Toddler Discipline Ideas: What to Say Instead of ‘BAD’

‘Toddler Discipline Ideas’ Post Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I believe in these products and utilize them myself! If you choose to make a purchase today, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps to keep my blog running: Little Hat Family. I thank you so much for your support!

Do you need some support in disciplining your child? It can be tough on both you and your child! Follow my guide for helpful, positive, parenting solutions. We can help you discover the root of the problem. You may also discover many phrases you can utilize, besides ‘bad’. Read on and discover so many toddler discipline ideas from Little Hat Family!

No Labels With Your Toddler

Studies show that using labels or titles may limit your child’s abilities. Always claiming your child is the “smartest”, “toughest”, or the “goofball” may lead to permanent labels that are hard to break. They put your child in a mental box and may also lead to negative conclusions of: “I can’t do this”, or “I have to be this certain way…”. It also stunts their emotional growth, self-exploration and the right to change over time.


I completely agree with not using any particular labels with your toddler or child. Your child will begin to identify with specific titles that you may be using. I utilize so many different nicknames for my toddler, Harry already. I do not want him to feel pigeon-holed into any particular personality trait as we learn who he truly is! As he grows and learns, I also want him to feel free to explore and develop his strengths.

This brings to mind my favorite quote from the amazing movie, Moana: “This does not define you.” In the movie, I love that Moana sees the (other) character’s fault’s, yet encourages them to find their heart’s purpose again. What a wonderful lesson. We can all use that perspective in our modern life! Have a little faith in each other… And find the good again.

Toddler Discipline Ideas to Utilize: As a parent Recognize the Source of the Behavior

As a parent, take a moment to recognize what is going on. What is the source of the defiant behavior? Why is he acting out? Is he possibly hungry, tired? Is it close to lunch time or bed time? Does he need to be changed, is he hurt, or maybe just bored. Is he craving stimulation and attention?

Harry is starting to throw little tantrums when we say no to certain things. He likes to chase the cat, play with the stove buttons, and fiddle with the TV remote. Any time we say no to these particular items he seems to melt down lately. For about 2 minutes he will scream and throw himself on the floor. Luckily, we are home when this happens and I have lots of patience! I’ve seen it all before as a professional nanny.

I know the source of why he is throwing a fit and my reaction is to communicate with him and remain calm. I sit right next to him, and calmly say: “I understand it’s hard that you can’t play with the stove. I’m here for you.” That’s pretty much it. He feels his feelings and after 2-3 minutes, we move onto the next activity.


Toddler Discipline Ideas: Other words to use instead of ‘BAD’

When you are speaking to your child at the height of frustration (for both of you), you may be drawn to using the phrase “That was bad”, or “You were being bad!”. It is ok to communicate what is going on and to describe the child’s reaction. However, I believe in being specific about the situation. For Example, “It is not acceptable to knock over the lamp”. Or, “You may not pull the cat’s tail, that hurts her.”

When you are really worked up, here are some words you may choose to use instead of “Bad”.

You can say, “You were being…”

  • Rude
  • Improper
  • Defiant
  • Too bold
  • Rebellious
  • Disruptive
  • Unkind
  • Disrespectful
  • Troublesome
  • (My Favorite…) Rascally.

Pin and Save for Later!

Get on their level for Simple Toddler Discipline Ideas, Literally:

Get down and talk to your toddler at their height, literally. Speak to them in a calm voice, without towering over them. I am sure it’s overwhelming to always have to look up at everyone. Not to mention absolutely everyone bosses you around all day as a kid. Make eye contact, explain to your child why their behavior was unacceptable, on their own level and you will get your point across as well as maintain your good relationship with your toddler!

Toddler Discipline Ideas: I’ve Worked with Many Families, This is What I’ve learned

In my 11+ professional years of nanny experience in Chicago, I have truly seen it all. I have worked with families that were extreme disciplinarians as well as families’ with very minimal house rules. I was expected to follow whatever rules were set up by the parents. Overall, I don’t know what the right answer is, but I’ve definitely seen some crazy moments! I guess the right style is whatever works for you and your relationship with your children!

The biggest lessons I have taken as a Nanny:

Children act out more when Mom is around. My theory is that they think you will understand their most sensitive feelings. They feel safe to melt down with you because mom will always love you unconditionally. I think kids can sense that even at a toddler’s age!

Multiple children will fight for your attention. And unfortunately, some find it only in negative attention.

An ignored child, or a distracted parent will lead to a melt down. Your kiddo wants you. Be there for him.

Maybe your Child Needs some more Activities: Use my FREE Sensory Play Guide

Kids understand rules pretty quickly. Especially when it directly effects them. Reinforce the rules, and always back it up with communication and possibly consequences. (not necessarily a punishment, but maybe a situation to try again. One family I worked with would respectfully say, “Try to start over”, when their young child would say something rude, demand a toy, or act out in a defiant manner. I really liked that tactic).

Keep up communication about the rules with your children and what you expect: respect, kind words, no hitting, etc. Remember these rules will change and grow with your children as they age.

Stay on the same page with your partner. Make sure you are both in the loop (no secrets from one parent).

Talk about the tough stuff. Then they will keep coming to you when they feel those tough feelings.

My Favorite quote about kids states: “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. if you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” -Catherine M. Wallace

& Check out some of our Favorites from Amazon:

Communication With Your Toddler:

Explain why the situation it not acceptable, how they physically hurt (with hitting, punching, biting, etc), or hurt your feelings with their words. You can discuss with them how can we handle our feelings next time. They may not understand all of your words or directions yet, but they are practicing.

Remember, they are learning the limits of the world around them and they are learning your house rules as well!

Remember as you Discipline your Child:

Try not to focus on punishment but connection and communication with your toddler. Explain what is going on as calmly as you can. I was not personally raised in fear, and I do not believe in disciplining with fear.

As Harry grows and pushes the limits, I plan to uphold my close relationship with him above my anger or frustration in the situation.

Unconditional Love from You:

Reinforce above all, that mommy and daddy still love you. We will always love you. No matter what. Your child is longing  to hear and feel this from you.

Keeping your cool in a tough situation with your toddler may be a challenge. Follow my guide for helpful, positive, parenting solutions. You may have discovered many phrases you can utilize, besides ‘bad’. These wonderful Family tips and many toddler discipline ideas were brought to you from Kelly with Little Hat Family. Don’t forget to subscribe below for all of your awesome mom tips, home hacks and frugal budgeting help! and Thanks for stopping by!


Check out our Freebie Email Budgeting course,

Get your finances on track once and for all so you can get back to your kiddos!


You may also enjoy these popular posts from Little Hat Family:

Toddler Play     

Toddler play and learn


Instant Access!

Budget cheat sheet download

Grab your Freebie Budget Sheet, Start Organizing your Money now!

Unsubscribe at any time
LITTLE HAT FAMILY joins with Struggling with picky-eaters? Looking to healthify your family dinners or to overhaul your family’s eating habits? Head on over to our friends at for healthy eating tips, tricks, advice, and recipes. Who is Your Healthy Family Coach? We’re Stef and Rob and we are a husband and wife team raising four kids. We want to help all of you navigate your journey through the challenges and difficulties of clean eating and healthy living, especially with children! We believe in family dinners, clean eating, experience over stuff, green, sustainable living and finding the balance. Why I Love Them: focuses on real world, budget friendly clean eating for you and your entire family. From offering healthified recipes for all your family favorites to providing tips to get even the pickiest of eaters on a healthier path, provides relatable support for every parent.

Hi, I am Kelly! Creator and administrator of Little Hat Family, I absolutely adore my squishy, smiley, 10-month old son, Harrison (Harry), and my kind and cooperative husband Stefan. Our little millennial, hipster family lives in Chicago and yes, we do love hats!
As a professional nanny for 11 years in Chicago, and now a new mommy myself, I have picked up so much useful, modern, mommy advice and life hacks! I would love to pay it forward to my fellow mommy tribe!
I also love creating thrifty projects, organization, an organic lifestyle, dancing, blogging, cooking and spending time with our large families!
I absorb every drop of Mama advice I can get; and I’ve created some Modern Motherly advice along the way! We Modern Mommies have to stick together! Subscribe to my blog today, and let’s connect our Modern, Family Tribes! ~Kelly


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: