Discipline Tips for
Infants and Toddlers
Two-year-old Juan has found that C Put Juan in a play pen so he
turning your TV on and off is a lot can’t go near the TV? Try to prevent
of fun. If someone leaves the problems —
D. Try something else?
remote control sitting out, he ﬁnds
it and keeps pushing the buttons. Get a child
If you take the remote away, he’ll Discipline for very young children interested in
can be tricky. They are exploring
walk up to the TV and start push-
and trying new things. They are
ing buttons. This is driving you
crazy! What would you do? too young to understand a lot of
reasoning, but they need limits to a young child? Move all those
Would you: keep them safe. things up out of the way. Now you
don’t have to worry about a child
A. Take the remote away and put Here are some discipline tips that getting them.
Juan in time out? work well with young children.
B. Pull Juan away from the TV and Some people keep their special
tell him “No” every time he goes Prevent problems. Do you feel like things out, within the reach of
near it? you’re always saying,“No, No, No,” young children. They think that
to a young child? Think telling a young child,“No, don’t
about what she is touch,” over and over will teach the
doing when you tell child to stay away from these
her “No.” Is she things. This is hard for both the
touching some- child and the adult. Young children
thing she should- want to explore to learn more
n’t or moving to about things. Touch is one way to
an area that isn’t do this. It’s a lot easier on the child
safe? Can these and you if special things are put up
problems be pre- where a child can’t reach them and
vented? you won’t have to worry about
them getting broken.
the ﬂoor on If you don’t want a child to climb
your hands and on the stairs, put a gate in place.
knees. What Shut the door or put a gate across
can you reach the doorways of rooms where chil-
that would be dren shouldn’t go.
a “No-No” for
The next time a child does some- When you’re getting a child inter-
thing wrong, think if there are ways ested in something else, think Reward children
this problem could be prevented about what she’s doing and ﬁnd a for being good.
in the future. Preventing problems safe way to try that activity. For
makes your day easier. example, if a child keeps climbing
on and off a table, think about a
Reward children when they are
Try to ignore some behaviors. If a safe way for her to climb. Maybe
playing nicely. Too often adults
child unrolls a roll of toilet paper, you could take everyone outside
notice only when a child is doing
ask yourself,“Is he really hurting so she can spend some time climb-
something wrong. Watch for chil-
anyone or anything?” If your ing up the ladder to a low sliding
dren being good and let them
answer is no, this may be a time to board. If a child starts throwing
know it with a smile, a hug, or a
take a deep breath and choose to blocks, think about what and
few words of praise.“You are being
ignore the behavior. If you give too where he can safely throw. Tell him,
so gentle with the doll.” Children
much attention to these times, the “It isn’t safe to throw the blocks.
want to please you. Giving them
child may want to do this again Someone could get hurt. Come
smiles, pats on the back, hugs, and
and again just to get your atten- over and throw these bean bags
kind words are the best rewards.
tion. Save your discipline for when into the basket.” If a child likes to
he does something that may hurt drop food on the ﬂoor from her
Back to Juan and the TV problem.
him or others. chair, she’s probably ﬁnished eat-
What can you do with a child who
ing, but dropping things is a lot of
likes to turn the TV on and off?
Distract or redirect young children fun. Put her down on the ﬂoor and
Putting the remote control away is
from things you don’t want them give her some clothespins or
a good start. If your TV is kept in a
to do. If a child has a marker and blocks to drop in a plastic contain-
cabinet with doors, you could pre-
she’s starting to write on the wall, er. Show her how to dump them
vent the problem by closing the
don’t grab the marker out of her out and drop them in the contain-
doors. Did you think about Juan’s
hand. Instead, put some paper on er again and again.
interest in pushing buttons? Do
the table or ﬂoor and tell her,
you have a toy with push buttons
“Sarah, come over here to use your
for Juan to try? This would be a
marker on the paper.” It’s easier to
good way to distract him from the
get a young child interested in
TV and redirect him to something
something else than to take some-
that he can explore safely.
Developed by Lyn Horning, Better Kid Care Program
Dr. James E. Van Horn, Better Kid Care Program Director
Developed by Penn State Better Kid Care Program
253 Easterly Parkway, State College, PA 16801 • Phone: 1-800-452-9108 • Website: betterkidcare.psu.edu.
Sources: “Five Keys to Good Discipline with Infants,” by Dave Riley, University of Minnesota Extension Service;
Supported by funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Pennsylvania Pathways Program.
Cooperative Extension This publication is available in alternative media on request.
College of Agricultural Sciences Penn State is committed to afﬁrmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its work force.