Disciplining Your Toddler

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 08, 2024
2 min read

Whoever coined the phrase "terrible twos" obviously never met a really ornery 17-month-old. Temper tantrums can erupt months before your child's 2nd birthday, and they can be quite a spectacle.

Tantrums can be stressful for both you and your child. They also can be embarrassing, especially if your child picks a public place for their fit.

At this age, meltdowns help your child express the anger and frustration they can't put into words. They can also signal that they are craving your attention.

It's never too early to start disciplining. Adapt your strategy to your child's age -- and at this age, discipline mostly means distracting the child and redirecting them to something else.

Be patient and consistent with this.

Your Toddler's Development This Month

Your toddler has discovered that they're a one-of-a-kind little person. When they look in the mirror, they know it's their face smiling back at them. They know their name, too.

Right now, your child's entire world revolves around the most important person in it -- Them!

  • They have no idea that everyone doesn't think exactly like them.
  • They have no interest in sharing -- especially their favorite toys.
  • Instead of playing with other kids, they'll play next to them but stay wrapped up in their own game.
  • They can sometimes be too rough with other kids because they don't understand that it hurts when they hit them.
  • To tame toddler tantrums, be firm -- and consistent. Tell them, "No," and then steer them to another room or activity. It's a good idea to communicate before a transition or a change in their routine.
  • Although difficult, try not to lose your temper. Take a few deep breaths and get control of your own emotions before you try to control your child.
  • Toddlers love to "help" out around the house. Let your child stir the batter for pancakes or set the table with paper plates.
  • Encourage your toddler to share, but also let them have a few toys that are off-limits to everyone else.
  • Read to your child daily. As you read, let your child recite along with you the phrases they know or follow the words on the page with their finger.
  • Get your child in the habit of washing their hands with warm -- but not hot -- water and soap before eating and after wiping their nose or playing outside.
  • Taking your toddler on their first airplane trip? Put a little liquid in a sippy cup for them to suck on to ease the pressure in their ears. Follow rules about limits on carrying liquids through airport security.