As a parent of two young boys, I often wonder if I’m being too tough on my children. One of my greatest fears is they grow up with poor manners and defy authority. I want them to be independent and critical thinkers, but I also want them to respect other people as well as their opinions and beliefs. So, I often question myself when it comes to appropriate discipline. If this is a topic that you have concerns about, please continue reading. But do so after you’ve read our blog about developmental milestones. These two topics intertwine. The link to that blog is here.
How do you get a teenager to respect authority? How do you deal with a preschooler throwing a tantrum? How do you get your toddler or one-year-old not to touch something that’s dangerous? To answer the question simply, it all begins with consistent discipline. If you don’t stick to rules and consequences, it’s unlikely your child will either.
Being a parent and an educator, I’m always looking to the experts for advice and then implementing the techniques or strategies I learn about looking for the best fit for my personality and family. With an abundant amount of information out there, it’s overwhelming. So, I want to help simplify and consolidate the information for you.
Typical Behavior and Discipline Strategies:
1-Year-Old Behavior
The best way to describe this age is curious, energetic, and mobile. Children are born scientist, embrace this fact. Your child is learning by exploring.Although beginning to understand language, understanding “no” has yet to be grasp.There is no impulse control at this age and you need to understand this.
1-Year-Old Discipline Strategies
Be reasonable. Keep it positive, yet firm.Child proof your home. In other words, do your part. If off limits items are grabbed or disturbed, move them.Handle meltdowns with comfort, laughter, and distractions. One of the things I’ve done is tickle my kids when they have a meltdown. They almost always snap right out of it.
2-Year-Old Behavior
We’ve all heard of the terrible twos and it’s true. This is a roller coaster ride of emotional awakening as the child is trying to make sense of all the feelings they experience.This is a highly experimental age where learning is done through reactions.There is insufficient ability in emotional communications. This means the child has a hard time explaining what they are feeling or dealing with.Discovers the fact that I don’t get everything I want and throws a tantrum.
2-Year-Old Discipline Strategies
Don’t get into a power struggle with your 2-year-old. It’s a testing phase. Be clear, concise, and keep your expectations in perspective. Give incentives. Yes, bribe them.Explain why certain things can’t be done. For example, if he bites, teach him to express frustration an alternate way. The same can be done if he hits someone. Use this opportunity to help him understand the words, “I’m mad.” By consistently doing this, empathy is created.Time out isn’t appropriate for this age, but removing them from a situation for a short time is acceptable. When the tantrums come, ignore and don’t give in, but remain close for comfort.
3-Year-Old Behavior
I personally think this age is more difficult than the previous. Your child is now beginning to understand emotions and independence is a great source of pride. Utilize this to your advantage.Don’t expect your child to want to brush their teeth or help dress themselves just because they have expressed interest or shown they can do it.There is a distinct understanding of cause-effect. If I’m naughty, this will happen.Frustration is better handled, tantrums are less frequent, but more sulking and whining is to be expected.
3-Year-Old Discipline Strategies
Assist them and don’t punish for not completing tasks. Acknowledge and praise any effort to complete a simple job around the house.Model good behavior and often your child will mimic it. Find fun games to play during difficult times that may result in a meltdown.Consequences should be short. Punishment should be about 1 minute per year of age. So, a 3 minute time out is plenty. Reset!If you see frustration brewing, divert, regroup, alter your plan of action. In other words, make it fun.
4-Year-Old Behavior
This is a remarkable age of blossoming social skills and balance. It’s a time where concentration improves and so does intensity. This will make it hard to transition to another task.Whining may increase because the desire to do what he/she wants increases.During this age, children do not understand that lying and cheating is necessarily wrong. They are creating a version that they believe is true.
4-Year-Old Discipline Strategies
Give plenty of time for transitioning. Don’t get into power struggles. Discuss the situation after the child has calmed down.Ignore whining. Only acknowledge your child when they use their ordinary voice.Lying and cheating is normal, so handle it calmly. Don’t shame your child. Address the situation and then move on.
5-Year-Old Behavior
Conscious has emerged and he/she can grasp concrete consequences.The child can think outside of themselves and understand others’ feelings.There is enough maturity to follow rules and do chores. However, getting these completed will require follow-up on your part.Impulse control has improved; however, expect outbursts, door slams, and hitting.
5-Year-Old Discipline Strategies
Explain the effect of their behavior on others and the reasons for rules.Use a behavioral management system to promote positive behavior.Implement limits for undesirable behavior.
Before you try a more aggressive approach to disciplining your child, like spanking, please try to implement the above strategies and educate yourself on the brain of a child. Most children will model the behavior that they see most often. If you have successful strategies that have worked for you at home, please reach out and let us know. We’d love to tell others.

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