how to discipline a strong willed toddler

How to Discipline a Strong-Willed Toddler


Parenting is never easy, especially when dealing with a strong-willed toddler. A strong-willed toddler is defined as a child who seems to do the opposite of what you ask them to do. The task of disciplining a strong-willed toddler requires parents’ patience and persistence to understand their children’s behavior accurately and implement effective strategies.

Importance of disciplining a strong-willed toddler

Disciplining helps toddlers learn essential social, emotional, and behavioral skills. Additionally, discipline can help safeguard your child’s future by teaching them how to respect authority, obey rules, and make ethical decisions.

Understanding Your Toddler

Characteristics of a strong-willed toddler

As mentioned earlier, a strong-willed toddler is defined as a child who seems to do the opposite of what you ask them to do. They have an extraordinary sense of determination, energy, and independence. Strong-willed toddlers typically resist being told what to do and will not easily change their ways.

Primary reasons for your child’s strong-willed behavior

There are several reasons why your child might exhibit stubbornness. Some of these include personality traits like being highly sensitive or having intense emotions. Other causes may be environmental factors such as stress or anxiety or modeling after peers or siblings.

Discipline Strategies for Strong-Willed Toddlers

Effective discipline for strong-willed toddlers takes patience and persistence. Here are some discipline strategies that may work well:

Positive Reinforcement Techniques

  • Verbal Praise: Giving your child words of encouragement can be an effective means of positive reinforcement.
  • Reward System: A reward system for good behavior can motivate your child and give them a sense of accomplishment when they follow the rules.
  • Special Privileges: Granting your child special privileges and rewards for following the rules can also encourage positive behavior.

Understanding Consequences

  • Natural Consequences: Natural consequences involve situations in which no intervention is required, allowing your stubborn toddler to experience the consequences of their actions can help teach them valuable lessons.
  • Logical Consequences: Logical consequences are used to help teach responsibility, such as taking away a privilege or toy if they refuse to follow directions.


  • Where time-out should take place: Time-out should be given in a quiet place where there are no toys or distractions.
  • Best practices for implementing time-out: Make sure you explain to your child why they are receiving time-out, ensure that it’s brief, and calmly return them to their activities once the time-out is over.

Communication Methods with Your Child

The Power of Your Words

  • Tone and Volume Usage: Avoiding yelling or using harsh tones can have a significant impact on your child’s behavior and response.
  • Avoiding Negative Language: Avoid using negative language like “Don’t do that” as this may encourage more resistance.

Active Listening Techniques

  • Eye Contact and Body Language: Maintaining eye contact and non-threatening body language while listening to your child will help increase comfort and willingness to communicate their feelings.
  • Repeating their Concerns and Needs: Repeating your child’s concerns can show them that you’re listening, encourage understanding, and resolve a problem.

Building Routine and Structure

Benefits of Routines

Routines provide children with a sense of stability, predictability, and security. Children value having routines because they know what is expected from them in a given situation. A well-established routine also helps the child become independent by establishing responsibilities.

Tips on building successful routines

  • Consistency is key: Consistently establishing milestones within the routine can help your toddler learn the schedule and adhere to it.
  • Establishing expectations: Creating a straightforward daily schedule will help your child understand what they are expected to do throughout the day.

Reducing Stress Factors

Techniques for Reducing Stress

  • Mindful Breathing: Showing your child how to breathe deeply during stressful times can help them remain calm and reduce their anxiety when facing unfamiliar situations.
  • Calming Activities: Provide calming activities, such as coloring or simple puzzles, when tension and anxiety seem to be at a high level.

Common Discipline Mistakes to Avoid

Discipline with Emotion Only

  • Identifying when you’re burnt out: It’s essential to recognize when emotional factors like fatigue might influence how you discipline your child. Make sure you take breaks and seek support from other parents or professionals when needed.
  • The negative effects of disciplining while angry: Disciplining a child when emotions are high can lead to further rebellion and resentment.

Inconsistent Parenting Styles

  • Creating a plan with your partner: Communication with your co-parent and agreeing on consistent parenting style is vital for the child’s success.
  • Maintaining consistency: It’s essential to be consistent with rewards, consequences, and communication strategies across all caregivers.

Long-Term Goals to Consider

Building Independence

  • Encouraging decision-making skills: Introducing children to the decision-making process can help them make positive decisions and take responsibility for their actions.
  • Allowing Freedom: Encouraging independence and giving children the freedom to make some decisions about their lives can help build self-esteem and courage in children.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

  • Encouraging Positive Self-Image/Respect: Help children nurture respect for themselves through positive reinforcement, encouragement, and setting reasonable boundaries for them.
  • Teaching Empathy: Encourage children to develop empathy by identifying their feelings, owning them, expressing them appropriately, and demonstrating care for others’ feelings.

Co-parenting Strategies

Differences Between Co-parenting Styles

  • Identifying each co-parenting style’s strengths and weaknesses: Recognize how different approaches benefit your child as well as identify their limitations.

Compromise Strategies

  • Utilizing the different co-parenting styles: Building parenting plans that utilize each parent’s approach is fundamental in creating a united co-parenting strategy.
  • Best Practices: Establishing and agreeing on an open line of communication between co-parents helps to support a child’s behavior consistently across all care environments.


Disciplining a strong-willed toddler is not an easy task; it requires patience, persistence, and understanding. Parents must use effective strategies such as positive reinforcement, natural consequences, logical consequences, and time-out. It’s vital to communicate with your child effectively by using active listening techniques, avoiding negative language, and maintaining eye contact. Restructuring your child’s routine can help establish stability and independence and reduce stressors by helping them focus on calming activities. Co-parenting plans are challenging but extremely crucial for consistent application of discipline strategies. A united strategy between co-parents enhances parenting outcomes for strong-willed toddlers by allowing children to develop respect for themselves and others while developing interpersonal skills. Finally, be persistent and patient with your child as you implement these strategies. In the end, the hard work will pay off with well-behaved children who are ready for whatever life throws at them.

7 Frequently Asked Questions About Disciplining a Strong-Willed Toddler

1. What are some effective discipline techniques for strong-willed toddlers?

Firstly, it’s important to establish clear expectations and consistent consequences. Some effective techniques include setting boundaries, using positive reinforcement, timeouts, and taking away privileges. It’s also important to remain calm and avoid giving in to power struggles.

2. How can I prevent power struggles with my strong-willed toddler?

One way to prevent power struggles is to offer choices. For example, give your toddler the choice between two acceptable options such as “Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?” Another tip is to “choose your battles” and prioritize what behaviors need immediate correction versus those that can be ignored.

3. Is spanking an effective form of discipline for strong-willed toddlers?

No, spanking is not an effective form of discipline for any child. It promotes fear and teaches children that violence and aggression are acceptable ways to handle problems. There are better ways to correct behavior without resorting to physical punishment.

4. What should I do if my toddler has a tantrum in public?

If your toddler has a tantrum in public, remove them from the situation as calmly as possible. Offer them a chance to calm down in a quiet area or distraction (such as a toy or snack) if needed. Once they have calmed down, discuss the behavior briefly with them.

5. How can I teach my strong-willed toddler empathy and respect for others?

Modelling empathy and kindness toward others is key in teaching children these qualities. Encouraging sharing, cooperation, and complimenting your child when they display empathy and respect can also reinforce these values.

6. What should I do if my strong-willed toddler refuses to listen to me?

If your toddler refuses to listen, try getting down to their level and making eye contact. Repeat what you have asked them to do in a calm but firm voice. If they continue not to listen, follow through with a consequence or remove them from the situation.

7. Is it possible for parents to go overboard with discipline?

Yes, it is possible for parents to go overboard with discipline by being too harsh or inconsistent. This can negatively impact a child’s emotional well-being and their relationship with their parents. It is important to find a balance between disciplining effectively and showing love and support towards your child.

Remember, disciplining a strong-willed toddler takes time, patience and consistency. Keep exploring different techniques and remember that what works for one child may not work for another.

keys takeaways

4 Key Takeaways: How to Discipline a Strong Willed Toddler

  1. Be consistent: Make sure rules and consequences are clear and followed consistently.
  2. Offer choices: Give your child a sense of control by offering choices within reasonable limits.
  3. Use positive reinforcement: Catch your child being good and offer praise and rewards for positive behavior.
  4. Stay calm: Keep your emotions in check and model the behavior you want your child to display.

A strong willed toddler can be a challenge, but with consistent discipline strategies that include offering choices, positive reinforcement, and staying calm, you can help your child develop self-control and improve their behavior over time.

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