When Should You Start Disciplining?

12 to 24 Months

Around this age, your child's communication skills are blossoming, so you can start explaining basic rules -- don't pull kitty's tail -- for example. You can also begin using the word no judiciously, in serious situations. Too many could wear out the word and eventually render it completely useless.

Your child's physical skills are coming into full play, too. Your new little walker will likely be thrilled with his freshly minted independence -- and frustrated that he can't do all the things he'd like.

Enter the age of tantrums. While tantrums require a quick response from you, these emotional thunderstorms are a part of growing up and not a cue for harsher discipline techniques, such as taking away a privilege or sending a child to his room.

When tantrums strike, "you need to know your own child," says Claire Lerner, a child development specialist at Zero to Three. Some kids calm down quickly through distraction; others need a hug. But if a tantrum is lengthy, remove your child from the situation and gently explain what's going on ("We can't stay in the store if you continue screaming") until he calms down.

Frustration that stems from your toddler's inability to communicate effectively can lead to hitting or biting, too. Disciplining such scenarios involves telling your child what not to do quickly and simply and redirecting him toward an appropriate activity. For example, if your child hits you because you've interrupted his play for a diaper change, say, "We don't hit, it hurts," and give him a toy he can play with while you diaper him.

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