What are appropriate punishments for toddlers and preschoolers?

Real Mom Problem

“What are some age appropriate discipline ideas my 20 month old will understand? I don't know anything besides spanking and time out. Time out has never worked!”

by Sexeegyrl Sexeegyrl

Quick Tips

  • 1. Punishment should be used to stop dangerous actions and enforce positive behavior
  • 2. Choose the discipline style that works best for your family
  • 3. Whatever you decide, be patient and consistent with your discipline

Real Mom Solutions

Some days it feels like toddlers were born to test our patience (it's a good thing they're so darn cute). Thankfully, the moms of CafeMom have been through it all and have shared helpful strategies for dealing with trying toddlers.

Successful Time Out Strategies

  • sky375

    We have rules. Set rules. When and if she disobeys them she gets a verbal warning. The next time it's time out. She knows that she can not get up till she is done crying. Then she has to say why she was in time out and we discuss what other things she can do instead of whatever she did to get in time out.

  • Mommy2Madelynn

    We do time out for one minute per year of age. We give her one warning before hand and once she is placed in time out, we explain why she is there and that she is to sit there for 2 minutes. We ignore her completely during this time (I think that's what gets her the most). If you react to her in any way, she's getting the attention that she wants. Negative attention is still attention. Don't give it to her. If she moves from her spot, we--without speaking to her-- move her right back. When her time is up, we explain again why she was put there and why what she did wasn't acceptable. She apologizes, gets a hug and a kiss,and she's off

  • SarahSue87

    For us it goes case by case. I give a warning, and if she doesn't obey, she either has to sit on the stairs (her time out spot) or I will talk to her. It depends on how she reacts. If she is just beyond herself crying, to the stairs it is until she calms down. I tell her what she did wrong, and sit her down. Sometimes she just needs the time to collect herself, others she just needs to be reminded that she needs to listen to and obey adults. When we are out of the house, I will normally look her in the eye and tell her if you do not behave yourself, you are going to sit on the stairs when we get home. That normally works.

Use Logical Consequences

  • MommaGreenhalge

    I'm big into personal responsibility, so it's more of you make a mess, you clean it up. My son threw a huge and very distracting temper tantrum at my in-laws' church one time. I made him apologize to the pastor after service. I also took him out and made him sit until he calmed down, of course.

  • Karen_S

    I occasionally do time outs, but more often I do "logical consequences" and "earned privileges." So if she's misbehaving at the park, after a warning we leave the park if she won't play better. If she won't clean up her toys, then those toys get put away and she can't play with them for a day. If she's a helper in the morning and does everything I ask (brush teeth, get clothes on, etc.) then she gets to use my iPod on the drive to school. Mostly it works, but there are times, for things like biting or hitting, when I use an immediate time out.

Redirection Works Well with Toddlers

  • Angela_Barlow

    I don't punish my toddler. We use redirection. If she's doing something "mean", we use baby dolls to show appropriate, nice touches.

  • TruthSeeker.

    At 20 months the cognitive learning is still forming in the brain. Stick with redirections or time outs and be patient. He will learn. He's still just a bit young to "get it."

Teach -- Don't Punish

  • mypbandj

    I don't believe in "punishing" toddlers. They are in a phase of development where they are exploring, playing with cause and effect and certainly don't see how their actions affect others. Discipline is "teaching." Your toddler acts this way because she is getting a lot of attention for it - it's a game of cause and effect. Even if you are mad at her, spanking, yelling, doing time out, that is all attention. Prevention, redirection & distraction are key. She's going to "misbehave" more if she's tired, sick or hungry so instead of trying to punish her at those times, take care of her needs. If she hits or bites you, get up and remove yourself. Don't let her bite you. And don't give her an audience. She will learn that hitting/biting = no fun because everyone stops playing. If you try to punish her, at this age, it's just a game.

  • daughteroftruth

    We don't "punish", we "discipline", meaning that we are training our children how to control their actions and make wise decisions. In our home that can take many forms. With toddlers it is usually a lot of redirection. But with acts of direct disobedience, disrespect, and danger, we do spank. With disobedience, they are always given a warning, then they get one firm spank on their behind. If what they are doing is just out of curiosity, then do what you can to satisfy that curiosity while guiding them to the correct action. No matter what your discipline style, consistency is the key. Nothing works if there isn't consistency. And sometimes you have to find what does work right for your family. Sometimes writing a discipline mission statement can help you decide what discipline style will work for your family. What are your your goals? What characteristics do you wish to instill in your children? This isn't the same for everyone. So find what is right for you.

Spanking: Yea or Nay?

  • Mamalinzie

    How would you feel if you were overwhelmed by emotions and somebody spanked you for trying to work them out? How would you feel if you were punished for crying? That would make me feel like I am bad and wrong for having such strong emotions, and I would be less inclined to share those emotions as I got older, holding them in.

  • suziq1982

    We believe in spanking. I grew up with spankings and we respected our parents, and never got into any trouble. We are a close knit, loving family. I expect to raise my family as closely as I was raised.