Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Rewards and punishments for toddlers


I'm working on a feature on rewards and punishments for toddlers for Mother and Baby magazine. In your opinion, what kinds of small rewards or punishments can be given to toddlers for good or bad behavior?

Hello Arundhati,

I think the best rewards for toddlers are the social and verbal rewards. That is, praise and attention work wonderfully well for young children.

While everyone may be quite familiar with praise ("I like it when you come when I call you"), parents may be less familiar with attention. Calling attention to something a child has done doesn't really involve praise or a compliment -- it just calls attention to something done; and that works just as well sometimes. Examples would be:
 "Look at you! You put your shoes on all by yourself!"
 "I see a smart little boy petting the puppy so gently!"

As for actual rewards, activities and privileges may be the best rewards. For instance, you could say: "You were so helpful in the grocery store today, we are going to the park to play on the swings." Another example: "You and Katie are playing so well together, I'm going to let you play in your sandbox for a few more minutes before you come in for your nap."

These kinds of rewards also suggest the opposite. When there is a problem behavior, you can remove an activity or privilege. For instance, "You and Katie are throwing sand at each other, now you have to come in the house for a while." Or, "I can't let you play with the puppy when you are mean to him. Now we will put the puppy in the kennel and you are going to do something else." Or, "When you draw on the wall with your crayons, then I can't let you play with the crayons for a while."

I hope this helps. If you would like to ask further questions, just get back to me.

James Windell


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

©2017 All rights reserved.