Consistent age-appropriate discipline provides stability for a toddler.

How to Discipline a Toddler Who Is Disrespectful

by Taylor DiVico

No matter how angelic your child usually is, he's bound to test the limits with a tantrum or two for public display. Deter yourself from panicking and hiding underneath your cart as he writhes on the grocery store floor -- all red-faced and screaming. Take control of the situation by implementing some simple techniques that will pacify your child while teaching him respectful behavior.


Even though it might feel like your patience and control is fleeting some days, you can regain your wits by staying calm -- and stocked with an artillery of positive diversions. Redirect your little one from disrespectful behavior whether it's grabbing another child's toy, hitting, throwing objects or climbing on furniture. First, address the bad behavior briefly and directly by simply saying, "No hitting" or "No throwing." Then immediately distract her from the source of her negative behavior by providing her with a positive outlet such as a favorite toy, game, book or healthy snack that will redirect her focus. This allows your child the opportunity to calm down and self-sooth versus letting the situation escalate so you both get more upset.


No parent wants to get caught up in a good cop/bad cop scenario -- especially if you're in the bad cop position of disciplinarian day in and day out. Hectic schedules and different parenting styles can cause confusion for adults and children, meriting a conversation between parents so that their approaches can align for overall stability. Providing a routine allows a toddler to anticipate meal, nap, play and bed times. This structure helps prevent disrespectful behavior that results from being overtired, hungry or bored. Staying consistent with discipline by encouraging and modeling the same respectful behaviors -- while diverting your child from the same disrespectful ones -- paints a clear picture of right and wrong. Confusion can occur if one parents accepts or promotes a disrespectful behavior that the other parent is trying to limit.

Modeling/Setting Examples

While not every day or situation runs as smoothly as anticipated, remaining composed as a role model for your child is beneficial. This could mean disengaging in a bout of road rage as your child sits in his car seat or using a calm voice to tell your spouse that the two of you can discuss a problem at a later time. Kids watch their parents and siblings, often mimicking learned behaviors and language. You can model respectful behavior by addressing others, especially your child, in a calm and soothing voice, using appropriate language, avoiding name-calling and by teaching her how to share, play, follow directions and treat others respectfully.

Positive Reinforcement/Praise

Be your toddler's number one fan -- even during the most trying times. Compliment him by verbally praising positive behaviors such as sharing, playing with others nicely, helping with clean-up, listening and following directions. Kids enjoy gaining attention through praise and will continue to seek that attention by repeated good behavior. Replace negative corrections with positive suggestions. For example, instead of saying "Look at the mess you made," say, "Let's pick up your toys so you don't fall over them and hurt yourself." Express happiness and nurturing behaviors by giving your child frequent hugs, kisses and big smiles to provide him with consistent positive attention that lets him feel safe and comforted.

About the Author

Taylor DiVico is a professional songwriter, content writer, fiction novelist and poet with more than 15 years of experience. DiVico holds a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Rhode Island and an M.S. from Syracuse University.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images