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How to Discipline a Two 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.

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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, say “Couches are for sitting.” Then pick him up and place him on the floor in another room. Try to engaged him in something else. 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.

Image by Daniela Dimitrova from Pixabay
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

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