. This isn’t an easy task and its difficulty level is increased if you’re having trouble with your 2-year old. It also makes it worse if you don’t have the right approach when it comes to putting your foot down. This article highlights a few tips you can use to ensure there is peace in your house.

Temper tantrums

Tantrums are very common among toddlers, that’s why this age is commonly referred to as the ‘terrible twos’. Some of us are no strangers to walking out of the store with a wailing child in hand. Tantrums involve the extreme expression of anger and frustration by your little one. When your child throws one of these fits, they might start crying, screaming, kicking, falling, and flailing about. 

There are a few things that might drive your little angel to a tantrum.

  • At this age, your child’s social and emotional skills have just started to develop. Tantrums are a way of your child expressing new overwhelming feelings like worry, fear, shame, and anger.
  • Children tend to throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want. This is one common reason 
  • Stress, hunger, and tiredness can also make it harder for children to express their feelings.
  • Sometimes interacting with siblings and other children can cause tantrums.
  • Your child can also throw tantrums as a way of testing out their growing independence, which gives you another reason to effectively assert authority.

The next section looks at some ways through which you can prevent and control these fits.

Effective ways to discipline your toddler

Consistency is key

As a parent, being consistent in disciplining your child will go a long way. Always follow up on any rules you set for your child. If your reaction to a situation keeps changing, these mixed signals will confuse your child. It might take some time for your child to stop certain misbehavior, but if you respond in the same way each time, they’ll learn the lesson after a couple of warnings. 

Maintaining a routine is also a way of creating consistency. Children feel safer and more secure when they are in a predictable environment. This also helps the child be more behaved since they know what to expect. 

Think like a toddler

As you discipline your child, you have to understand that a toddler is not a mini-adult and that they have trouble understanding things that come easy to you. Your toddler also considers activities like drawing on the walls to be fun, although they’re not for you. Looking at things from your child’s perspective can help to prevent tantrums. This will also make it easier for you to validate your child’s feelings and respect them while implementing rules.

Don’t show emotion

It is really easy for you to lose your cool when your child makes a mess. It is important to remember to keep your cool when disciplining your child. If you feel yourself getting angry, take a breath and a step back. Keep in mind that your child wasn’t trying to annoy you. Approaching situations calmly will make for safe and effective disciplining.


If your child doesn’t take to reprimanding, you should consider putting them on a timeout, one of the foundations of child discipline. A timeout aims to give the child a place to rest and regroup, and you can also use this time to plan your next move.

Choose a boring spot for this, like a kitchen chair, the bottom stair, or the hallway floor. Don’t opt for places like their cot or bedroom. The child considers them to be safe spaces, and this might change if the room is used for punishment.

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Experts suggest keeping your child in timeout for a minute a year- so your 2-year old gets 2 minutes of timeout. Although it sounds short, 2 minutes can be long for a toddler. The time can be shorter if you see the child has calmed down.

After a timeout, praise your child for staying and for any good behavior. You should also have a little chat to make sure they understand why they were put there and follow up on the rules. You can ask questions like “can you tell me why you had to go to timeout?”

Ignore them

This sounds like a harsh way to deal with your child, doesn’t it? However, not engaging your child’s tantrum is an effective response to it. Trying other discipline measures or talking them out of it might not be useful now. The best thing you can do is ensure that the child isn’t in harm’s way and wait out the tantrum.

This method can come in handy, especially if your child has realized that the easiest way to get your attention is through tantrums. Once your little one is calm, you might want to tell them, firmly but calmly, that a tantrum is not the way to get your attention. 

Prevent future problems

Your child is at an age where they want to touch and play with everything new. You should put in some effort to ensure the environment is safe for both your child and your things. Secure all furniture to the wall, use outlet covers, child-proof sharp corners and keep fragile objects away. This way, there are fewer things for your child to get injured over or break.

Offer options

As the parent, you have all the control. However, it won’t cause anybody any harm if you give some of that control to your little one. You can do this by offering them alternatives. Ensure the choices are limited, specific and acceptable. Rather than imposing, asking questions like “Which toys do you want to pick up first, your dolls or your blocks?”. You can also ask questions like “do you want to eat the banana or the apple?”. Giving your child a say reduces the conflict, and also builds upon their decision-making skills.

Provide distraction

Toddlers have a really short attention span. You can use this to your advantage when your little one is being naughty. Your child might not like it if you reprimand their ‘fun’ activity, but it is pretty easy to redirect your child’s energy from a potentially dangerous game. You can introduce a more productive activity like putting away toys, or remove them from their current space. Make the alternate activity sound a lot more fun while reminding them why the alternative is important.

Reward good behavior

Anytime you see your toddler at their best behavior, be sure to praise them. If you keep congratulating good behavior, your child will feel motivated to keep it up. You can also give rewards like a new toy once in a while. This encourages your child to repeat good behaviors like playing quietly, sharing toys, and picking up toys.

Give them what they want

Sometimes, the reason for the tantrum is not worth fighting about. Some things like riding in a car seat, brushing teeth and eating are a must, and you have to set this straight. It is okay for your child to want the same storybook over and over, or wear a certain outfit. You can proceed to gradually change their perspective – like choosing a different book to read.

You can also lend a helping hand to your child. The cause of the tantrum could be because they’re having a hard time reaching something, or opening a container. However, if the item is out of bounds, you should gently explain why the can’t get it and offer a substitute.

This teaches your child to ask for help when they’re in need. 


When your child acts up, pay attention to the reason and repeat his concerns. Your child will feel better when he knows you’ve heard him. If your son is screaming because you won’t let him draw on the walls in crayon, tell him something like, “It seems you are angry because I won’t let you use your crayons on the walls. I’m sorry, but drawing on the walls makes it hard to clean.” Although this won’t make the problem disappear, your child is likely to be less angry.

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Choose your words

When talking to your child about a mistake, it would be helpful to use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. You can say “I like it when you pick up your toys” instead of using “you never pick up your toys”.

You can also focus more on positive phrases than negative ones. Using don’ts make your child want to argue. For example, using “ If you put your books away, they won’t get spoilt” is less likely to cause conflict than “ don’t leave your books on the floor”.

Keep it simple

As you discipline your child, you want to explain to them what they did wrong, why it was wrong and the consequences of their behavior. As you do this, keep in mind that you are talking to a toddler and that they have a short attention span. Also remember that their language skills are still in development.

While talking to your 2-year old, use short sentences, and repeat them a couple of times. Put in facial expressions and vocal inflections to get the message through.

Teach empathy

The reasons why not to hit, bite and grab other kids’ toys might not come naturally to a toddler. Explain to him how this makes other people feel. “When you hit other people, you hurt them”; “Snatching other children’s toys makes them sad because they still want to play with them”. Help your child to see how his behavior directly affects those around him. This approach also teaches your child to think about the consequences of his actions.

Let them learn from natural consequences

You can allow behavior that will provide natural consequences. Employ this method only when there is no risk of harming the child or anyone else. For example, if your child keeps throwing their cup of milk, you can let them do it and remind them of the natural consequences- in this case, it would be the milk spilling. When this happens, the child will ask for their milk back. At this point, you should explain the natural consequence until the child understands. 

Calmly stand your ground and ignore the child’s tantrums until they establish the action and reaction of throwing their milk cup. Anytime you are in the same situation, remind your child about the natural consequence. It might take a few tries, but your toddler will get the hang of it.

As you discipline your child, stay away from harsh methods like spanking and hitting the child. At this tender age, your child may not be able to link physical punishment to their behavior. Physical punishment hurts your child and may reinforce negative behavior. Spanking your child teaches them that it is okay to resort to physical punishment when you are angry, and this might make it harder to discipline them when they do the same.

Finally, remember that tantrums are normal, and your child might just be having trouble expressing their feelings. Keep calm and address the problem with compassion. If you feel like your child’s temper tantrums are too hard for you to handle, you should talk to your child doctor and they might shed some new light on the situation.

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