When Do You Start Disciplining Your Child? (Age-By-Age Guide)

Disciplining your kid can start from as young as 7-8 months of age. It doesn’t mean resorting to punishment or spanking as a means of instilling discipline in them. Rather it’s about teaching them what’s good and bad, basic family rules that they need to follow. Teach them that there’ll be consequences for their misbehavior, and as they grow, giving them a time-out or taking away a privilege as a result of their bad behavior.

Taking care of a newborn can even be considered easier when compared to disciplining your tantrum-throwing toddler.

As a newborn, you pick them up when they cry, they’re hungry-you feed them, his diaper is wet- you change him, but as babies grow, they become wiser and inquisitive.

What you consider as misbehavior is their way of exploring their world. You need to understand why your calm 5-month-old baby is suddenly so aggressive and cranky when he’s 9 months old.

It’s simply because the moment they start crawling or even walking, the world opens up for them.

They start exploring and discovering cause and effect and might repeatedly be doing so, just to see if throwing their food off the high chair for the 5th time is the same as the 10th time they do it.

It can be quite frustrating for us, but we need to remember that it’s their way of thinking, experiencing, and learning about the world that surrounds them- you get me?

As babies and toddlers, it’s their job to test out their independence, but as their parents, it’s your duty to set the limits for them right from the beginning.

This can be to save them from any danger they can cause to themselves, like running into the street, or teaching them right and wrong like it’s wrong to hit your younger brother with the bat because it hurts him, and lastly disciplining your child means teaching them how to behave in a socially acceptable manner.

When your 1-year-old keeps snatching off your glasses and throwing them, you think he’s too small for punishment- and this is where you’re wrong.

Disciplining your kid doesn’t mean resorting to punishment, yelling, threatening, or even having a meltdown of your own. It’s teaching them that there are consequences for their actions and encouraging good behavior.

Truly, disciplining can be instilled with positive strategies which work best when you build a warm and loving relationship with your child.

How to discipline your kid? Age-by-age guide

What I’m about to say isn’t something you refer to as a manual or a list of things to do for operating around your kid.

They’re purely some strategies and tips that have been used in the past by parents and have been successful, and you can test them out and see what works best for your house.

Every child is different, and so are their tantrums. You need to understand is that toddlers throwing tantrums isn’t because they want to make you angry or cause a scene in the supermarket.

It’s because they don’t know how to express their emotions or control their feelings, and that is when they throw a tantrum.

Also, disciplining your kid isn’t as simple as they say in the books about “discipline in toddlers,” for instance, the book says give a time-out to your toddler, who is 18 months old, for their misbehavior and after that go back to your affectionate self and love them and teach them about forgiveness, but this ain’t that easy, right?  

I mean, who will tell us what to do if your toddler repeats the same thing 10 minutes after you gave him a time-out. Repeat the time-out? What if he doesn’t want a time-out and won’t sit in his chair in the corner? What to do then?

Well, I have the same questions in mind, and truth be told, with my child, I learn every day. We need to understand what they want, whether or not it’s reasonable, and if not, we need to learn how to be firm but fair.

It’s not an overnight process, it’s a long and enduring process, but we should keep in mind that it’s the best for our kids. No one method will work for your child. Otherwise, it’ll wear out its effect over time.

You need to learn, adapt, and instill new methods to discipline them without yelling, threatening, or even hitting them.


An infant boy is crying and not behaving, and parents are thinking of how to discipline him.

Babies are mostly overwhelmed after their birth in this huge, strange world for them.

They felt secure and warm in your womb for 9 months, and it takes a lot to adjust and be in this new world. So, the majority of times, you’ll notice your 3 month-old baby wants to be always held and walked around and is very calm and peaceful when she’s in the baby carrier with you.

Babies don’t understand actions and consequences. Although they do try to test out their skills and development as they grow old, they still don’t know why you wince in pain every time she pulls your hair. It’s not to tease or taunt you.

They’ve just discovered what their hands can do now and also the way you react every time they pull your hair. So, it’s to see your reaction.

When he was 10 months of age, my son would start biting me every time I breastfeed him. I would scream or wince and wouldn’t do anything about it because I thought he’s doing it unknowingly. Still, later I realized that this little mischievous munchkin is doing it on purpose and is actually looking at me every time he bites me.

So, then, I would just unlatch him and talk to him about not biting (although I don’t think he understood anything I said), but he did stop biting me after I stopped reacting to it and would unlatch him and wait for him to calm down.

So, when your baby pulls your hair or takes off your glasses, don’t react or shout. Instead, distract them with some other toy to play with, or take their hand and tell them to touch your hair softly.

Again, this isn’t something you’ll do once, and they’ll learn quickly; you probably would have to repeat this multiple times to understand.

After they’re 8-9 months of age, this is where they’ll slowly start to crawl quickly or even start walking slowly. Suddenly the kitchen cabinets don’t seem to be in another world, rather something they can get to quickly and open.

To keep them safe, try setting boundaries and marking places as off-limits for them. But you should also keep in mind not to be too strict and constraint them only to their play-pen. Keep an unlatched drawer somewhere in his reach, and when he opens it, he’ll find toys or wooden spoons to play with.

This is also the time when they start developing separation anxiety and will be very clingy. So, if you find them crying every time you keep her down to do the laundry, don’t pick her up immediately or run back to her when she starts crying because she can’t find you. Instead, reassure her with your voice like, “don’t worry, mama is in the laundry room, it’s okay.”


12-24 months

When the baby is 1-year-old, they learn about cause and effect and social curiosity. The one thing toddlers crave the most is your reaction.

When they throw food from the high chair, it’s not to make you angry. It’s their inquisitiveness to see how the blueberry rolls on the floor or how the applesauce splats when they throw it.

When she sees you laughing or getting upset with her, she’s got an audience. So, she’ll do it again and again. At this time, try ignoring her actions. If this doesn’t work, try telling your little one with an emotionless face to stop throwing food.

Gestures are effective when teaching toddlers about something. So, when you tell them don’t throw food, shake your head, and while telling them that food is meant to be eaten, try gesturing the food going in your mouth.

And, if they repeat it even after telling them not to, then simply take them off the high chair, and say that mealtime is over because she threw food on the floor and give them a toy to play with.

If you’re worried about her going hungry, then try offering a healthy snack after some time.

Another way of taming their tantrum is to offer a choice. Toddlers can lash out when things are not in their control, so to give them a sense of control, offer them a choice, like if the toddler doesn’t want to go to bed, and then offer him a choice like-“do you want to take a bath first or read your favorite book before going to bed?”

In scenarios when they’re throwing a lengthy tantrum, say in the supermarket, then it’s best to remove them from the scene, and ask them calmly what they want, and that you won’t take him back to the store until he calms down.           

24-36 months

A crying toddler is misbehaving and is about to be sent to time out by his parents.

There’s a reason why they call it the ‘terrible twos.’ During this age, when they aren’t able to communicate effectively or express their feelings, and they aren’t able to control their feelings, they resort to hitting and biting.

Disciplining a 2-year-old in such scenarios involves quickly telling them that it’s not the right thing to do and redirecting them to do something else.

Remember, don’t be a pushover. Just because you love your kid too much doesn’t mean you don’t say anything when he hits you. If you let him hit you today, tomorrow, he might hit another kid from his class.

Around 3-year-old is when you can introduce the ‘time-out’ because it’s only now when they can understand that every time they misbehave, they may have to sit in the chair in the corner for some time.

If you’re trying out this method, then limit the time-out to 1 minute per age, meaning if they’re 3 years old, then limit the time-out to 3 minutes. Still, again, as every child is different, it’s not necessary that this strategy might work every time, and you’ll have to be creative and try out other methods too.


How do you discipline your kid without hitting or yelling?

Hitting or yelling at a kid is very aggressive behavior. Remember that what you practice at home is what your son will consider is the right thing to do when he feels upset or angry.

So, don’t try to discipline your child by yelling, hitting, or spanking; he’ll not learn what good behavior is.

Can babies show anger?

Till the age of 8 months, they can feel anger, but they can’t be “angry at someone.”

Why do toddlers hit parents?

Toddlers hit parents mainly because they don’t know how to manage their feelings and emotions and express them in a socially acceptable manner.

Try to talk to them, or give them a warning about the consequences of their actions, or try to take away a privilege.


All in all, you know your child best, and you’ll know what’s best for your kid. Nobody can teach you the right way to bring up your own child. So, it’s up to you which methods of discipline you want to choose for your kid.

Every child is different, every scenario might be different, and every tantrum can be different too.

You need to decide which way of disciplining your child is more effective and employ it. Remember to be consistent in your ways. Don’t confuse your child by allowing the same behavior today but giving him a time-out for the same behavior tomorrow.

Understand your kid. Try to know what he wants, and if it’s reasonable, then help him achieve it, and if it’s not like having an ice cream pop before dinner, then tell him firmly that he’s only going to get it after dinner.

Last but not least, love them abundantly and have a sense of humor too while disciplining. You don’t want to seem cold and distant with your kid. Hug, love, and kiss them a lot, because you know once they start going to school, they’ll start being embarrassed by you.

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Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid,  you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best'.

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