How to sprout a disciplined ‘under 3’?


It can be quite frustrating to have a class full of eager, bubbly, I-have finally-started-school toddlers (on the one hand), plus another set of tearful (sometimes howling), I-want-my-mummy-right now, tantrum throwing toddlers!

When I was first assigned to Preparatory Class (aged 2-3yrs), one of the challenges faced was “How do I get them to obey class and school rules?”


Secondly, I was brought up in the old-fashioned no-nonsense environment so I am your typical no-nonsense individual who loves everything done properly to the last letter. Now, how do you achieve that with this age bracket?

I had to come up with a structure I knew wasn’t going to be easy and which would definitely take time to show its effectiveness but it worked with most (I’ll admit not all), of my pupils.

According to, the term ‘DISCIPLINE’ was given 12 definitions, I’ll work with 3.

  •    Number 11 definition says, “To bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.”
  •     Number 2 says, “Activity, exercise or a regimen that develops or improves a skill, training.”
  •    Number 1 says, “Training to act in accordance with rules.”

All these definitions have one thing in common – TRAINING!

You have to train your child to obey rules and develop disciplined habits. This applies to both teachers and parents, they must work together to get the best result. We often find that this connection is usually not the case. It takes a parent that truly cares for a child to ask how the child behaves with her peers, in the class, and in other social aspects, during and after school hours.

discipline for child

Others get the form of discipline wrong. They, either beat the child for any wrong perpetrated, or get them to serve punishments way above their capacity. We still have instances such as this in remote areas of the country.

Children will always be children and I usually tell my parents that if they notice their child sitting still, all prim and proper, at a stretch, then there might be something out of place.

Here are some tips I developed for my class discipline:

  1.  First day, first impression. I solidly believe that the first impression a child has of you the very first time stays with them forever. That first day is a critical one for both of you. If you show a child that you are very vulnerable and easily swayed, he will latch onto this fact and start taking advantage of you. Don’t act all sloppy, insecure and unsure; you have to be in control from the first second of meeting.
  2.  Rehearse class rules every morning before actual class starts. With my age bracket, we were not reading out posters and chanting do’s and don’ts. I used the traffic light symbols, pasted on my display board to remind them of what to touch, where to put things, and when to ask a question, so as not to interrupt me, etc.
  3. Routines! Routines help teach order, which, in turn, helps reinforce discipline. Even 0 – 1 year olds benefit from routines drafted by parents. They learn time management, and might even prompt a parent into performing an activity they are eagerly anticipating.
  4. Teach words used for courtesy e.g. please, excuse me, may I….., these words unconsciously gives them a sense of maturity. I think it’s because of the positive response they get from adults when they say these words.
  5. Communicate with them. Talk to them, they are intelligent and their brains are actively responding to their environment. Let them know when they are wrong, when they should say sorry, who was hurt, would they like if it happened to them too?
  6. Don’t be a public tribunal. When they do something ‘naughty’, don’t make them the subject of ridicule. There is a habit here where a child is put in front of the class, and the adult says…. “so and so is a naughty boy, shame…..shay…shay….shay…..shame”.  And the class choruses after the adult. This is mega humiliation!
  7. Don’t Beat! Hey, does an ‘under 3’ understand why he is being beaten? And what scale of offence could he knowingly do that he needs to have lines on his back or bottom to teach him a lesson?
  8. Denial doesn’t work for this age group. I mean the – ‘no ice-cream for tearing your book’ approach. It can work for the 4’s and 5’s but not under 3’s. Also, the – ‘no going for the class trip because you hit Aisha’.
  9. Start imbibing religiosity. Depending on your faith, you can explain that – ‘good Muslims don’t hit others’ or ‘good Muslim children say “bismiLlaah” before they eat or drink.’ (In the case of a Muslim child).
  10. The occasional reward is appreciated. It doesn’t have to be a physical object, a word of praise or encouragement is enough to make any child keep up with good behaviours.
  11. Finally, as a Character Count member, I try to uphold the 6 pillars – trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, respect, citizenship, caring. This is achieved by infusing it into lessons and role play. Yes, my School is a Character Count School.

Are there other methods that worked for you, or that you heard worked for others. I would love to get feedbacks as to other ways we can imbibe discipline at this crucial and critical foundation stage in a child’s life.


One thought on “How to sprout a disciplined ‘under 3’?

  1. For kids generally, I think showing them genuine and unconditional LOVE helps to develop trust in them towards the adult and with trust it becomes easier to positively educate them. They also need constant praise using words like: well done, brilliant, that’s thoughtful of you, you’re a star! because research has proved that kids that are regularly reinforced positively tend to progress better in life than kids with the deprivation of such ( Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook) and from personal experience with children and even adults.
    As a parent I also believe children should be treated as individuals and not be judged based on their academic abilities because there are other life skills that children would develop over time that affect them positively or negatively in adulthood.
    Allow children to be children, let them explore and be adventurous and don’t kill that creative spark in them and this call to mind: the cramming of children into a very limited space environment, sitting for hours in a classroom, listening to an adult talking and talking down on them when they should exploring the world they’re in. All adults need is to take any harmful thing out the way of these children whilst keeping a constant but not an obvious look on them.
    Every child has his/her own milestones in doing different things in life i.e. Crawling, walking and talking, so also will it be in their education, so be less bothered with my 3 years old cannot recite the alphabets whilst my friend, neighbour, colleague’s has already started reading because they’re all individuals that would blossom at their own respective time, yours is to provide the enabling environment, theirs is to sprout like a germinated seed at their own time.

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