How To Discipline Your Kid

Before your kid is born you fantasize about snuggling with them on the couch, watching movies, and playing endlessly. When they scream at you and tell you to f*** off, you realize that parenthood isn’t all puffy white clouds. 

Discipline is a controversial subject that needs to be addressed and agreed upon long before your child needs it. Parents often raise their children the same way they were raised, and if those 2 methods were different between mom and dad it could cause an issue.

1-Year Olds

Your 1-year-old is curious and energetic. This could get dangerous since they love around on their own! They're beginning to understand language and put words into context. They may not clearly grasp what "no" means or that yesterday's "no" also applies to today's experience. A 1-year-old hasn't learned how the world works. For instance, they don't realize that your Jordans will get ruined if they grab them with dirty hands… nor will they care. They want what they want now and waiting is not an option.

  • Keep your expectations reasonable. Show them the right behavior, but don't force it. Your tone of voice and facial expressions will show them enough. Be firm yet positive, and don't overreact.
  • Focus on prevention. Childproof your home, and put those new kicks away. If they grab something that’s off-limits, take it away.

Handle meltdowns by comforting and distracting. If your 18-month-old struggles to stay in the car seat, for example, console them and say that you know they dislike being strapped in but they must do it. Put them in, then try to have them pay attention to something else.

2-Year Olds

Life is an emotional roller coaster for a 2-year-old who is starting to make sense of their feelings. They constantly test their environment to a reaction out of you: "What if I refuse to wear my shoes?” Kids this age have trouble understanding and communicating their powerful and overwhelming emotions. They discover they won't get everything they want and the tantrums can get real.

  • Minimize power struggles. Let them know your expectations clearly, without yelling. Offer simple choices and don't overestimate their abilities. If necessary, bribe them. Realize that their job is to test you.
  • Help them begin to get control of their feelings. If they hit, teach them to use their words ("I'm mad!"). Explain, "We don't hit" and "Hitting hurts." At about age 2 1/2, they'll start to develop empathy (hopefully).
  • Handle tantrums carefully. Ignore the tantrum and don't give in, but stay close by until it stops. Then direct your kid toward better behavior. Though you shouldn't punish or isolate a 2-year-old with a time-out, you can briefly take them away from a situation to help them calm down.

3-Year Olds

His newfound independence is a source of pride. Though they want to do the things you ask them to do, such as brushing their teeth before bed, don't count on it. They understand the idea of cause and effect. For instance, being "bad" ends up in punishment and behaving well gets props. Tantrums can still be a regular occurrence, but they may also sulk or whine instead. They're starting to handle frustration better.

  • Help with tasks. Don't punish your kid for not following through on what they were supposed to do. Explain a job simply, get them started on it, and acknowledge their effort.
  • Rehearse good behavior. Play games to practice routines. For example, try a get-ready-for-daycare game by playing a song and having him try to finish three tasks before the music stops.
  • Keep consequences short. A 3-year-old is mature enough to handle a time-out of about three minutes (one minute per year). Stay out of trouble by averting frustration early.

It only gets more fun at 4 years old and beyond. Happy parenting!