Is It Bad To Let Your Toddler Cry As Discipline? (What Parents Should Do)

Where there is toddler and discipline, crying is also inevitably connected to them. Letting your child cry as part of discipline is a subjective topic. Parents have varying opinions on this; child psychologists also have their say on the matter. Toddlers may cry too often and for various reasons. It is a part of their communication, so parents should understand when crying is okay and when it is not. If a toddler is crying because he is in pain, you should step in for comfort. But if you think he is crying because he needs to get something, it does not always merit an emergency response.

Toddlers and crying

Toddlers are children who are between 1 to 3 years of age. At this stage, they are starting to develop their communication.

At the same time, they are also building the foundation of their behaviors. Crying is a communication tool that they have as an infant and a sign of showing their needs.

When newborn babies cry, parents will instinctively find out what is wrong, which is an imperative action to take.

At age one, some babies may have developed crying out of habit. It is when they begin to think that wailing will get them what they need. Parents may have also developed the habit of soothing a child immediately.

Admit it or not, a crying toddler can get on everyone’s nerves, parents included. So we think that the earlier we can tend to their cries, the faster we can hush them to silence.

The problem steps in if parents want to discipline the child, and he gets back through crying. Seeing the child upset can also be heart-wrenching. But, you know that tolerating bad behavior and tantrums is also detrimental to his behavioral development.

Too often, parents are caught in between. To address the dilemma, you have to know the good things about crying in child discipline.

When crying is okay

Responding to an infant’s cry is advisable to immediately address the things that make them upset.

They may be hungry, wet, anxious over strangers, or in fear, and they will exhibit these feelings through cries. When the cry is plaintive and colicky, parents can immediately sort out what is wrong.

As the baby reaches one year of age, crying is also their channel of getting what they want. If they need sympathy and attention, they know how to seek it from adults.

Letting toddlers cry without immediately responding to them is beneficial for their growth. Hence, it will teach them how to self-soothe and gain self-control. It will help them recognize how their crying can affect the people around them.

And these young folks will use it against you if they think it will grant them things their way.

According to the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, crying has no adverse effect on the behavioral development of children.

Letting a child cry when disciplining him will help him learn about boundaries. It prevents the bout of temper tantrums and builds their self-restraint and control.

Even if you want to practice attachment parenting with your toddler, let him cry if he must, he will learn. Besides, it is easier to listen to a wailing two-year-old than manage a school-age child throwing tantrums later on.

Crying is necessary for parenting

Unless your child is sick and in pain, allowing him to cry does not make you any less of a good parent. In fact, it is a necessary part to let children learn about limitations.

Toddlers do not have discretion over right or wrong – the parents do. It is never wrong to enforce boundaries, even if it means getting the child upset. Your judgment should rule out what is best for your children.

But isn’t the toddler age too early for enforcing discipline? Absolutely not. Here are the areas that parents should not look over if they want to start their kids right.

Discipline over sleeping

As early as 18 months, toddlers are ready for night weaning. Night weaning is the act of transitioning a baby not to feed during the night. Often, night weaning also involves a lot of crying and becomes hard for parents to enforce.

Cry It Out (CIO) is a sleep training technique that some parents use for night weaning. It is the process of allowing the child to cry himself to sleep to teach him how to self-soothe.

The main goal of Cry It Out is not to let babies go for hours without eating. It is to discipline babies to fall asleep independently without relying on their mom’s breast or bottle.

However, this technique is not recommended for newborns just yet since they need more tender love and care at such an early age in their lives.

Discipline over eating

Eating time is also fuss time, especially if your toddler is a picky eater. Exercising your authority over his eating habit is very important. But parents need to be extra careful when disciplining children over food.

An unpleasant mealtime environment and experience can cause anxiety and food aversion in your little one.

Mealtime may not be the best time to induce children to cry over food. It sounds tricky, but you need to eliminate emotion at the dinner table.

Set a good example so your toddler will also develop good eating habits. They mimic adults’ actions, so you should also bank on it by exercising a healthy eating habit yourself.


How long can you let a toddler cry?

The time it takes for babies to cry and wear themselves out varies from child to child. You may leave the baby crying for a full five minutes but always check back in to reassure him.

What should I do if crying happens in public?

If children can sense that public embarrassment will give them what they want, they will use it to their advantage. Sometimes, you can manage the tantrum by stepping back and letting them vent out.

Kids themselves get embarrassed when stared at by strangers, so you can point it out for them to your advantage.


No matter how much you try to exercise gentle and attached parenting to toddlers, crying is an inevitable part.

Disciplining children also merits a lot of tears along the way. But it is okay to let them so that they can understand boundaries.

As early as their toddler-age, kids learn pretty quickly, making it the best time to act on their behavioral development. Disciplining a child early in life prevents irreparable damage later in their lives.

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Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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