Aug 18, 2015

How Should I Discipline My Toddler after divorce

Category: Toddlers
Posted By: Vanessa

Question: My son is 3 years old.  His father and I are divorced and have been apart since he was 18 months.  His sister is 5 years old and a very smart little girl.  Both of my children go to a private babysitter but will be starting day care in 2 weeks.  They are usually the only ones at the babysitter's.  I think they both need more socialization.  My daughter will be starting Kindergarten, which will help, but my son needs, structure, a schedule.




Dear Vanessa,

From what you have written, it does seem as if you are expecting quite a lot from your three year old.  They are still very unformed and vulnerable at that stage and need calm, patience and careful, kind teaching rather than punishment or smacking.  Additionally your son has experienced the break up of your marriage and having to come to terms with separated parents.

It does sound like he is angry and upset about something and I think it would be important to find a way of communicating with him and seeing if you can understand the source of his anger and distress.  Hopefully you would be able to do this on your own, at times when you might have a quiet moment with him, when putting him to bed or at a weekend.

One of the issues might well be the difference in parenting that he receives when with his father as compared to with you.  It would be very helpful if you and your ex husband could find a way to work together to make the two homes and experiences more familiar for both children.  If you cannot manage this by talking on your own then perhaps ask someone you both trust to help, or, if necessary with a therapist or mediator.

I think that karate would be great if it is fun for your son but I think that he is too young to learn the kind of discipline that you are expecting of him and that the harmony that you are looking for would be better found by helping to feel more settled and at ease.

My last piece of advice would be with regard to childcare.  In most cases children of your son’s age thrive better with a mixture of a few hours per day of group care and the remainder as one to one care.  I would suggest that the shock of full time group care and the loss of a one to one carer, on top of the divorce and the difficulties he is experiencing at the moment, might not be the best plan for him.

I really wish you well with managing the situation.

Best wishes,


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