How Do You Discipline a Toddler Without Hitting and Yelling

What's Covered

Discipline in a toddler is a big challenge we take as parents. How can you even scold a child who doesn’t even know what you are saying? Most parents get angry when their children misbehave and do not listen. Here are some ways to discipline without hitting and yelling.

When to Discipline a Toddler?

You might think that your child is still too young to be disciplined but I ask you to think again. Discipline is a way of correcting your child’s wrongdoings and misbehavior. They may be too young however if you let them act and behave as they please, your child might think that it would be okay to do things their way. If your child hits you, you should correct him and say that hitting will hurt you so don’t hit hard.

They might not understand what you are saying because they are still little but it is smart to start the discipline from the beginning and be consistent. According to Dr. Harvey Karp, “Discipline in its simplest forms can start as soon as 8 months of age.”[1] Even though your child does not know speech, your actions and facial expressions are what he sees so in return he might understand that you are not happy with what he is doing.

What Triggers a Parent to Yell or Hit a Toddler and What You Can Do About it?

At some point you get mad and with your quick reflexes, you shout or spank your child. Thereafter, you see him cry and regret what you did. Let us talk about some reasons why sometimes you just reach that breaking point and do what you just did.


You are so tired and just finished doing all the chores and housework but when you look behind, you see your little toddler made another mess on the floor, your wall was decorated with scribbles using a permanent pen, so here you are getting mad and angry over these things.

Your child seems to annoy you so much that you can just get angry and shout or hit them unnecessarily. But wait, don’t let your anger get over you. Look at the other side of the picture and you’ll see your child smiling happily back at you while creating those drawings on the wall.

If you shout, that smile will turn into fear which will make the little one cry. If you hit, he won’t know why but instead he will get scared and will try to distance himself from you. Instead of letting that anger get over you, why not laugh it out and tell your child that his drawing is great but he should use paper and pencil instead. Teach him how to do things right.

The mess on the floor can be cleaned up and you can just repaint or put up a wallpaper on the wall but you can’t take back what you say or do when you’re angry, you could only regret it so try to manage your anger.

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Too Many Responsibilities

As an adult, you have too many responsibilities and your hands are almost always full. Having to take care of your children is also one of these responsibilities however because there are too many things to think of, you forget that you are supposed to give the right care to them. With too much in mind, you are too busy and you shout or hit your kids when they misbehave so you could get them to stop.

Remember the reasons why you are eager to work so hard, surely not just to pay for the bills, but to provide the needs of your little darlings and give the best they deserve. So why would you yell or hit them just to finish your work? Why not stop the thing you are doing and see why your child is behaving this way. He might have some discomfort or hungry or just want to get your attention. Play with him for a while and leave him with a toy so you can go back and finish what you were doing.

Raised as a Kid in this Manner

You might think that it is normal to spank or shout at your child as a form of discipline because this is how you were raised when you were young. Yes, some parents do this normally but you should think of the effects of this kind of discipline on your child. You could answer it to yourself, were you happy to follow your parents when they shout or hit you? Would you like your child to experience this kind of treatment from you? Do you think your child can understand your reasons for hurting at his young age?

There are many ways to discipline or give consequences when they are not listening. I am sure that you do not want your children to have hurtful feelings towards you.

Loud Cries and Tantrums

Your toddler is uncontrollable and just does not listen so you tend to shout to shut him up but as a result, he would cry louder and scream more hysterically and then you whack your child.

Please note that a tantrum is a way for a child to release strong emotions through crying and screaming. You could just leave them be and let those anger and frustrations out.  Keep your calm, be by his side and wait until he is a bit calmer or tired. Ask him gently what he was crying about and console him.

There is Danger

Toddlers are playful and love to explore even if there are threats around. When your child is in danger you could shout to startle and put an immediate stop to what he is doing.[2]

It is natural to scream to warn your child of danger and by all means, save your little one. This event may give your little toddler a trauma so instead of scolding, just hug him tight and tell him what “not to do”, how to avoid, and the consequence if he happens to do the same.

Does Hitting and Yelling Work?

Well, I do not believe that it works. Hitting and yelling works as a method of scaring your child but not as a disciplinary method. Rather, this will make things worse between you and your child. If you yell too much to a young child, he will develop low self-esteem and be hesitant to do new things that will make you angry.  The same thing with hitting, he will get scared to tell you the truth and in the future will not be open to talking because of fear.

Hitting and yelling are both harmful to a child who is just starting to learn things in his surroundings. It will give him the impression that it is normal to yell and hit, so he may become a bully or something. On the other hand, he may also be a timid child who does not want to stand for himself because he is afraid of being hurt. Be careful of disciplining your child in this manner as it may have a long-term effect on their well-being.

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Effects of Hitting and Spanking on a Child

Aggressive Behavior

A child who often experiences violence at home may develop a more aggressive behavior. Remember that discipline is a way of teaching and a parent who is disciplining his child through hitting is drilling this violent approach to the kid. This approach may affect his personality and behavior which may lead to becoming a bully, delinquent, abuser, and the like when he becomes an adult himself.

Potentially Rebellious

There is a big emotional impact on a child to feel pain through spanking, slapping, pinching, and other forms of physical punishment. Nobody wants to be hit, especially your child, but he cannot do anything against you because they are little. The more you hit, the more they will hate you and as a result, they may rebel against you and become more disobedient.

Loss of Self-Confidence

Getting hurt as a way of discipline can make a child feel bad about himself. He might feel that he is not accepted. If he gets hit with each failure, he might believe that he is not skilled or incapable of doing anything right. Furthermore, he may not want to try new things for fear that he might make a mess again and receive punishment.


When your child becomes quiet or is behaving properly after a physical punishment then, the child just got scared and does not want to be hurt again. If you see this as a good practice to discipline your child then I think you are mistaken. It may become a habit to use this method and it may become natural to you to use violence against your child.

Hitting a child is not healthy for both of you. Your little one gets hurt and you regret it somehow. If you get carried away, there is also the possibility that this may lead to physical abuse. You see, sometimes you are so angry that you hit without thinking. Considering the force you put in and sometimes you get ahold of something like a belt or hanger which can make the hitting worse.  You might leave scars and lashes on his little body and damage not just his physical body but your relationship with the child.

Effects of Yelling

They say that yelling is the new spanking, although these two have differences in the method and effect, I do agree that too much yelling can harm children the way spanking does. It is not physical but it may affect them psychologically in some way.

From time to time, parents raise their voices` at their kids when they are frustrated or the child is not listening. Initially, they might instruct the little ones with a low voice and a nice tone but when the child does not follow, they get angry and yell so the little kids will comply.  But what happens to a child if this happens all the time?

Getting Ignored

In some cases, the child gets used to their parents yelling so their sense of urgency and attention to what their parents were saying is somewhat lost. They don’t find it important and don’t want to respond to it, as if their parents are just barking. If yelling becomes constant, it will become a habit for them to close their ears or just let the words pass from ear to ear without absorbing the teachings that could have made things clear.

Loss of Respect

A child mirrors the behavior of his parents. If you constantly yell at a child, he might think that this is how communication should be.[3] With little toddlers, you may not see this happening yet because they are still young and what they feel right now is fear and their only option is to obey. But as time goes by, they will grow-up and are likely to lose their respect if constant yelling is practiced in their home.


Repeated yelling can make a little child anxious. As a result, they may not be able to sleep properly and might have bad dreams. They may experience constant worrying or may have negative thoughts because of being yelled at. If you notice that your child is experiencing some form of anxiety try to free them through emotional resilience.

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Yelling Makes You Age a Little Faster

Well, it might be true that being a parent makes us age a little bit faster. Maybe because we are so busy taking care of many responsibilities and we sometimes forget to take good care of ourselves, working hard while taking care of our children. This is very particular to getting angry and yelling consistently, did you know that you frown more when you are angry causing the face to look older.[4]

Don’t stress yourself out with too much yelling at your little one as it not only affects their mental health but also affects you altogether. Take some vitamins to help you to feel better, you must take care of your health and keep on a positive attitude towards your toddler.

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How to Avoid Hitting and Yelling At Your Toddler?

Be Patient

Do not constantly be mad at your little one. Parenting is a very difficult task but we are here to guide and not reprimand. Take a time-out and think before you act it can help you make a better judgment on how to handle the situation better than being loud and impulsive.

Keep Your Cool

Do not lose your temper and act promptly based on your emotions.

Think in a Positive Way

Instead of looking at what your kids have done wrong, take this as an opportunity to teach them how to do the right thing. They learn from experience and we, as parents are here to teach and assist in their learning process.  They make and will make many more mistakes so let them grow and help them until they reach an understanding of what is right from what is wrong.

Also, I believe that children are behaving that way because they are children. I always think that it is better for my child to be pesky annoying but healthy rather than a silent and timid one who is well-behaved but doesn’t look healthy at all, I always thank God for this.

Know Their Needs

Most often a toddler misbehaves because they have needs that aren’t met.  Try to check if they have any problem and what causes them to get uneasy. When you get to the root of it, you might be able to handle the situation better and make your child behave accordingly.

Do Not Expect Too Much from Your Little Toddler

Sometimes parents expect their children to listen and follow obediently at all times. You must understand that these children have their limits and what they want the most is to freely enjoy and discover. Each child is growing at their own phase so do not expect too much from them like big kids do.

Make Them Comfortable

Give your little darling plenty of hugs and kisses and make them feel comfortable. If they are comfy, they are unlikely to misbehave and go into tantrums therefore, there is no reason for you to yell or hit them.

Do Not Force Them to Do Things They Do Not Want

Getting them to do things properly is a big challenge but please do not force your toddler to do it if they do not want to. It would only result in crying and tantrums and afterwards, you will get angry over these.

Give them choices and ask them which one they prefer to do first instead of pushing them through. You can give them positive options that will get you the same outcome. Another way blend it in with playtime. Toddlers are easy to fool by playing along with what they want and eventually engaging them to what you want.

What are the Alternative Ways to Discipline a Toddler Other Than Hitting and Yelling?

Warnings and Follow-Through

Give them warnings and signals. Get their attention by calling their name then tell them what they are not to do. Follow through by gazing at them and if they do not follow, try to get close and directly stop them by holding their hand and telling them what they should do. “Darling, your drawings are lovely but can I ask you to NOT do this on the wall? You should use a paper instead”, give her a paper and show her how to write on it. The tone of your voice is very important in giving your child instructions and also by showing them the way to do things, there are high chances that they will remember it.


For tantrums and the like, you could just ignore your pestering toddler. As long as he is not hurt or not in danger, it is okay to let him be so he can let his frustrations and anger out. When he starts to settle down you can then distract him to something interesting.

Be Fair

If your child hit his playmate and you rushed to scold him he would feel shamed for getting yelled in front of other people and would also feel wronged for not being able to tell why he did it. Not hearing his side of the story will make him feel that he is not loved and you only care for who is hurt.

See the situation first and calmly ask your child what is wrong and why is he behaving in such a manner. You would then know that the other kid tried to take his favorite toy or he hit him first. If you know what truly happened then you can decide on the issue properly. Tell your child to apologize for hitting the other child tell the other child that it is wrong to take someone else’s possession and make both of them hug or handshake as a sign that they are making-up. 

The Thinking Chair / Naughty Chair / Naughty Corner

If your child is too stubborn, you could use this method to help them understand what they did wrong. Make some warnings and follow-through and if they really are difficult to handle, tell them about the consequence of being on the naughty chair for a couple of minutes.  If you do put the child on it, be strict with the time and talk to him in a low voice and ask him to make amends and apologize to you before letting him out of it. This way the child would learn to calm down and accept what they did wrong.[5]

Closing Remarks

As parents, we are here to guide our children to be on the right path and help them develop a good attitude and personality as they grow up. Along with our duty to protect and provide is our responsibility to teach and shape them to be a good person.

[1] Dr. Karp, Harvey. “How to Discipline a Child.” Happiest Baby. Happiest Baby Inc., 05 Feb. 2020. Web. 05 Feb. 2021.

[2] Wayman, Sheila. “Does Shouting Damage Children? WELL? DOES IT?” The Irish Times. The Irish Times, 02 Oct. 2018. Web. 06 Feb. 2021.

[3] LCSW Halseth, Debra. “What Are the Short and Long-Term Psychological Effects of Yelling at a Child?” Betteerhelp, BetterHelp, 8 July 2020.

[4] Dr. Choe, Kyle S. “Angry People Age Faster.” Choe, Kyle (, The Choe Center, 17 Sept. 2019.

[5] Supernanny. “The Naughty Step – What Is It and How Does It Work?” Supernanny Parenting, Ricochet Limited, 13 Nov. 2017.

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Diana Lucas

Diana Lucas

Hi, Diana here. Welcome to my blog and hope you like my sharing. I am a mother of 2 boys, 3 years old and a 1 year old. I dedicate my career in child development research and I focus on parenting tips, positive parenting, educational toys for my babies. Your time here means a lot to me! Diana A. Lucas