Disciplining a toddler is a necessary yet tricky task. To effectively discipline children in this age group, parents must walk a fine line, taking care to ensure that their punishments effectively teach the child necessary lessons regarding behavioral expectations while ensuring that consequences aren’t overly harsh for these still-learning youngsters. While not appropriate in all situations, taking away toys can be an effective means of punishing a toddler whose misbehavior relates to the misuse of the toy in question. To ensure that your punishment isn’t just punitive, but also provides a learning experience, implement your penalty with care.
Make the consequence logical. You should only take a toy away as a punishment if the toy is directly tied to the misbehavior you are trying to extinguish. If the child is in trouble for slapping his brother, taking away a toy isn’t appropriate, as the toy had nothing to do with the misbehavior. If, instead, the child threw a ball at his brother’s head, taking away the toy is appropriate, as the toy is related to the problematic behavior.
Provide a warning. The first time your toddler misuses a toy you must provide the child a warning, telling her clearly what she did wrong and explaining that if she does it again you will have to take away the toy.
Explain why you have taken the toy. Don’t assume that your toddler can figure this out for himself, as he likely can’t. Instead, tell him clearly what he has done that has resulted in his toy being taken away. State, for example, “You are not allowed to throw your ball in the kitchen,” before taking the ball away after he has engaged in that verboten behavior.
Set a time period. Instead of just keeping the toy away from the longing-to-play-with-it toddler for an indiscriminate amount of time, select a specific period of time for which to keep the toy away. Tell the toddler how long she will be without this toy, saying, for instance, “Because you threw your blocks you can’t play with them until after lunch.”
Keep the toy in an out-of-reach but visible place. Particularly if your toddler is very young and hasn’t yet fully developed object permanence – the knowledge that when an object leaves his field of view it doesn’t disappear – having a toy taken away temporarily can be highly upsetting, as the tot doesn’t realize he will get it back. Remedy this potential issue by keeping the toy someplace visible during the period for which your child isn’t allowed to play with it.
Extend the time the child will not have access to the toy with each repeat occurrence of the behavior. If you take away your toddler's plastic bat because she was playing with it too roughly only to give it back to her and watch her repeat the behavior, make your seriousness clear by taking the toy away again and keeping it longer. As you increase the time period of your punishment, your toddler will begin to see that with each repeat offense the severity of the consequence increases, further reducing her desire to repeat the behavior.