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9 Effective Strategies for Disciplining Your 3 Year Old Child

how to discipline 3 year old

Toddler age is from 18-36 months. It is at this age that a toddler will show signs of misbehavior. The child may be testing boundaries, using negative behavior, or testing your patience. With these signs come an increased struggle to assert your authority in the home.

As a parent, you need to impose discipline techniques that are effective, respectful, and age-appropriate. So you can begin to break down this resistance and establish yourself as the main figure in your toddler’s life. However, imposing effective discipline is one of the most frustrating and most challenging parenting tasks, especially when you don’t know what to use when dealing with the toddler’s negative behavior.

You need to stop every once in a while and figure out what’s effective in disciplining your child. That is where we come in. As a leading preschool provider, Baby Steps Daycare understands your struggles with discipline because we’ve been there. We understand the frustration you experience when your toddler resists being disciplined, refusing to obey basic rules, or testing your boundaries. 

We have experienced both popular ineffective strategies and successful strategies that produce positive results. If you are looking for effective forms of discipline for firmness, look no further because we have compiled these strategies that will help you. The strategies are time-tested, but they may be difficult to implement when overwhelmed by your toddler’s misbehavior.

Why Is It Important to Discipline Your 3 Year Old Child?

Discipline is not all about punishment. It is more than that. Discipline must be consistent, firm, and respectful of your toddler’s needs. If you are trying to discipline your toddler, you need to regulate boundaries and encourage positive behavior. The longer this process takes, the harder it will be.

The research suggests that between 18 months old to 36 months old is where positive discipline becomes essential for healthy behavioral development. It is when children begin to actively explore their world by testing limits and making sense of their environment by interacting with its people.

Through discipline, you gently guide your child into healthy boundaries that are safe for them. You also teach them how to behave by giving them limits, appropriate behavior, and expectations. Of course, there are different kinds of discipline strategies and approaches to parenting. But ultimately, regardless of the kind of discipline you use, discipline offers toddlers many benefits. 

Benefits of Discipline for Toddler

how to discipline 3 year old

  • Teaches Toddler to Manage Emotions – When a toddler receives a time-out after hitting his sister or throwing a toy, he learns that feelings are manageable and learns skills that will help him manage his emotions better in the future. Discipline teaches toddlers to break the bad impulses and delay instant gratification. In addition, it helps toddlers learn self-control and cognitive skills such as identifying feelings, understanding consequences, and problem-solving.
  • Helps Toddler Manage Anxiety – Toddlers don’t want to be in charge. They test limits to ensure that their caregivers can keep them safe. When parents offer negative and positive consequences, toddlers grow and learn. Toddlers who have permissive parents may experience anxiety as they grow because they need to make adult decisions. The lack of guidance can be very unsettling for toddlers.
  • Discipline Keeps Toddlers Safe – Toddlers don’t know the possible injuries they will incur by climbing on a counter or poking a hot stove. As a result, they may get injured and not even realize it. If you give your toddler firm discipline while guiding him through the experience, he learns to avoid danger without experiencing harm. Effective discipline also makes toddlers more cooperative and gives them good behaviors to follow throughout their lifetime.

So how to discipline three year old? It is the question that you may ask after reading the previous paragraph. You may wonder about effective ways of disciplining a toddler. It is a question that we will answer in the next section of this article.


9 Effective Strategies for Disciplining Your 3 Year Old Child

how to discipline 3 year old

Have you ever asked yourself how to discipline a toddler effectively? Have you ever wondered what strategies work best? Well, you have come to the right place. No matter what problems your discipline faces, there are effective strategies for solving them. Baby Steps Daycare has compiled these strategies after much consideration and research. We hope you find them helpful. Here are our top 9 effective strategies for disciplining your toddler:

1. Choose Your Battles

With toddlers, you need to choose your battles wisely. Some behavior is not worth the time and energy you waste on dealing with misbehavior. To avoid disciplinary battles with your toddler, we suggest that you use the following strategies:

  1. Avoid Fussy Battles – Your toddler will try to get a reaction from you with his fussy behavior. For example, he will whine and throw fits in an attempt to get something he wants and play you like a puppet (and he is pretty good at it). A toddler may not get his way every time, but he will still try to get a reaction. When you cut things short and redirect attention, you control the situation.
  2. No Reward Battles – Offering a reward for inappropriate behavior usually doesn’t yield positive results. It is because toddlers don’t understand why they are being disciplined, and the behavior continues anyway. Instead, toddlers need firm rules followed by positive consequences. Positive consequences encourage good behavior.
  3. Use Tricks for Rewards Battles – Preschoolers love to play games. It is one way to give rewards. For example, if your toddler is sitting in his seat at your meeting, you can say “following directions is a game” and turn around and act like you are playing a game. When he follows the rules, give him treats. It will reinforce positive behavior and prevent misbehavior in the future.

2. Learn Your Toddler’s Triggers

Lots of misbehavior are preventable as long as you can anticipate when your toddler will misbehave. You can do this by paying attention to what is going on at the moment. Try to explore your toddler’s world and understand his needs. By being aware of these things, you can usually take a preventative approach to discipline problems. Some common triggers for toddlers include learning new things, sleep, food, and safety issues.

For instance, If your 2-year-old is delighted to collect cans off grocery store shelves, make sure to bring toys like fidget toys or stuffed animals for them to play with while you are shopping. Likewise, if your two-and-a-half-year-old won’t share their wooden blocks during playdates at home, remove them from the play area before their peer arrives. 

3. Practice Prevention

Some toddlers act out when they’re overtired, hungry, or frustrated from a previous time-out. Preventing these triggers is helpful. For example, if your toddler tends to be happy in the morning but is grumpy and tired after lunch, schedule trips to the store when they’re at their best. Prepare them for some new experiences, and explain how you expect your children to act.

4. Be Consistent

Toddlers are very sensitive to rules, especially when their first time learning them. Don’t change your expectations for discipline to accommodate your toddler’s behavior during this critical period of brain development. The transition will be easier if you continue to be consistent in your expectations and provide encouragement and positive attention during challenging times.

For instance, when your toddler has a habit of biting his finger. You should intervene and remind him in a non-threatening way that it’s bad to bite fingers. Do this consistently, and your toddler will get the message that it’s not something you will allow.

5. Never Get Emotional

how to discipline 3 year old

When a child feels like he has control over his parent, he is more likely to be defiant and misbehave. He knows that if a parent gets emotional, the situation will escalate. So take a deep breath and remain calm when dealing with your toddler’s misbehavior. Make sure to keep an even temper and don’t get angry or yell at your child.

6. Listen and Repeat

Toddlers feel better when they are understood. Listen to your toddler and repeat what he says before giving instructions or direction on what you want him to do instead. For example, if your toddler just dropped his plate of food on the floor. It’s okay for him to be upset with himself, but tell him that it’s not okay to throw his food on the floor and help him clean it up. Later on, after he has calmed down, ask him if he would like another plate of food.

7. Keep It Simple and Short

Toddlers are very smart, but they are also very impulsive. They love surprises and new things. However, they will grow out of this stage one day, so you have to be prepared for this by being proactive. Toddlers need to know what is expected of them. If you have too many rules, your toddler is more likely to ignore them or get confused when following all the rules at once. So try to keep it simple and short. Speak in short phrases, repeating them a couple of times and incorporating facial expressions and vocal inflections.

For instance, if your toddler swats your arm, say, “No swatting. Hitting hurts people, remember?”

8. Be Cautious with Your Words

how to discipline 3 year old

It would be best to turn “you” statements into “I” messages. “You” statements tend to make a toddler feel like he is being blamed. For example, if you say, “You always make a mess,” the toddler will feel bad and get defensive. But, on the other hand, if you say, “I have trouble cleaning up after you,” he may be more willing to change his behavior.

9. Use Time-Out Effectively

Don’t use time-out as a threat for misbehaving children. Toddlers are VERY sensitive to being scolded. If you start using time-out as a threat, they will fear it more than ever.

Be sure to put your toddler in time-out for the behavior causing him the most trouble. For example, if he is hitting others or crying loudly, place him in time out for one minute while giving him a book or some comfort. Then when he is feeling better, remove him from the time-out area and leave him alone while you clean up his mess.

Disciplining toddlers is no small task, but you have to do it. To do it effectively, you need to be patient and apply consistent rules. While it may seem like a losing battle at times, remember that toddlers are going through a critical stage of development. They need the rules set up while their brain is still developing to feel safe and secure.