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While you may not relish playing the role of enforcer with your child, they may benefit from consistent age-appropriate discipline tactics. Read our pointers on how to stay firm

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Discipline confers a whole new role on parents: “the heavy.” It’s one most of us aren’t comfortable with; we prefer the warm, fuzzy picture of ourselves snuggling with our children, reading storybooks, providing kisses for boo-boos, and doling out unconditional love. Day-to-day life with a child can be far different from this rosy vision, however. And, as experts tell us, kids need firm, consistent limits for their emotional well-being. Failure to discipline your child can cause their misbehavior to escalate—and the frustration could lead to far greater implications down the road. Keep reading for our top age-appropriate discipline tactics for kids.

1-Year-Old Discipline Tactics

Discipline will look different at every age. Your 1-year-old is curious, energetic, and mobile. 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 a glass vase can smash if it’s knocked over. They want what they want now; waiting is extremely difficult, and they have no impulse control.

Best discipline strategies

  • Keep your expectations reasonable. Demonstrate proper behavior, but don’t insist on it. Your tone of voice and facial expressions convey lessons best. Be firm yet positive, and don’t overreact.
  • Focus on prevention. Childproof your home, and put away breakables. If they grab an off-limits item, 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 divert their attention.

2-Year-Old Discipline Tactics

Life is an emotional roller coaster for a 2-year-old, who is beginning to make sense of their feelings. They constantly test their environment to get reactions from others: “What will happen if I refuse to wear my shoes? Children this age have trouble understanding and communicating their powerful—and sometimes overwhelming—emotions. They discover they won’t get everything they want and can have frequent tantrums.

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