How do you discipline a toddler without hitting and yelling? (Parenting advice)

In this guide, we will answer the question, “How do you discipline a toddler without hitting and yelling” and a few parenting tips that we believe may become quite useful. 

How do you discipline a toddler without hitting and yelling

If you are asking yourself ‘How do you discipline a toddler without hitting and yelling’ most likely is because you have lost your temper more than once when your toddler you didn’t agree with and you don’t know what to do anymore. To discipline your toddler without hitting and yelling we recommend to:

  • Use positive reinforcement when your toddler behaves appropriately, this will ensure those positive behaviours tend to increase their presentation.
  • Try timeouts. Many experts believe timeouts are effective to discipline without incurring in any hitting or yelling.
  • If timeouts are not effective, there are other alternatives.
  • If you feel too overwhelmed and need a minute to calm down, take some time to clear your head and breathe.

We believe we are being bad parents when we incur in yelling or hitting to discipline our child but we are only humans and sometimes we just can’t take it anymore. However, we are not saying that getting physical or yelling are effective methods to discipline our toddler but sometimes we just need to consciously take a step towards better practices and getting some guidance to change our ways. Remember that your toddler’s cognitive ability is minimal since their prefrontal cortex is still developing.

Losing control

Now that we have pictured one of your toddler tantrums or a difficult behaviour that persists and you are just wondering why it keeps happening. How does this make you feel? Angry, frustrated, sad or all of them at the same time? It is easy to lose your temper when you have tried everything but nothing seems to work, here we lose control of the situation and our emotions. The problem with this is that we are modelling this type of behaviour to our kids so don’t be surprised if they replicate it in the future.

We are allowed to feel and have emotions around them but what will make the difference is how to react to them. For instance, if you are angry and you start screaming at them, they could perceive that ‘mommy is always angry at me’ even if it isn’t the case. You could be angry because you fought with your spouse or simply because you had a disagreement with your boss but they don’t know all the reasons why you could be angry, do they? So they automatically assume it is their fault. Regulating our emotions, no matter how stressful or chaotic our lives are is very important, especially in front of them. If you feel you can’t handle your emotional response at a given moment, try to take a time out, a time for you to think and be on your own. 

Discipline strategies for toddlers

If you are here it is because you may feel as if every time you try to discipline your toddler, you are going into an endless and exhausting battle. Despite their age, they can be a bit stubborn and even if you don’t think about it, they are testing your boundaries. However, they are still not ready to understand the consequences of their behaviour. 

You may feel your child has so much energy, jumping, running, painting the walls, leaving their mess everywhere but it is important to find healthy ways to show them how to release their energy and still follow the rules.

Overstimulating environments

Due to their age and developmental stage, they are easily overstimulated. They want to touch everything, feel everything and do everything. If this is a description of your child, try to remove them from the stimulating environment to help them regain their composure. However, if this doesn’t work at first, persist and try it at a later time. Instead of forcing them, try to get them out of the stimulating environment by engaging with them in another activity or even a game.

We need to focus our efforts on teaching them to be independent while learning socially appropriate behaviours.

How do you discipline a toddler without hitting and yelling? (Parenting advice)

If lying is a problem

If your toddler lies, be aware that they may not even know or understand the concept of a lie. If you ask them a question, most likely their answer will be no. For instance, if you ask them if they did something such as eating a cookie and you sound angry because your tone of voice and body language says so then they may immediately think they did something wrong.

However, since toddlers do not have their language developed as we would like to, we have to pay attention to their body language instead. It will even tell us how they are feeling at a certain moment or situation. Most likely they will develop tantrums since they lack the verbal communication skills so it is our job to help them find ways to communicate how they feel.

Praise the good behaviour and ignore the misbehaviour

There is no secret that toddlers will display behaviours that are intended to get our attention. The repertoire may include tantrums, whining, and screaming which can vary in intensity. However, if we pay attention to them, without knowing, we are reinforcing those behaviours. This only means that the behaviour is more likely to occur again. 

However, if we do the opposite by removing our attention completely, it will have the opposite effect. It may not make sense at first because when we are trying to use this procedure called extinction, they may even intensify their efforts to get our attention back but don’t fall back. Keep pretending you are not able to listen to them, act as if you were not able to listen to their yelling. 

Remember, for this procedure to be effective we need to avoid any eye contact or talking to them to let them know that what they are doing is wrong, we know it can be tempting but refrain from it. 

Describe what is happening

As an expert in parenting Nicholeen Peck indicates, “describe, describe what is happening. Describe what should be happening and then do practice, so for the little one it’s all about pre-teaching what things should be happening correctly and you have to practice that more, than they do it the wrong way, otherwise they won’t change behaviour so it’s huge sometimes you have to know how to stop them from attacking another person and kind of like gently grab them and pull them away…”

Moreover, she explains how after this type of situation or when they have been behaving inadequately, as a parent you can take them to a ‘calm down place’ which should not be confused with a “time out”. The idea is to let them take the time they need to calm down to be ready for a teaching moment with mom or dad. This is when you describe the situation that just happened and teach them skills, for instance, how they should have behaved in that particular situation you are describing.

Why is this blog about How do you discipline a toddler without hitting and yelling important?

As we have discussed, it is possible to discipline your toddler without hitting and yelling. However, we need to consciously determine that the way we are trying to discipline our child is not the most effective. If you lose your temper easily or get frustrated at your toddler’s behaviour then try to develop strategies for self-regulation. Even if you tell your child 20 times not to do something, they are more likely to keep doing it. Remember that their brain is still developing and they are learning so much every day, so they need some help developing certain skills.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How do you discipline a toddler without hitting and yelling

Does yelling affect toddlers?

Research has suggested that yelling at your toddler can be just as harmful as hitting them. Harsh discipline methods can have negative consequences in our child’s behaviour. For instance, it is believed that a child who is constantly being yelled at is more likely to display behavioural problems than a child who is not. Additionally, it can put your child at risk of developing an anxiety disorder and even low self-esteem.

How do I get my 3-year-old to listen without yelling?

If you would like your 3-year-old to listen without having to yell at them then set clear limits and boundaries as well as realistic expectations. Additionally, it is important to validate their feelings and listen to them. Try also to ask questions that invite them to cooperate instead of forcing them to do what you need them to because it will make things worse.

How do I discipline my toddler for screaming?

If your child is screaming, you could pick him/her up while you remain calm and without showing any emotion. Getting angry at them will only show them that you have lost control and they also have the ‘permission’ to do it. By ignoring their behaviour consistently and every time they do this (instead of reinforcing it) you are using a procedure called extinction.

Can yelling at a child cause anxiety?

Yelling at a child can put them at a higher risk of developing anxiety. When we hear a loud noise, our flight or fight response kicks in preparing us to run or fight a potential threat. The same thing happens when we yell since it is an adaptive response they will have the same reaction.

How do you stay calm when a child is misbehaving?

If you want to stay calm when a child is misbehaving try to ignore their behaviour completely. However, if their intention with this behaviour is to gain your attention then the behaviour may become more intense. The idea is to be consistent and avoid any eye contact or saying things like ‘stop it, good boys/girls don’t do that’. If you feel very angry or stressed, try to calm down by doing some breathing exercises and taking your mind off the situation.


Morin, A, (2020, Apr.) Toddler Discipline: Strategies and Challenges. Retrieved from

How do you discipline a toddler without hitting and yelling? (Parenting advice)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.