When and How to Discipline Your Child Regarding Right and Wrong

Little girl sitting in time out chairQuite often, discipline, or the act of teaching kids right from wrong, is dreaded by parents simply because it seems so daunting. It needn't be! If you approach the act of disciplining your child as an opportunity to teach rather than to force into submission, then discipline can actually be a mutually beneficial opportunity for both parent and child.

Many parents wonder about the age at which they should introduce their kids to morally acceptable behavior. While each child is obviously unique and at a rate of a development that suits him or her, most parents begin moral discipline training around the age of two. At this age children can mostly understand the difference between right and wrong, although they may not be able to express it.

Discipline Tactics for Toddlers

1. Be firm but loving. Limit discipline to a firm “no” and perhaps a simplified explanation (e.g. Don't go near the stairs because you can fall and get hurt).

2. Be consistent with your admonishment and follow-up. No point in saying “don't touch” and then retreating behind your newspaper without ensuring if those orders are obeyed.

3. Criticize the action, not the child. Don't ever let your child feel that you love him or her any less because of what they've done. (e.g. Biting is bad; ‘not you are a bad kid').

4. Let children understand (and live with) the consequences of their actions (e.g. You can't play with this toy because you broke it).

5. Be a role model for the behavior you wish them to emulate. Remember to give a toddler respect. Say please and thank you and ask them stuff in the same language and tone that you'd want them to ask you.

6. Reinforce positive behavior. Once in a while you'll catch your toddler sharing his ice-cream cone with a younger sibling – carpe diem! Seize the moment to showcase that sharing is a really good thing to do!

7. Be confident in your approach and tone. Children this age expect adults to have all the answers, so don't disappoint your child or worse, make him feel insecure by acting like you don't know what to do.

8. Smacking your child or using any other form of physical punishment is acceptable under very limited circumstances. If you feel a thwack is absolutely necessary, then smack only a child's bottom while he or she is padded with a diaper or nappy. Don't smack when you're feeling out of control and don't shake your baby or hit the child anywhere in a fit of rage.

Your disciplining techniques may be quite liberal (an occasional admonishment for the really dangerous stuff) to quite rigid (multiple warnings about bad behavior on a daily basis). Whatever form of discipline you decide to use, do remember that each child is unique and will learn in his or her own time. Always remember to underlay any disciplining tactic by telling the child how he or she will benefit from it.


What do you think?

When and How to Discipline Your Child Regarding Right and Wrong

Tell us what you think!


  1. Rain says:

    Hitting children is not okay in any ‘limited’ circumstances. Violence is not a parenting skill, it is an anti-skill and a very bad example of how to solve problems. To me, hitting my daughter is frankly repulsive. Many countries have made it illegal to smack children in the private home or in schools. Canada refused to join the future when it ruled to allow violence against children in 2005. There are so many good books and courses and support groups available. If the laws had changed in 2005 this site would not be giving the okay to the limited use of violent smacking to solve ‘discipline’ challenges, it would be providing extensive non-violent skills for parents instead. I’m not sure where your morals are -but it is never alright to hit someone smaller than you, especially if that smaller someone loves you! Don’t turn into a monster on your children! If you hit your grown neighbour you would be charged with assault . The United Nations’ High Commissioner is all for the global abolition of violent child-raising. Incidentally, hitting tiny children can injure their backs which are not fully formed, to say nothing of the psychological damage.

  2. mommy nhoj says:

    Houserule for me and husband: if one’s angry, the other parent should remain calm and talk to the child as necesarry. Even if she’s less than a year old, there are times when you disapprove her behavior and has to let her know that.

  3. LIZ says:

    i think you have to show your kid whos the parent when theyre kids and yo ucan be there friend when they are twenty something if you want to have good behavior kids

  4. patricia says:

    In public if there is a near bathroom I take my child there and talk to her so there is not people trying to judge u

  5. Dario says:

    I like these tips.

  6. Marilyn says:

    I hate it when my brother acts up in public :/

  7. Aimee says:

    What to do when you are in public and your young one is acting up?

  8. Janice says:

    My parents used old school methods, and I had to explain and teach in two language so I needed to keep everything as fair as I could. My children do not agree, but I am not my parents, because my life depicted a different approach.

  9. neisha says:

    I took some parenting classes that gave alot of great advice on how to handel children it really helped me alot as a young mother not knowing what to do after all they dont come with a how to instructions book

  10. taylor says:

    im trying to start discipline with my kids you have to be firm but u cant let urself get to mad

  11. Rick says:

    Corporal punishmet is acceptable long as the parent is in control of their emotions. If not, walk away. Otherwise, you’re just teaching the child anger. Not what you want to do. I will always disagree with those who don’t believe otherwise. Even in our society the government uses corporal punishment as a means of control.Controlled violence is the only answer to those who do not obey logic and reasoning. Children have to be taught that in order to get along in the world. Not just the confines of their home enviorment.

    • Rain says:

      Violence is never okay – especially against tiny children. Parenting require patience and creativity. Kids are sensitive. Logic and reasoning brought one of the worst governments into being- a cold Nazi Germany. Germans have today learned from the past and are strong leaders in non-violent parenting. They have banned corporal punishment in their country completely. There are many governments which have banned corporal punishment altogether – no hitting children in the private home or schools. Children have been given their human rights to be free from violence. Violence begets violence. Social skills and graces go a long way – also a good self defense course to ward off the violence of others. There are many good books, parenting courses, and support groups available to chat about/ demonstrate parenting skills which do not involve violence.

    • Melissa says:

      It is not acceptable but if it makes you sleep better at night thinking that it’s a shame. The proof and research is out there people are to lazy to use it.

  12. ErinF says:

    Re: number 8, I don’t think that physical punishment is acceptable in any circumstances. I’ve read in child development texts that any form of spanking is ineffective and psychologically damaging, even if people think that they turn out "fine." I was spanked as a child, and believe that taught us that physical violence is the way to deal with your displeasure with another person. It led to a lot of anger and violent fights between my sister and me later in childhood and adolescence. We will absolutely not be hitting our children.

  13. Lori says:

    Very good info, looks like it’s discipline re-evaluation time at my house!

  14. Lourdes says:

    Im going to start trying to discipline my daughter. Shes almost 2.

  15. lhunter says:

    i guess i have to stop with the spanking on the butt butt

  16. sukismom says:

    This is very helpful information! People have asked me if I discipline my eight month old yet, of course the answer is no. But now I am reassured that I am doing the right thing


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