You hope you're doing the right thing by imposing a time out on your little boundary pusher, but ouch, it feels awful. Feelings of guilt are inherent in parenting. Still, if you have the confidence that you are helping your kiddo by disciplining him, those uncomfortable feelings will dissipate. As KidsHealth.org points out, "Setting rules and limits now -- when your child is learning what behaviors are acceptable -- will help prevent bigger problems down the road."
Remember that kids need boundaries. Just like you know not to drive your minivan into a neighbor's yard to bypass the school bus, toddlers should know what is acceptable and what isn't. Saying "no" to your little limit tester when he pulls up your shirt in front of company benefits not just your sense of modesty but his well-being. He may cry to be told "no," but as DrSears.com explains, toddlers "won't thrive or survive without limits; neither will their parents."
Be consistent in your discipline. Don't scold your toddler for pulling his sister's hair one day but ignore the same behavior the next. If your tot knows what to expect from you, not only will he be less likely to misbehave but you won't feel so guilty when he does and you react accordingly.
Project confidence when you discipline your little one. As DrSears.com points out, "Your child will be as obedient as you expect, or as defiant as you allow." If you only half-commit to reprimanding your toddler for repeatedly throwing a toy truck at the dog, he will sense that you aren't serious and may continue the behavior. A self-assured approach is effective and will correct undesirable behavior more quickly. So it's more, "No, we don't throw things at Fido. That hurts him," than "Hey, maybe you shouldn't do that."
Understand your child's limitations. Your toddler is not allowed to open the front door and go out in the road by himself; this is non-negotiable. Make sure he understands this rule clearly, but remember that he doesn't know why taking a solo stroll down the driveway is potentially harmful to him. DrSears.com urges parents to "know your child's needs and capabilities." Being aware of your tot's limited understanding of his world will help you discipline thoughtfully and compassionately with less guilt.
Let him have his way sometimes. Going outside alone is a hard "no." But if he throws his chicken nuggets to the dog one night, let it go. You'll feel guilty if you are always telling your toddler what not to do. Letting him get away with a smaller indiscretion also helps him understand what behaviors are truly unacceptable.
Recognize good behavior also. When your disciplinary action inspires tears, of course you're going to feel that icky stab of guilt. Make sure you inspire smiles too by complimenting your tot when he does the right thing. After all, how would you feel if your boss only told you when you were doing a bad job? Everyone likes positive recognition, and your 2 year old is no exception.