Discipline for Toddlers

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  • 2 1/4 year old not listening.

    (42 replies)

    I feel like my son is becoming impossible to deal with. He simply cannot listen, and will not do what he is told. Getting him to preschool in the morning just exhausts me. He eats when food is presented, but getting him to come and get dressed, get a diaper changed, get ready to get into the car is always a huge battle. I did an experiment and spent 30 minutes asking him to get out of the bath, with no effect on what he was doing (playing with toys), before I had to just physically take the toys from him and pull him out (at which point he cries and protests). Its not like he’s absorbed in one thing when this happens, and he seems to hear and understand me, he just doesn’t have any sense that he should be doing what I ask. I don’t (or didn’t) have concerns about autism before this, aside from a little bit of hand flapping he does not seem to have symptoms and is very social and emotionally warm. But the non listening thing is driving my stress levels through the roof and making me lose my cool. I’ve tried doing things like giving him choices on what to wear but he has no interest. 

    Around that age I would ask my daughter to brush her teeth about 50 times, for as long as 20 minutes.  She would say "I don't want to."  The pediatrician told me it's because she liked the attention.  I would maybe check with your pediatrician as they can be very helpful.

    I highly recommend the book How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen. It will definitely help.

    I would try slowing down, patting him on the shoulder, looking Into his eyes and saying only once “it is time to get out of the bath. Either you can get out or I will take you out, which do you prefer?” He will perhaps ignore you or say he wants to stay or whatever, then tell him calmly and gently, “ok I am going to pick you up now” and take him out. Let him cry, tell him you know he didn’t want to get out. Just empathize with him but follow through and take him out. 
     

    he is only little and I don’t think he is old enough to listen in the way you expect.  When you ask him twenty times he tunes it out. You have to find a way to gently get his attention and ask him just once then follow through. He will get used to the idea that you mean what you are saying. 

    I don't have an answer, I just want to let you know that I have a similar aged son and he does the exact same thing. Some days are better than others, but every day it's a struggle to get dressed/undressed, go to bed, etc. Maybe it's a typical age thing? 

    I have become quite an evangelist of Janet Lansbury's lately. She's big on giving kids choices, and then quickly follow through. As in, "Do you want to get out of the bath yourself, or do you want me to help you?". Give him about 10-15 seconds to respond and do it himself, and if he doesn't, you could say, "I can see you need help getting out of the bath. I am going to help you" and take him out. 

    As you mentioned, you think he hears/understands you, but is continuing to do his own thing, which sounds like normal 2 year old behavior. :) My son definitely protests when I "help" him do things, but I let him express his frustration and hold the line on the boundary. 

    I highly recommend "No Bad Kids" by Janet Lansbury. It's really helped me reframe why my son is acting how he does, and also made me calmer in dealing with this boundary pushing. Good luck!

    I recommend checking out some Janet Lansbury podcasts/blog posts, or books. Her blog posts and podcasts are searchable by topic. She's a RIE practitioner, which is not for everyone, but I find her coaching on dealing with toddlers SO helpful. Her approach is to recognize that 2 year olds are biologically programmed to assert their independence and don't have the executive brain function to listen or follow directions the way we want them to. Repeating the same request doesn't help. Her recommendation would probably be something like, ask him once and then gently but firmly tell him "it seems like you're having a hard time doing _____, so I'm going to help you." A lot of it is about changing your mindset as a parent - don't see it as your child not listening or defying you, see it as needing to help them transition from one activity from the next. She talks a lot about how transitions are tough for toddlers and you have to help them prepare for it and go through it because they usually won't do it on their own. It really has helped me a lot and although I still lose my cool from time to time, I always try to come back and remind myself my child is 2 and needs my help!

    Dear parent of the 2 1/4 year-old boy:
    While your toddler has so many new abilities, he is still a baby. At 2 1/4 he isn't capable of acting independently, and lacks impulse control (which only really begins at 3 years old). Small children aren't yet ready to respond to voice commands, and this will last for a few more years. Infant/toddler expert, Magda Gerber said, "if they could do it, they would." Your child wants to please you, but simply isn't capable of acting independently yet. Toddlers are still entirely dependent on their parents and body care is a really important part of developing a child's self-concept. If you can take the time to be there and be present, it will pay off in many ways. You'll save more time and frustration and tears if you can understand that your child needs you during this time. You're investing time now so that they can be more independent later. Practically, I'm not sure safety-wise that I would leave a toddler in the tub by themself. Then, when it's time to get out of the tub you can say, "it's going to be time to get out of the bath soon. I'll let you play with x another minute or two and then I'll pick you up and we'll dry off." They need you to let them know what is going to happen and be a gentle guide. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a deep breath and remember you are the one who needs to take care of them. Try quieting any inner voice that is frustrated and just observe your son in the tub. "You love the water! Maybe you aren't ready to get out yet but we'll have a bath again soon." They are dependent on us for a few years, and how well we meet that dependence enables their independence. You can involve them in the process by saying things like, "It's time to get out of the bath, do you want to give me the boat, or do you want to put it in the basket yourself?" Involve them in the process of washing their body and then make the whole process pleasurable. "It's time to pull the plug. Let's do it together. I have your cozy towel here and I'll dry you off and then we'll get in your pajamas." Those minutes you'll invest will bring you closer, ease your frustration, and build the relationship and cooperation that will carry you into the future.  I recommend reading Janet Lansbury's blog if you have time: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2018/05/getting-dressed-daily-struggle/

    Wishing you well

    Sounds pretty typical for 2 years old to me :) One thought - if what you want him to do is always phrased as a request, then he (rightly?) is assuming one possible response or outcome is "no". How about more directives? "In 5 minutes we're getting out of the bath. I'm setting a timer!" Timers were HUGE for us at this age - they're great because when time is up, it's up! It's the timers fault, not the parent's! You just need to follow through. I would also try to shift away from frustration with him not listening or saying 'no' to lavish praise when he DOES listen and engage! Even make a darn sticker chart for coming to the table or whatever you want. Focus on positive reinforcement. This too shall pass. Except maybe the bath thing - my experience with little kids and baths is that it takes forever to get them in... but then you can't get them out!

    This is so tough! As a parent of a three-year-old, I will say it does get better (maybe not much).  Also want to say that this is (in my limited experience) typical of that age.  Parenting advice around boundaries and the appropriateness of physical intervention (just picking the kid up) varies so much, and I'm *not* a psychologist or early childhood educator.  What I have heard from those who are that I have found helpful are: (1) There's a tendency among parents to feel unease about our own power over our kids and to try to minimize or avoid it, but this can create anxiety in our kids.  It's ok to assert power and insist on boundaries.  Obviously striking or punishing a kid physically is not OK, but picking a kid out of the bathtub or other ways of gently but physically directing the kid, etc., is actually reassuring, because it lets the kid know that you aren't going to give them too much control over what happens -- which is unnerving when you're that small. (2) I make the mistake of asking my kid to do things all the time.  ("Can you put on your shoes, please?")  Unless they genuinely have the option, don't phrase it as one.  "Put on your shoes, please," similarly lets them know that you're in control (not them), which is reassuring.  (3) As my daughter has gotten older I've had a lot of success with "1, 2, 3" magic.  Create a (small) consequence, then say that if they don't come to the door, sit down, etc. by the count of three, that consequence will be imposed.  (And it has to be a consequence you'll actually impose and, ideally, one that is proximate in time.) I do a lot of fractions, but I've very rarely had to actually impose the consequence, which is great.  Not sure if you've already tried these, but hopefully of some help -- and if nothing else, sending reassurance that 2-year-olds are hard in exactly this way and you and your kiddo are almost certainly doing great.

    I sympathize with your dilemma.  Two things come to mind.  Check his hearing to ensure that is not part of the problem.   Secondly, I found it helps to change up the routine and tasks.  My son must have thought I was a broken record as i also repeated myself with the same words, tone, and script. Engage HIM in each task.  Where did I put your clean diaper? Where is a fun place to brush your teeth?  Ask him to look for the spiral when the water goes down the drain when he pulls the plug. What are you looking forward to at school today?  Let him choose what to wear.   Also, I have overhead parents asking their toddlers to do things, ending the sentence with "okay?" leaving the door open for another outcome.  

    Hope this will help.

    I had the exact same issue with my now over 2 1/2 year old daughter. She would not listen, and never wanted to get out of the bath. I started to prepare her before she got in the bath by explaining that there is a start and an end to bath time. Of course this is obvious to us adults, but she needed me to explain the plan. She loves baths more than anything, so when I say, “it’s time to take a bath” she runs to the bathtub and starts undressing. That’s when I say “if we start taking a bath, that means you will also need to get out of the bath when I say it’s time to dry off.” At the time, she didn’t seem to be listening, but it worked like a charm once it was time to get out. Also, I notice if I ask her to start cleaning up her bath toys and putting them in the basket, and make a game out of it, she enjoys the end process more and is ready to be dried off. 
    The idea of explaining processes to her works for all the other stuff too, like getting in the car seat. She seems to do well when I take her through the plan of what will happen before executing xyz... I learned it from RIE parenting writer Janet Lansbury’s book on disciplining toddlers without shame. I highly recommend this book. So far the tools that I have put into practice have worked nicely! 
    Good luck! Xo 

    Your story sounds so much like ours it's almost eerie. At just over 2 years our kid suddenly lost all interest in following instructions, and lost it completely if we moved his body for him. We started doing two things: incentives & times outs. He loves stickers, so we use them to incentivize good listening during a particularly tough part of our routine (getting from the car to daycare check in smoothly = sticker on your shirt, you get to show your teachers/friends). And we instituted calm, thoughtful time-outs when he wasn't listening at home, and got downright religious about following through from start to finish every single time he wasn't listening, and have seen great results. That said, we winged time-outs at first, and they weren't great. But when we started following these instructions to the letter, results came pretty quick: https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/timeout/steps.html. Time outs can be such a gift to him, as a time to calm his emotions and body, and be ready to hear us when it's over. It also helps us keep our cool. We add hugs and I-love-yous at the end, after we go over why he was in time out and how to avoid it in the future. Good luck! Hang in there! :)

    Omg I having the same problem my son is like this I think they are also flustered because they can’t really grasp the idea it is a pandemic. I’m currently expecting and I just don’t have the energy to deal with it. But we just have to stand our grounds and eventually they will start listening but as of right now I’m still alternating time out taking his toys and going to bed early I know this isn’t advice but I’m Praying SOMETHING sticks  good luck and be strong

    Hello, 

    First of all, I'm sorry you are having a hard time right now. Take a moment and let yourself know that it's alright this is only a moment in time. It isn't your fault. It will not be forever. 

    That being said I do agree that pediatricians can have some great advice. 

    I am a nanny and a mother myself. I have worked with typical children and children with special needs as a behavioral aid. There are many things you can try. I know that it may be frustrating so make sure to take time for yourself and give yourself pep talks because you're doing great!

    First I would suggest working off his interests. If he likes games make it a game so who can get dressed first. Or put on a fun song before and try to get dressed before it ends.  

    Make getting in the car a race or let him take on the persona of his favorite super hero. I never say "its time to get in the car" or "put your shoes on" I say "who can get to the car first" and "who can put their shoes on first". It's all in the presentation for kids. 

    I would recommend a sticker chart or prize wheel if the morning goes smoothly. He can choose a sticker to put on the chart if it goes well. He could also use a prize wheel so he could win some extra screen time, a walk around the neighborhood later, whatever his interests are. 

    Hope this helps. I know mornings are a struggle for many parents. I am sure you are doing a wonderful job! 

    I agree with one of the previous posters who recommended checking with your pediatrician. This could be completely normal 2-year-old behavior, or it could be something else - hearing or auditory processing issues, ADHD, etc. He may be just extremely focused on what he wants to do, and transitions are difficult. I have one kid who drove me crazy not listening and turned out to have too much fluid in his ears to hear me well. Another kid was laser focused on what he wanted to do, and nothing else, and turned out to have ADHD. My toughest kid between the ages of 2 and 4 is my most mellow teenager. Hang in there!

    You are expecting something that they are not developmentally ready to provide to you at that age. The second you reset expectations that he isn't going to listen, and that is normal, and okay the easier it will be dealing with it (and yea it's super annoying). Kids at that age live in the moment, they can't and don't plan, and are bad at pacing. At this age the particular challenge is that they are figuring out autonomy and control -- the more you impose your will the more they will push back. 

    If you take mornings as an example, if he's capable of getting ready himself and that's important to you (which is awesome!), then you should give ample (30+ min) time to make that happen. Given that he's excited about school, you can have a gentle nudge reminding him that he can go to school and have fun, but that requires him to put on pants, and then a shirt, and then shoes. For bath time, you can mention how you will read him a book before going to bed, and if he takes too long than it will be too late to read a book. It sounds a bit like incentives, but they are real consequences of say taking too long in the bath that he doesn't have the capability to reason about.

    Hi,

    Firstly, I'm sorry that you are going through this. I would point out (and admittedly without knowing your situation at all) that this is a challenging TIME to parent, so reminding ourselves to be a little gentler with ourselves is important (and hard). There are so many stressors in the world at this moment, and we just all feel them in different ways (even the toddlers). And we are all getting generally less support and we just have less to give than we are used to. Secondly, this can be a charming but challenging AGE to parent (says I with an almost-2.5 year old myself). 

    Secondly, not listening at this age shouldn't be a big red flag for Autism, as long as you don't have any other concerns. Alison Gopnik in The Scientist in the Crib, has a nice passage about the "terrible two's" in the context of relational development. It's a little bit more about the perverse "doing what you're not supposed to do not just because it's inherently interesting, but BECAUSE it drives your caregiver crazy" rather than the slightly more passive ignoring directions you are talking about, but maybe still relevant. Basically, around age one, babies start to realize the things they want (e.g., the lamp cord) are sometimes thwarted by caregivers. Around 18 months, they are starting to understand how their preferences can be different from someone else's. The work of the second year seems "to involve a systematic exploration of that idea,almost a kind of experimental research program. Toddlers are systemically testing the dimensions on which their desires and the desires of others may be in conflict." So I sometimes remind myself that this is about my daughter developing crucial theory of mind skills and it makes me feel a little better. But what that means is that you are giving your son a library of experiences to understand how these interactions go. He ignores you, gets some extra time with what he wants to do, and then you get stressed and (probably) show him you are exasperated and frustrated.

    I really like to listen to Janet Lansbury's Unruffled Podcast (https://www.janetlansbury.com/podcast-audio/) - hearing her voice just calms me down. One of my most consistently successful strategies with my daughter is to just give her the basic choice: you can get out of the bath yourself, or I can help you do it. Because of who she is, usually she wants to do it herself and that is a pretty strong motivator. If I have to "help" her (by pulling toys away and taking her out of the bath) I usually just acknowledge her feelings and set a firm limit; "I know you were having so much fun playing, and you didn't want to get out yet - you are really upset. But it's time to get in jammies and read books now. Bathtime is over." Both acknowledging their feelings, and keeping the boundary firm (and being willing to physically enforce if necessary), seem to be important ingredients in the recipe. If I can remind myself to just pick an appropriate consequence, tell it to her, and then enact it calmly if necessary, it also saves me getting worked up. It is admittedly more work than if she would just do what I told her to, but if I let myself start to resent that, I lose sight of my parental role. So this is what I do in my best, most amazing parenting moments. And then of course, there are the rest, for which I try to have compassion for myself, as well as my littles.

    My son, now 3, is the same. I think this is normal. Here’s what works for me, in situations where something has to be done (such as washing hands, wearing shoes outside, sunscreen, going to bed). 
    1. Prompt. “In 2 minutes we are going upstairs to brush your teeth.” Then, “say goodbye to your toys” (or whatever the current activity is). 
    2. Do not ask, make a statement. “Now we are going to brush your teeth.”

    3. Give a choice. “Should we skip or jump to the bathroom?”

    4. Explain. “I’m going to brush your teeth until the count of 10, then it’s your turn.”

    5. Praise. “You did it!”

    Consistency and follow-through is key. Making things fun helps. And whatever you do do not ask your child to do some thing, tell them a statement instead. 
    I hope this helps!

    I feel your pain and hope some of these suggestions might be useful...

    Instead of telling kiddo what to do try showing them what you want them to do first yourself or by demonstrating it with a toy. My husband is constantly reminding himself that he has to demonstrate something before my very independent 3 year old will have any idea what to really do...of course we also have to explain or show quickly in a way that a child's mind can grasp.

    Make a game up that demonstrates the behavior. For example, if getting out of bath is a struggle you might try taking two figures and play out your nighttime routine including what you'll say when it's time to get out of the bath and how the next thing will also be fun. Then as you go through it during the evening point out excitedly how you all are doing what the toys were doing. I find Daniel Tiger's trolley ride to bed invaluable...we've been referring back to it for a couple years now to continue to reinforce/justify what's coming next.

    Simply telling a 2 year old to do something and expecting compliance is just setting yourself up for frustration and anger. Kiddos learn to tune us out early- that's why so many parents add on the middle name when they expect their kid to really listen.
    There is an incredible amount of handholding you will have to do through things your kiddo doesn't find appealing. Maybe instead of telling them they need to get out of the bath you let them know the bath will be ending soon and start preparing- pull out the towel, change your position in the room to standing, let the bath water start to drain...give them cues so they can prepare...maybe have a doll that kiddo washes, rinses and "puts to bed" in the soapdish before they get out. When we need my son to stop playing with trucks at night we tell him they need to go to bed to rest and have him park them in the "garage."

    I'd also suggest a 5 minute heads up that a transition is coming for any activity, along with a timer set to a special song or bell (I took this lesson from preschool where the kids are excited to transition to an activity because it means they get to ring a special bell when the timer is done).

    At one point my son was so into brushing his teeth he'd gladly get out of the tub to do so which was a huge change in attitude. Is there anything youncan do post bath that would make your kiddo excited to.get.out? Maybe your kiddo can watch the sesame street tooth brush song after the bath as something to motivate and distract from the negative feelings around transitioning to the next activity. (We also found that video really helpful as it made mom and dad brushing his teeth at the end expected and matter of fact).

    Hang in there! All the best!

    So if you think there's a developmental issue, follow your gut and look into it. Otherwise, I'm not sure about your process in what you explained. So children under 8-9 really don't reason well so if that's your main tool, you might want to rethink your expectations and strategy. Setting up for success and natural consequences (praise, prompting, firm voice, whatever) may be helpful as well as consistency on your part. Why would you ask him to get out of the tub for 30 minutes? If nothing happened, he could just stay in the tub and play, and it sounds like he does. Perhaps set a timer and when the time goes off, you have 5 more minutes, then set it for 5 minutes and it's time to get out. Then actually get out and have a cozy robe waiting for him or stuffy waiting for him or something to transition to the next activity, which I assume will be getting into pajamas. So look at what you're setting up, what's realistic, and how you can change the equation. Maybe that would help. 

    This is common behavior for toddlers, who are testing their will, and also their boundaries. It can be very challenging for parents.

    In the bathtub example you gave, I would do some version of the following. 1) State that it will be time to get out of the bathtub in a few minutes (give him a gentle warning of what's coming) 2) After a few minutes, ask if he is ready to get out by himself, or if he needs your help. 3) If he does not indicate he's going to do it himself, gently tell him that you see he needs your help, and then help him do it. Drain the tub, take out the toys, and take him out. The first step, and steps in between, are actually for you to check in with yourself so that you can do what you need to do all of this in a calm and regulated way (maybe take a deep breath, say a mantra like "I am helping him learn to cooperate," or whatever helps you calm yourself.) With your gentle yet firm guidance, he will feel confident and secure knowing that he has a confident parent who creates healthy structure for him, and over time begin to participate more (ie, choosing to get out of the bath himself).

    Do what you can to take care of yourself so that you are able to take care of him during this challenging stage (and in this challenging global time!). I know this is hard for most of us to do right now, so I send you gentleness around this. As well, if you can connect with him in a very present way on a regular basis when there is *not a transition that needs to happen, this can build your relationship and help you endure the harder times. I sometimes keep a journal of delightful things (even the smallest things!) I notice about my kid, which helps me stay positive.

    This will evolve. <3

    I think it can be confusing for a 2 year old to understand when a request is actually a demand. Who wouldn’t prefer fun over responsibilities? Try to make demands more clear. For example, set a timer and say bath time is over in 60 seconds. When the time is up, unplug the water and pick him up. Same with it’s time to change your diaper in 2 minutes. When the time is up, pick him up and take him to be changed. It’s important for him to have some choices such as the red shirt or the blue one. And it’s good to give choices whenever possible. But it’s important to only offer choices when there truly is a choice and be prepared to accept that his decision might not be the one you hoped for. Things like getting ready for school, changing a diaper are not options and it’s important to make that distinction clear to his two year mind. Good luck! 

    I think your son is fairly typical. He is doing what he wants to do. When you want him to do something you may need to think a bit from his perspective. What is in it for him? When my son was that age and was taking a bath, I would let him know when bath time was done and then pull the plug and start putting toys away. He would stay in the tub playing with the remaining toys until the water was gone and he would get cold. At that point, he was willing to get out because he was uncomfortable. Sometimes he may be upset. That's okay! He will get over it. When possible try to give him a little reward for complying. "Hey, lets get done with bath time so we can read this cool book!"

    For the morning routine, make a chart with pictures of all the things he needs to do to get ready. He gets a sticker on each one that he does after he does it. If he gets ready quickly, what is in it for him? Maybe he gets to play with a special toy when he has done everything on the chart. He is dawdling now because he gets to play more and spend more time at home with you. 

    Transitions are tough at this age! Try to see his perspective and find ways to motivate him. Get excited about things that you want him to do. I can't remember how many times at that age I had to make a big deal about how cool public bathrooms are so that I could get my son in it to use the toilet. "Oh hey, is this the place that has the cool sinks. Let's go check it out!"

    Hang in there!

    This sounds like normal 2 1/2 year old behavior to me.  It's been a while since my son was a toddler, but I clearly remember those days when just getting out of the house took forever. Drop offs at pre-school were always combative.  And he loved baths and resisted getting out of the tub all the time.  It IS exhausting, but maybe if you adjusted your expectations of what a is normal for a 2 1/2 year old developmentally, you may be less stressed out.  But of course, check with your pediatrician, to rule anything out.  Sounds normal to me.  

    You might want to read "How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen" by Joanna Faber and Julie King.  A great resource for frustrated parents! 

    I really really recommend the book ‘How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen.’ It’s written with warmth, compassion, and most importantly loads of concrete, practical strategies. Get ready to talk like the bathtub! And also for that to totally work.

    I think what you’re describing sounds pretty normal from my experience with a 2.5 year old. They are enough to make you pull your hair out for sure! Listening to the “unruffled” parenting podcast by Janet Lansbury has been really helpful for me. She has a lot of insight into toddlers’ brains/actions and how you can use this info to respond differently, which helped me begin (still working on it!) to change this really negative dynamic of getting soooo frustrated with my kid for not listening. ;) I think you can search her podcasts by topic on her website. Good luck!

    Hi! That sounds rough. I highly recommend looking up Janet Lansbury if you're not already familiar with her work. It's been really helpful in dealing with toddlerdom over here.

    Toddlers are so hard. Choices don’t work well for my daughter. My new tactics are 1. not to discuss things, just do them 2. Tell her i understand that this is very hard and upsetting for her but i still do need to do xyz ( change her diaper, wipe her face etc) and do it even while she cries and protests 3. Make up silly songs while doing the things she doesn’t enjoy.

    there are still lots of tears. I remind myself that it’s hard to be a toddler and have so little choice and it’s hard to be a parent of a toddler and get anything done!

    He sounds normal. Spending 30 minutes asking a two year old to do something is nuts. Ask once, give a warning, then take him out of the tub/change his diaper/get him dressed. You are the parent. 

    I can empathize and relate. Getting ready to go to school, getting my son into his car seat, and baths are all very difficult when he doesn't want to do it. It is their way to assert their own will and independence. It sounds to me like normal 2-3 year old tantrums. Check out the book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk".

    That sounds similar to my son when he was young and was later diagnosed with ADHD. He has trouble with transitions and listening/ following directions. He is very outgoing and warm. However, your son is still VERY young. They don't diagnose ADHD until the kids are much older since so many of the characteristics are typical in toddlers. 

    We have some similar with our daughter when she was around 2. I read the book 1,2,3 Magic. It helps us a lot. We are still using this method untill this day (she is 3.5). And it has proven effective and make me feel in control of the situation.

    I'm not sure if it's developmentally appropriate to expect 2 year olds to do what we ask right away. I'm still working on this with my 5 year old! Also if you repeat yourself for a half hour without taking any action then there's no learning or incentive for them to change what they're doing. You can either try to make things into a game or do a 1-2-3 countdown. We do both and they work differently at different times. The 1-2-3 is NOT A PUNISHMENT but you say something like, "I can see you're having fun but it's time to get out of the bath now. I'm going to count to 3 and then fish you out."  This gives the child the chance to do it themself and then if not, no big deal, you'll do it for them - no pressure, no anger, no worries. Sometimes they want that count to just finish up. Sometimes they're tired and just want help and can't/won't ask! 

    First let me say that you are a great mom and you are doing an incredible job. Your child is willful and determined and that’s not a bad thing, but it can be challenging and frustrating. There are no easy or quick fix solutions with toddlers. They behave this way for so many different reasons, but mainly because they are constantly learning and trying new things and asserting independence. Definitely contact your pediatrician and I would recommend finding parenting books at your library or online (Pinterest has some great ideas and articles) that can help you find activities and exercises that can be incorporated into your routine so that your child feels challenged and involved and wants to participate. My 13 month old has started displaying that willful independence and I have been taking him to the park where there is a baseball field and I just let him go. He explores everything and climbs the benches and shakes the fences and falls down and gets up and keeps going. I try to go for an hour and really let him burn off his energy. This has really helped us a lot. Maybe there are families at your daycare that you could play date with?

    And most importantly, know that this is a hard time in child rearing. Probably the hardest. You are a wonderful mother - never forget that. You are the absolute best thing for your little one and they love you immensely. 

    What saved me with 2 year olds is a book that said that they're "imposter humans." They walk, talk, CAN follow instructions (if they desire), CAN display empathy (if they desire). It fools you. They're not humans yet. It doesn't help you get cooperation, but it helped me reset expectations and lowered my frustration when they appeared to be jerks. Sometimes all the strategies that parents use just give them something to do while waiting it out developmentally. Good luck!! They will become more human. 

    What you are describing is completely normal for this age. Children are naturally curious so the fact that he is interested in his surroundings is a sign of health. It means he is not scared to engage in the world and not worried about what might happen if he tried new things. We are not born to obey. Responding to a parent's request is a learnt behavior, not a natural one. Children learn this slowly and as a parent, balancing between allowing a child to experience his curiosity and getting him to do things he needs to do is quite a difficult art. A 2 or 3, or even 4 or 5 year old is not able to tell time and is not able to think about next steps like getting out of the bath or coming over to have dinner. At these times it is the parent's responsibility to teach the child by showing him what needs to be done. Sometimes telling a child that it is time to put the toys away, maybe singing a song and including him in the action of putting them away will teach him how to do this transition. You can not expect a child this age to be able to take this kind of responsibility himself. 

    I am a parent to two college age kids and currently have a 10 month old foster baby living with me. So I speak from my own experience as well as a professional in child mental health. Even now that my kids are in college, I still need to provide boundaries for them sometimes. It is my responsibility as a parent, not theirs.  

    I'm guessing this is pretty normal behavior. My daughter is 2.5 and I still physically pick her up and move her when I give up asking/coaxing/encouraging. To get her to brush her teeth, dad and I let her play around in the bathroom for about 10 minutes (we build this time into the schedule) and then I pick her up and put her on daddy's lap where he holds her for the toothbrushing. It would never happen otherwise. My daughter is a lot happier if I indulge her for a few minutes before I require her to do something. She doesn't like getting out of the crib in the morning so we play a couple of songs she likes on the home pod first and then I pick her up and put her on the changing table to get dressed. 

    This is totally normal. The technique with the highest success rate I have found is to be creative - you have to be funny and mix it up a lot - for example, get his attention by having one of his rubber duckies tell him to follow him out of the tub to help him explore a new lake (like the sink) or something  - then you have to ham it up and create the story for long enough to keep him interested and following the duck’s instructions. It’s just one example. Also, with some kids backwards psychology works really well at a certain age. Like “I bet you can’t get out of the tub in 5 seconds!” It’s all super exhausting. The other option is to give choices - like It’s time to get out, do you want to get out of the tub on this end or the other end? But I think being silly tends to work better for some kids. Just know that it’s ok to tell him and then if he doesn’t comply you have to just pick him up. Kids will scream bloody murder but it’s just how it is. Good luck. 

    Lots of good advice here, so I won't repeat any, but have one additional tip. Getting my two-year-old dressed for school used to be such a struggle. Now I just dress him for the day at night. Cotton sweatpants, cotton long-sleeve shirt are fine for pajamas and daytime clothes. It has made our mornings sooo much easier. 

    My daughter was similar.  To distract her I started telling her stories that I would just make up (often about the same characters so that each story was like a new chapter ..) and she would forget her resistance and get dressed, or take a bite of food, or put on her coat or whatever needed to happen.  It was tiring at times but it was the only thing that seemed to work ...

    These are my tricks for getting out the door quickly for school as I am not a morning person and neither is my strong-willed opinionated child:

    1. get "dressed" the night before - sleep in clean clothes, we don't distinguish between pajamas, regular clothes

    2. diaper change before leaving the bedroom or pee first thing when they get up before going to the kitchen/playroom etc.

    3. breakfast in the car- waffle/bagel/english muffin etc and fruit. If I think we will need extra motivation I'll get one of my no sugar "chocolate" muffins out of the freezer to have in the car or something for extra motivation

    As far as listening, we after appropriate amount of time/warnings we have had to have a by the count of three approach. And if they don't do it by three they either get "helped" or lose a toy or some consequence. My son has selective hearing. You could also try whispering, that sometimes gets attention. My son gets really focused on what he's doing and himself and is pretty oblivious to the outside world/wants to do what he wants to do. It's tough! Good luck

    What are you are describing sounds like a typical two year old going through the terrible two's. Just be aware that reasoning and bargaining and cajoling doesn't work for a 2 year old. My sister always quoted at me, "Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result, is the definition of insanity." Insane pretty much described how I felt when my son went through the Terrible Two's. I had to sit back and realize what I was doing was not working, and actually change my behavior. What saved me was the book "1,2,3 Magic", which gave amazing concrete tips for dealing not only with 2 year olds but older kids too. Just stop reasoning and talking "at" your son, and find some different methods that work. As for your developmental concerns, you can talk to your pediatrician about them. Good luck!

  • My almost 29 month old has a lot of trouble sharing with his classmates in day care and when a kid takes away the toys he is playing with, he tries to bite them. I talk to him everyday that sharing is important and that the toys are for everyone and he needs to remember to share. He has been the only child until 5 months ago that we had our second son a few days before he turned two. His teachers tell me that his behavior is due to his baby brother but he loves his brother so much and never argues for attention since I try to give them equal time. It is harder to focus on just him since I breastfeed his brother and I barely have any energy with a toddler and a baby. Are there any recommendations on teaching a two year old to share? 

    My other concern is that the kids are biting him (HARD!) and today he came home with deep scratches in his face due to sharing. It has not been the first time, and he even has marks from the very first time they scratched his face just a few days before picture day. I've spoken to the teachers about this, and they tell me that they have spoken to the parents but they don't cut the child's nails. I just don't know what to do! I can only teach MY son to not do these things, but what happens when they do that to him? The school tries to keep the names of the children confidential since they are children, but I've even spoken to the center director and nothing has changed. 

    I know my son is not a bully, he just refuses to share which I want to find a way to fix so that hopefully the biting and scratching towards my son stop. HELP!

    There are several ways where the daycare center seems not to be managing the situation properly.

    First, at two and a half, children are more than ready to learn how to take turns. I'm surprised that the daycare center isn't managing the situation better, in facilitating sharing and teaching better toy etiquette. In my daughter's toddler class last year, they taught the kids not to grab toys that another toy still had in their hand. If a conflict came up over a toy, the kids learned to ask a teacher for a timer, or a teacher intervened and facilitated taking turns.

    Second, in addition to trying to prevent incidents through the above means, the teachers should also be talking with kids every time an incident happens about not biting or scratching, and relaying incident reports to all involved parents asking them to reinforce the message at home.

    Third, it's reasonable for daycare centers to require and remind parents to keep the children's nails trimmed.

    Finally, kids bite and scratch each other at daycare sometimes. But the teachers should be managing the situation more proactively.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions Related Pages

Discipline for 13-month-old in daycare

May 2008

My 13-month old daughter starts in day-care next month. Overall we were happy with the day-care when we saw the place and met the staff. However, I have a concern about the way they discipline the children. They explained that if a child does something that he or she is not allowed to three times, she has to stand on a ''time-out'' cirkel for 2-3 minutes. This would be in front of the other children. I think small children are not going to learn anything from this and that it is a humiliation of the child. Any experience or thoughts on time- outs/discipline in day-care? Do you think that time-outs are appropriate for older children in a day-care? Concerned Mom


A 3 minute time out for 12-13 month olds?!? They're babies! They're too young for punishment, let alone a 3 minute time out. Clearly this child care center doesn't understand what's developmentally appropriate and I shudder to think what else they're doing. Find a new child care center. Sarah


This doesn't seem appropriate for a toddler. How on earth would they get a 13-month-old to stay still in the naughty circle for 3 minutes anyway? You should definitely discuss your concerns with the daycare. My son goes to daycare and they do on occasion give time outs for repetitive, serious misbehaviors. (i.e.: hitting, pushing) The timeout is one minute per year of age and it's in another room away from the other children, with a caretaker. For less serious behavior, the child would be taken away from the group and would sit on a caretaker's lap for a few minutes. My son is 20 months old and has had one ''leave the room'' timeout in his 8 months at our daycare. Personally, I'm fine with that, because it's consistent with what we do at home. For a child my son's age, our family's and our daycare's main form of ''discipline'' is distracting him, removing him from situations where he's getting in trouble or out of control, and making sure he's not too hungry or tired. That keeps most situations from escalating to the point where a time out is necessary. Time outs are really supposed to be a way to get children to calm down, not a way to embarrass them in front of the group. Kristine


This discipline for a one-year-old is outrageously inappropriate. It borders on abusive! It is even inaproppriate for an older child of any age. Time-out is, in general, a much contested discipline method. Some teachers, schools, parents, experts, etc. swear by it whereas others - like myself - feel that there are better ways to help a child change his or her behaviors. However, this kind of time out is one that relies on shaming a child and perhaps on causing physical discomfort (since the child has to STAND in one place) and both are these are inappropriate under any circumstance. If you can, find another child care for your child!!! An experienced preschool teacher


I work at a daycare and there is consistency to discipline, but none of it involves putting one-year-olds in time-out and certainly not in a position of ridicule. Younger children are redirected. Most older children respond well to redirection as well or a simple reminders. Time out is used occasionally. -anon


that is ludicrous to expect from a 1 year old. I would question the daycare based on this. Do they really expect a 1 year old to ''get it'' like a 4 year old does? Check out gentle discipline


Trust your instincts! You are absolutely right that a one year old will not learn from any form of time-out. The way that children learn is by being kindly guided in the right direction, not through humiliation and shame. A daycare program that believes this is the right way to teach a very young child is seriously lacking in knowledge of both child development and teaching technique. Liisa


Discipline for a 16-month-old

June 2007

Our 16 month is displaying the normal behavior of testing his limits and need some advice about the best way to handle it. We have baby-proofed our house to an extent that he is given a lot of freedom, but there are about 3 things that he is not allowed to do (for safety reasons). We have both been consistent about never allowing him to do those things, but he continues to push. We generally just try to redirect his attention but he is so, so determined that is doesn't work. My understanding is that time-outs are not appropriate for someone before two, because they don't understand the punishment as a consequence of their behavior, so I wonder if there is another alternative for this age. Note: we do not believe in spanking or yelling. Any suggestions? anon


REDIRECT! REDIRECT! REDIRECT! Keep at it. Pick him up and move him to another room to another activity. Make sure that you get down to his level when talking to him to acknowledge his frustration with what you are preventing him from... Say something like, ''I know that you really want to shove that fork in the light socket, but it isn't safe. Mommy isn't safe if she does it. Let's go to the dining room and play with play dough.'' Then physically remove him from the situation as gently as possible.

Spanking and yelling are pretty much for your benefit anyway, so you are safe in avoiding them. -anon


I just wanted to chime in that we introduced time outs when my daughter was about 17 months old. It was a very rare occurrence, but definitely think that less than two year olds can understand that actions have consequences to a degree. In our case we already had the rule that at mealtime, when the food throwing started that meant she was done eating and we would wipe her face and take her out of the high chair. If it was the beginning of a meal, we would wait 10 minutes and then put her back. If we thought she had already eaten enough, she was done. She quickly learned this. However, in the spirit of testing limits, one night she was throwing food and I said, ''Ok, you are done eating.'' I went to get the washcloth, and when I came back, she looked me square in the eye and threw her cup on the floor. When I came close to wipe her face she slapped me across the face! I was SO surprised, as we have a completely non-violent household and she had never hit me purposefully before. Anyway, my first response was, ''Ok you are in time out'' and thus the kitchen rug became our time out spot. I went with the 1 minute per year of age rule, and was amazed that after only about 2 times, she understood and stayed there. When the time was up we would go to her and repeat why she was in time out (short and sweet) and then let her get up. Now that she is 2 1/2 we ask her why she was in time out and then make her apologize before getting up. It has worked very well, and she probably goes in time out less than once a week. Good luck with the limit testing! Time out worked for us


Our house sounds a lot like yours. We have just a few battles we fight vigorously with our 17 month old--no standing on chairs, no walking in the street, etc. We fight them over and over and over again. He is getting better. If it takes a 100 times for a dog to learn a command, I can only imagine how many times it will take for my son to learn not to stand on the furniture!

I am certainly no expert, but I use time outs with my son, and I do see a difference in his behavior. I started the time outs for me, really, just to collect myself when he would get under my skin. I take him away from the temptation and place him in his crib. I had heard ''a minute per year of age,'' so we started at one minute....That's about all it takes. After a minute, he is calm, usually cuddly, and leaves whatever it is alone--for a little while, at least. I'm not sure if it is the best method, but when we both need a break, it seems to work for us.

Just keep consistent and (I have to believe) they will get it eventually. keeping the faith


Hi. I think you can definitely put your little guy in some version of time out at this age. Our little boy is 20 months now. He started this whole biting routine when he was about 14 months and every time he did it I just put him down and ignored him for a full minute. Now, if he does something dangerous or bad, I stick him in his crib for a minute and tell him when I am done what he did that landed him in the pokey. They are definitely smart/advanced enough to understand that when they do X then an unpleasant Y happens. You bite me, you get ignored.

As for continuous testing, just assume he will find something else to test you with. Sounds like this is their full-time job at this age. Jenny


I don't think he's too young for time out. My son was even younger (still crawling, so under 13 months) when I started. He understood 'no-no', but there was one thing he started teasing me with...

He loved pulling my books off the bookshelf. At first I'd move him and say, ''No, no, that's a mama book, here's a Renzie book'', and hand him a board book. But he started going right back to do it again. When I found myself getting angry (just a teeny), I thought - you can't get angry at a baby, and I decided to put him in time out (1 minute, crib as restraint, no isolation factor). My sister-in-law said it wouldn't work, since he was so young. It did. He didn't seem to mind the time-out, but he did stop pulling out books. I never got angry about it, he was never sad or mad, and he learned to stop doing it.

It wasn't until he was much older that he started to be unhappy about time-outs. sue


You're doing the right thing, and everything you've heard is exactly what I've read and heard, too. It's frustrating, but before 36 months small children can't reliably follow direction. It does help to actually speak your rule while redirecting. Once our daughter started talking, she would often speak the rule, too, sometimes right before she couldn't resist doing the offending activity, but as she gets closer to three, it's gotten so much easier. So, redirect while telling him in simple, affirmative terms (chairs are not for standing, chairs are for sitting, etc), the ''rule'' you are trying to teach. Good luck! Another Mom


I just went through this stage with my son. We also do not do the spanking thing. And, timeouts at this age are not developmentally effective. Here is what we did -

First we(parents and caregiver) got very clear on what he can do and what he can not. The first tier are things that are never ok, ever. (Climbing up on the hearth, touching/pulling plants, etc.) The second was things that are ok sometimes - meaning it is ok to throw the ball but not ok to throw books. We handled these ones differently.

For the serious offences - At the FIRST instant he touched a plant or threw his leg up on the hearth.. ''NO TOUCH'' - in a clear & serious, but not angry tone. Immediately remove him, face him towards an empty wall, not saying anything, holding him firmly for about 20seconds. Even as he starts to move, hold him firmer. Release him, then walk away and ignore him for about 20-30 more seconds. The first few times you do this he will go right back to do the thing, just repeat, don't get exasperated, he just wants to make sure that you will do it again. I would usually go into another room while ignoring him and start to play with something that he could hear. Then he would end up finding me, and was easily distracted and not caught into a loop. This totally works - he quickly understood No Touch or Not for you away from home too.

For the other situation - it seems a lot of books say treat it all the same way, but we found that ineffective - he was not learning anything. So we started to say no, no. You can put the book down nicely and then I'd show him, then have him do it. Sometimes if a ball was nearby I'd say Here, you can throw the ball. Not the book. This totally worked great for other things too. He started swatting - not quite hitting, but not quite nice. So I started saying - You can touch nicely and then pat and pet the object. And he quickly got out of the habit. Good luck! Be consistent and calm. anon


Hi,we have a 16 month old boy too! I know exactly what you mean, how the one thing you don't want him to do (or touch or eat...)is what he goes for.We've baby-proofed so he can have the run of most of the livingroom/kitchen/his bedroom, too.My husband even had to put 1''x12'' planks on all the low windows because our son LOVED to bang on the glass and ''NO'' just didn't work and it was too dangerous.When he's 2 or 3 we'll have our whole windows back.The best advice I can give is what we do, which is just remove him from the thing he is doing that we don't want him to do and talk to him as we do it ''I know you want to climb on your dresser but it's dangerous so Mommy has to close your bedroom door for a while and we can do something else. Look, here are your favorite trains'') and if possible, make it so he can't keep doing it right then. He'll do it later or tomorrow as we know.It may limit your access to a part of the house for a while but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Acknowledge what he wants and explain why it's not an option right then (or ever, as the case may be) He may still cry or go back to it but you know you're being fair and more sinks in than we realize sometimes.It's just a daily thing, telling them the same stuff over and over and eventually your consistency will pay off.I'm not sure what the ''things'' are but our son likes to lick the kitchen floor (a taste for linoleum) and the knobs on the cabinets and so we remove him from there, close the door and redirection (to his legion of toys that you'd think he'd prefer over lino)usually works.It's a fun and challenging age, you can almost smell them learning and our job in that process is so important, it's humbling. BTW, my son's b- day is Feb 17th. Is yours close? Bridget


Unfortunately, you have to wait it out. You must still be consistent and remove him from the situation (electric cord, whatever) and redirect/distract him. He will get it eventually, but he's young and so it will take time and persistence. Time- outs, etc. won't work yet. You may want to check out the books by Louise Bates Ames (like ''your one year old'') for age- approrpiate behavior descriptions and ideas on what you can do. These books are a bit out-of-date (mothers are assumed to be the care-takers, etc.) but the descriptions of behavior are still very good. Keep it up!


I wanted to add to what had already been posted in response to this request for advice.

Some people say that time-outs worked for their one-year-olds - so I suppose the right time to introduce this depends upon each individual child. For most kids, however, one is considered too young.

But what I really wanted to address that no one else did was the perception that time-outs are supposed to be a kind of punishment. They are NOT supposed to be used this way! Time-outs are meant to be used with kids who are acting out in response to a situation, in an out-of control way. Time outs were intended to HELP the child get some space away from a difficult situation or feelings and learn how to calm themselves by taking some time away from whatever is stimulating them. Time outs are intended as a tool that a child can learn to use to calm down and get centered. When, as adults, we go for a walk or go in a room alone to ''cool off'' from a heated argument or other situation, we are giving ourselves a time-out. With children, they don't know how to do this themselves, so we are supposed to be guiding and teaching them how to do it by giving them time-outs. Punishment doesn't work


Toddler Discipline 101: what should I let go?

June 2007

Much like the poster from last week's advice, I am having a hard time figuring out what is important and what is not for my 19 month old. He is very smart, very funny, and a little bandit who tries to get away with a lot. Can some of you more discipline-minded parents whose children are ''spirited'' give me some good guidelines for discipline?

1. Is it worth making him sit before we give him food b/c if we do, we will spend a lot of time having tantrums and doing a tug of war. We eat out almost every night, so we end up chasing him around the restaurants. This seems like what 19 month olds do and that we can't make him sit if he doesn't want to sit.

2. How is he supposed to know the difference between toys that you can throw (balls) and toys you shouldn't throw (giant truck). How do we handle throwing?

3. He wants snacks all day long when we are with him in our teeny apartment. but when he is at daycare, he only gets snacks at certain times and seems fine with that. Here, he just stands at the refrigerator and screams ''YOGURT!'' or ''PRETZELS'' and has a tantrum if we don't give it to him.

Terrified that if we don't discipline him properly he will end up in prison (not really) and out of control. We just don't know what is worth pushing and what is not. Any guidelines? clueless mommy


I would try using choices and consequences with your toddler. Good choices = good consequences and bad choices = bad consequences. My 3 year old understands this very well. Try to make the consequences fit the choices, i.e. if he throws the truck the truck goes bye bye for a day. If he waits until snack time to eat he gets to have the snack he wants, if he doesn't wait and throws a tantrum he does not get a snack and when snack time comes he does not get the one he prefers. Do not reward bad choices. Choosing to have a tantrum = a time out. For time outs we do one minute for every year until they are about 5. Then time outs can be longer. If you don't want him throwing balls in the house tell him to roll it instead. Throwing the ball means the ball goes bye bye for a day. Rolling the ball instead can mean you will take him to the park later and throw the ball etc...; Make sure you reward his good choices and discourage his bad choices with appropriate consequences. Also,a toddler can understand the word 'choices', but instead of 'consequences' we say ''a bad (or good) thing happens.' I think this is basic discipline 101 and it works pretty well for us. Even people from educated middle class homes (and hotel heiresses for that matter...) can end up in serious trouble if they never face appropriate consequences for their bad choices. Good luck! anon


Well, you need to decide what matters to you, not just now, but long term. Some families have a lot of rules, some have fewer, most of us prioritize health and safety rules.

For example, I don't allow jumping or climbing on the living room furniture - the kids can do whatever they want in their bedrooms, where they throw all the blankets and pillows on the floor and jump off their beds with delight. But this is a rule that's important to me, not one I think everyone's children need to follow. So step one is decide what you do care about.

It does strike me that throwing toys that can hurt someone is about safety and courtesy, and courtesy for the family if they might break the lamp. When and how kids eat is a matter of what the parents think the standard should be, although kids should learn that when they are at someone else's house, they eat when and what is offered, and that it is rude to demand something else. We have set snack times at our house - and all snacks are at the table, no one walks around with food -- because I can't stand constant grazing and wanted to nip that in the bud. I do personally feel that kids in restaurants should be reasonably behaved appropriate to the venue - what's good behavior at Fat Apples is different than Chez Panisse. But no matter where you are, it's unfair to the other patrons if kids are really disruptive.

Step two is to recognize what's reasonable to expect, which you are doing. The answer is a bit about age, but a bit about your kid. And about you. If you consistently set limits and enforce them, you will probably get better behavior, but it may take two or three weeks of being the ''bad guy.'' I say ''probably'' because some kids really are almost impossible at that age. But if you don't try, you won't know what your kid is capable of. And you have to be willing to let them scream and tantrum. Yeah, it hurts. But your kid won't die if they don't get yogurt right that minute. And after a week of more scheduled snacks it should get better.

I also think you are setting yourself up for failure here. Why are you eating out every night? How about at least getting takeout or frozen dinners if you don't want to cook, so you can practice sitting at a table and eating in your own house? That will make it easier to get better behavior at a restaurant. But at that age, maybe ten minutes of sitting at a table is all you can expect. If my kids are getting figety, I leave the table and take them outside to run on the sidewalk. Or we go to the Ikea cafeteria or another place with a play area. I don't just let them run around the restaurant and bother other people, though. We also keep crayons and paper in the diaper bag at all times for restaurant trips.

No throwing trucks? How about no throwing toys in the house, period? It might be hard to explain what toys are OK to throw, and which ones aren't. We don't allow throwing even balls in the house. That's for the backyard and the park. Simple rules are easiest to enforce. Whatever gets thrown gets a ''time out'' on a high shelf.

Is our house a model of perfect order? Of course not. And actually I would hate it that way. But I am glad we can all sit down at the table together and actually have a semblance of a meal, most of the time.

Good luck - you'll need it. Hard-a#@ Mom but OK with it


I'm not sure your child is ''spirited'' he sounds pretty ordinary to me.

1. re: eating out. No, it is not reasonable to expect a 19 month old to sit and wait for dinner in a restaurant. Some will and some won't, but expecting this EVERY NIGHT is not reasonable. What about take-out or ordering in? Small kids need quiet and consistency, especially after a hectic day at day care. I think eating out every night is really too much.

2. Just tell him no throwing except for balls. They can understand that. (and don't worry about exceptions like frisbees--he'll figure it out)

3. I think if he wants a snack, and it is healthy, then he should have it. He is growing so much right now, there is no point in limiting snacks--just make sure they are real food--make them available on a low table if you have one.

There will be plenty of unreasonable fits coming in the future, but I think he is behaving very reasonably for his age. It is not spoiling him if you meet his needs for food and quiet time in the evenings.


I strongly recommend these books: Happiest Toddler on the Block, and How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk. The first one is especailly useful before they have language. Bottom line, you have to set limits and be consistent to get your child to behave or they will turn into nasty spoiled brats and no one wants that. I found that the transition to toddlerhood somewhat traumatic because your role changes from someone who indulges every baby whim to that of discplinarian and no one likes being the bad guy. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page with discipline and being setting limits.

For throwing, our rule is no throwing any toys inside. Balls can be thrown outside but not at people and we just have to keep saying it over and over.

Snacks and meals work waaaaaay better when scheduled. If you make the clock the boss, there is less you child can argue with (''I know you want yogurt now, but snack time isn't until 10:30. You can have yogurt when it's time.'').

The biggest thing I've learned from the books I mentioned is how to set limits while still acknowleging your child's feelings. It works if you keep at it and you and your kid will be better for it. been there and still learning


A 19 month old can sit at the table for meals. It's important that at mealtimes, everyone in the family sits together and he will soon learn that this is what is expected from everyone in the family. Have some dinners at home because this would be a calmer and more relaxing environment for eating. Have your son sit at the dinner table once the food is on the table. Restaurants can be over stimulating so that may be one reason he has a hard time sitting at the table. For now, I highly suggest having dinner at home (takeout food, if it's hard to cook) to get him used to sitting at the table and what is expected when he is at the table. If you have to eat out, bring a book, crayons and paper, quiet toys that he can have while he is waiting for the food to arrive. As soon as he becomes fidgety, you can say, it looks like you need a break, let's go for a walk. Take him outside for a little break, let him run around, show him things, praise him for doing a good job while he was sitting at the table. (Don't let him run around the restaurant. It's not safe; it's disruptive and he needs to learn restaurants are not playgrounds.)

2. How do we handle throwing? Answer: You teach and tell him. When he throws things that are okay to throw, encourage him and play with him (You threw the ball! Good throw! Can you throw it in the pail?) When he throws things he shouldn't tell him, No. Trucks are not for throwing. Let's push the truck on the ground. If he continues to throw warn him: No. We do not throw trucks. If you throw the truck again, we have to put it away for now. (AND DO IT!) It's very important to teach toddlers how to use things: crayons are for paper, not the wall, stand or sit while brushing your teeth; we don't walk or run around while we brush our teeth. For every DON'T, give a DO (e.g. Don't rip the book. You can turn the pages. You can read the book with Mommy.)

3. He wants snacks all day long Answer: This is a clear case of setting limits. Since he has no problems with scheduled snacks at daycare, he should have no problems at home. Set up a specific schedule for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. For example, breakfast, morning snack, lunch, nap, afternoon snack, dinner, bath, bed. He will tantrum at first, but stick to the schedule and let him know when it is time for snack/lunch etc. If he screams and tantrums, walk away and ignore the screaming. When he is calm, offer a distraction/play/read a book.

Routine is very good for toddlers because then they know what to expect and this gives them a feeling of control and security. Set limits and boundaries; this also helps a toddler feel secure. Point out all the good things he does; give him praise, lots of attention and lots of playtime. Miss Evelyn


In my fourteen plus years of parenting three sons, I found the most important things about discipline are to pick your battles, follow through, and try to stay emotionally detached from the issue. The last is the hardest.

We had a pretty simple rule for our three boys - if you want to eat, you have to sit down. As soon as they got up, food went away. If they got up enough times, food went away until the next meal or snack. I know this is hard because we all worry about our children eating properly, but he will not starve. When he is hungry enough, he will sit down. Same rules apply at home, restaurant, grandma's house. I first told my children this, warned them once, and then just took the food away. Subsequent times, I would just remove the food and try very hard not to scold or lecture.

At 19 months, he will know the difference about what to throw and what not to if you explain it to him. We kept a basket of soft balls that were ok to throw in the house (with some limits - i.e. not around the stove). Nothing else was ok to throw. If it got thrown, it went away for awhile. If it got thrown again, it went away for a longer time (by toddler standards - several days.)

Schedule snack times. Put a paper clock with movable hands on the fridge and set it for the next snack time. You can start to teach him to tell time this way too. He does it with you because he knows you will give in! It is so important to think before you threaten and be willing to follow through with the threat if the behavior merits. Once you establish that you mean business, all aspects of discipline get easier. Good luck Anon


I'm a discipline-minded parent with a very spirited 7 year old son. Things I wish I REALLY knew earlier when our son was 19 months old: 1) Discipline is never easy to learn. Children will always push against new rules as much as they can to MAKE SURE THE BOUNDARY IS THERE. 2) Take a deep breath, yell less, switch places with partner, but stand firm. 3) The crying gets louder, the tantrums worse BEFORE it gets better. 4) It's never too early to get familiar with the much recommended ''1 2 3 Magic'' DVD and book by Dr. Phelan. He's highly recommended for good reasons.

Eating and sitting still. You wrote: This seems like what 19 month olds do and that we can't make him sit if he doesn't want to sit. Yes and no. This is why people use high chairs and going out is usually not preferable. There will be crying and screaming, so that's why one helps one's child to learn correct behavior at home. If eating out almost every night is your thing... I pity the people who will have their dining out experience ruined by your child's completely understandable reaction to discipline. Sitting still is indeed what one does while eating, whether at home or in a restaurant. At home, sitting still for 5 min. can be long enough. In public - no. It sounds like you're just constantly setting all of you up for a miserable experience. Can't you do take out?

2) Believe me, 19 month olds can indeed tell the difference between a ball and truck. Throwing trucks is apparently getting a wilder, more exciting reaction than throwing a ball. Change the response. If a truck gets thrown, say ''Trucks are NOT for throwing. We're going to put this away right now if you're in a throwing mood.'' Bye bye truck.

3) Snacks - obviously he knows the rules at daycare. They don't give in to tantrums and yelling. But hey, mommy does! So follow the daycare rules. Let him have a tantrum. Do NOT GIVE IN. See above.

It will get harder, then easier, then harder, then easier... but stick with it, and yes, one day you too will have a child who sits (sort of) still, who knows how to keep his toys, and says ''May I please?'' Oh, yes... me too!


Seems to me that at 19 months you can be generous with your child and respond to his requests, but not to his screaming or tantrums. If he goes into tantrum mode, then your job is to be with him while he moves through the feelings, but not to change your mind about the yoghurt or whatever it was. ''Tears and Tantrums'' is an excellent book on the subject.

I would avoid contests, like trying to make him sit in a restaurant. Then you've created a test he cannot pass, and which gives the him the unjust label of disobedient.

If he throws something, put it away. If he tantrums, you support him as he moves through it. Alice


1. It is worth making him sit. He screams and throws tantrums because it works. Please do not take him to restaurants where he runs around the entire time. It is really not fair to the other patrons. It seems like that is what other 19 month olds do because their parents would rather be friends than disciplinarians.

2. When he throws the truck, use the word no and hand him a ball. Constantly. Do not waiver, or think it's cute. No is not a bad word, and he will understand. He wont get the ball/truck connection right away, but stay on it. He will get it.

3. Again, he does it with you because he gets away with it. A snack in between meals is fine, but eating all day means he wont sit for the meal. Do you make him sit for the snack or allow him to graze while playing? I can't understand why people let their kids track food all throughout the house. It will only make life harder as they get older. Why retrain them at 4 when you can train them right the first time now? Discipline is not a bad word


Hi there. OK! First of all, YOU are the parent!!!

Two GREAT books: Gentle Discipline and...''How to Get Your Kid to Eat, but not too Much''... both are available at Amazon.

I think kids that are under 2 years old are too young for time outs or asking them to ''sit'' in order to get food, etc... Don't say ''you need to sit and eat''. Just say, ''OK, lunch time!'' I am going to put you in your booster or high chair.

I would then simply put him in his high chair or booster chair for 15 minutes. Bring him some food. Offer a few healthy items and include something that you know he likes. (Including a fruit dessert or yogurt, etc...I always offer bread and milk along with a few other things because most kids will eat that.)

HERE is the important part:

Then sit with him and eat yourself or not. Do NOT make a big deal of any of it. Serve the food up very uncerimoniously. Don't insist that he eat any of it. You can't make a toddler eat!!!!!! Your job is to bring healthy, yummy food into the house and deliver it to him. His job is to eat it or NOT.

The more you insist, the more he will fight you. That is his job as a toddler ;)!!!!! To test boundaries and limits.

He may not like the high chair or booster and may not eat in it the first couple of times. That is ok. Your consistency, gentleness and NOT making a big deal about eating but making it positive is KEY, KEY, KEY!

Offer him foods at meal times and maybe two snack times. He should not have milk or snacks in between that or he will be snacking all day.

If he whines for food, tell him he can have it at snack time or lunch time and MOVE ON! Give him a choice between two activities and redirect him and get him playing.

This is only going to get worse if you give into him.

Having family meals at least once a day really helps. Don't force him to eat. Just offer the food and sit together.

Don't bring him other food if he won't eat what is there. No short order cooking! Always incude something you know he likes but don't bring him a bunch of new stuff if he won't eat what you are offering, otherwise he is in charge and you will be doing this at every meal for the next 5 years!!!

DON'T get into battles with him at this age. Redirect him, give him choices, be firm, don't waiver, move on. Say yes when you can but don't get into back and forth battles. You are only fueling the toddler fire!

As for throwing things, just say: ''We don't throw big things. Would you like to throw this soft bean bag toy or small stuffed animal into the laundry basket??'' Tell him that the large item is not ok and give him another choice. The Gentle Discipline book has other suggestions.

Feel free to email me if you need support. Mimi


You can use positive words and actions to discipline your child. Be consistent and follow through.

1. Sitting during meals. You might want to try this at home before the restaurant or once you've established some discipline elsewhere in his life. Tell him ''today we are going to eat sitting down''. Tell him that it is time for dinner and he needs to sit down. Lift him up and put him in the chair. Sit down and start eating. Ignore tantrums. If he asks for food tell him ''we are going to eat sitting down''. Once he's sitting down tell him ''You're sitting down, now you can eat!'' Give praise.

2. Throwing. This is an easier one. If he throws a truck say ''balls are for throwing outside, trucks stay on the ground''. Give him a ball to throw, or take him outside to throw a ball or roll his truck with him. If he keeps throwing pick up what he throws and put it away so he can't play with it. Ignore tantrums.

3. Wants snacks all the time. This is an easy one too. Just ignore his yelling. When he stands in front of the fridge yelling tell him ''I'm sorry it isn't time for a snack now. You're going to have a snack when we get back from the park (or whenever definite time he'll be able to understand not a time like 3:00).'' Ignore tantrums. Give him snack when you said you would and say ''we just got back from the park NOW it is time for your snack''

He's not going to end up in jail but your whole family including your son will be a lot happier if he feels like there's an adult in charge of his world keeping him safe and setting some limits. He's not old enough to be in charge of a family or his life yet. best wishes


First, check out the series of books by Louise Bates Ames, specifically ''Your one-year old: The Fun-Loving, Fussy Twelve to Twenty-Four Month Old'' http://tinyurl.com/yubvmj This great book (and the other books for future ages) can give you age- appropriate behavior info and advice. 'Discipline' per se is not something you can really do until your child is older, but you can distract, redirect and work around things with your toddler. To answer your questions: 1) Your child can't realistically be expected to sit in a restaurant until he is about 4 years old or older. They just have fast metabolisms and must keep moving. It's what they are biologically programmed to do. Can you get take-out? That's what we do now with our favorite restaurants. We get take-out and then our two year-old will sit when he eats but he can run around and play when he is finished and we can eat in relative peace. 2) throwing: just be consistent and keep at it. We tell our son that only balls are for throwing and we take away what he is throwing. Your child is still quite young and will grow out of it. Just keep the message consistent and he will eventually get it, esp. when he is older. 3) snacks. First off, never ever give in to tantrums or it teaches your child that if he tantrums, he gets what he wants. Explain to him that if he calms down and ask nicely, he can have snacks and don't give him any until he calms down and can ask in a nice tone of voice (of course, 'asking nicely' will just mean saying 'yogurt' without screaming and tantruming). Another thing, kids like to graze so put out a few snacks in a tray or on a plate on a little table and let your little one snack all morning when he wants as he plays. Dr. Sears talks about putting out an ice cube tray with different finger foods in each little square and let the littles graze when they want. Worked for us. Also, check out the book: ''The Happiest Toddler on the Block'' by Harvey Karp which will tell you how to talk with your toddler, which works great with our son. http://tinyurl.com/299dhx Last thing, don't sweat the small stuff. Be fair and loving, respect your child, be consistent, and your child will be fine and won't end up in prison. (I worry the little things too...easier said than done....just try your best.) Andi


Tantrums don't stop when parents give in to them and children don't grow out of them. I've seen a 40 year old have a tantrum bigger than any 2 year old and it isn't pretty. You need to teach your child how you want him to act and be willing to leave a restraunt if he isn't listening. Sitting at the table is basic good manners and your son should practice this even at his young age. The advice from Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson, Ed. D. has worked for me and made me feel like I was teaching good life skills. anon


Discipline at 13 months

Dec 2006

I am totally and utterly confused about discipline. I truly believe (and have read everywhere) that children who have structure, know what is ok and not ok, and know who is the parent and who is the child are the happiest. I know that when my child sticks his tongue in the outlet that I should say no. I know that when he throws his toys or food I say no. But other than that, I have no clue. I am not sure what to let him know is not acceptable and what I am supposed to ignore.

He often chews on food and then spits it out or drops it directly on the floor. He has started to have some minor tantrums when we stop doing something he likes. He hates getting his diaper changed. All totally normal stuff, I know. It is just how to handle it that mystifies me. Any book suggestions or theories would be very helpful as I do want lots of structure and discipline in the house. Thank you! jenny


I have a 14 month old, so I'm figuring this out at the same time as you. But I thought I'd share what we do, which is basically say 'no' firmly but gently when she does something unsafe (puts things in her mouth that aren't safe, goes for the outlet) and then distract her. I don't expect her to obey us at this point, I view it more as teaching her the word 'no' and sowing the seeds of discipline. We don't worry about things that are only annoying at this point (throwing food, toys). At this age, they are really still babies and I don't have very high expectations for her to defer gratification or listen to verbal commands. But I figure for important things (like safety), I should start to teach her the word 'no', but we still rely mostly on distraction for discipline. For diaper changes, which our daughter has come to hate, I just keep working through her complaints. I don't get angry (or try not to) but don't give in either. The same goes for other things she doesn't like (being put in her carseat, not getting an object she wants). I'll be interested to know what more experienced parents say Sarah


I strongly recommend reading Positive Discipline. There are a couple of books by the same authors (can't remember the names, though it's easy to find). They have a version that's for 1-3 year old's that has helped me alot in understanding and dealing with the development issues in that age range and how to address discipline in a positive way. And yes, throwing food and the rest, totally normal and developmentally appropriate, and it still drives us all crazy! happy reading


I am a mother and a psychologist specializing in helping parents with young children develop capacities and strategies to address exactly the sorts of issues you mentioned. I recommend the book ''The Emotional Life of the Toddler,'' by Alicia Lieberman. If I can be of any help to you, please feel free to contact me. I have a private practice in Oakland Jill Sulka, Psy.D., 326-2002, jcolton


I think one of the most important things to realize is that at this age, your son is doing none of these activities to intentionally ''be bad''. He doesn't know good from bad yet. He's constantly exploring and examining how things work. Dropping food on the floor, for example, allows him to explore gravity. So remember that in what ever you do in response. I have found the best response to a tantrum is to largely ignore it. If he is doing something that is harmful or him or others, be really clear and tell him ''I do not want you to do that''. He's testing his boundries, so give him one.

I can recommend two books. One called Becoming the Parent you Want to Be. by Davis and Keyser. Also, Natural Childhood. by many, but one main author is John Thompson. Good luck! Jenny


You may want to read Penelope Leach's book ''Your Baby and Child From Birth To Five''. It is the really best book on child rearing in this age group. She will give you the guidance you are looking for. A wonderful book---avaiable on Amazon, at most bookstores, etc. anon anon MD


It drove me insane that there were no (none that I could find at the time) good books on discipline for the age you are dealing with right now. Things like time outs and incentives were just way over the head of my young toddler, and I suspect, most young toddlers. You're on to something with a consistent schedule, though, flexibility can come in awfully handy when things aren't going well. Setting up your house to be toddler friendly also helps greatly. Dangerous things out of reach... lots of fun and interesting toys and books at eye-level for the child... safe places for them to play on their own for short periods, etc... And, the old standby: redirection.

If you want some insight in to this age, along with some tips and tricks on how to deal, I highly, higly recommend ''Your One Year Old'' and all the subsequent books: ''Your Two Year-Old, Three-Year Old, etc... If I'd had that book with my first it would have saved my sanity. One caveat: they were written in the 70s, so the language is a little out of date, but the developmental research in the book holds firm in the present. Good luck!


I find that when I am parenting at my best I that use structure, consistency, and understanding to help guide my children.

There is a series of books by Louise Ames that I found helpful in understanding my children's development. Each concentrates on a year of a child's life. It helped be grasp my child's view of the world, normal behaviors/phases and why they were happening, etc. Actually, if you read these books, you will find that all of the behaviors that your child is exibiting are normal and why he is doing them (tantrums...he doesn't have enough vocabulary to communicate his needs/feelings, etc) They were written in the '80s, so some of the wording may seem out of date, but the concepts still remain true.

Choosing what is acceptable to your family and what is not is really up to you. With my younger child (21 months), our limits are pretty much based on safety. I don't care if she is banging her spoon on her plate. I care if she is standing on her booster seat. With my older child (3 1/2), the expectations are greater.

I also try to keep in mind that discipline is about teaching. I try my best to keep it positive. 'No' is a very effective word when used infrequently (just as rasing your voice can be used very effectively if not done all of the time). For instance, when my child is running at the pool, I will ask her to 'walk slower' rather than tell her 'don't run.' If as we are leaving the pool, my child is running toward the parking lot, I will yell 'STOP.' Because 'no' and 'yelling' are not part of my constant repitoire, I find that when they are used they are obeyed.

The actual type of discipline that you use is really up to your child. I don't mean that you give him a choice, but rather try different techniques to see what works. Redirection worked with my older child very well until she was about two. Now I use both 'think about it time (same as a timeout, but my daughter must 'own' what it is she is doing wrong, i.e., I am going to time out because I took my younger sister's toy and then taunted her with it)' and redirection. With my younger daughter, I've found redirection to be pretty much useless (she is a lot more headstrong). Time-outs (she is too young to really think about it, but I do make sure that I tell her what behavior has gotten her into time-out) and modeling 'good' behavior has worked wonders.

Hope this helps -still there


Too pregnant to chase down strong-willed toddler

April 2006

I just read the responses to a post for advice about a 17 month old who runs into the street etc. My ultra active, strong-willed daughter hated her stroller at a very early age as well, so I'm very familiar w/this problem. And we thought we had it handled... Now that I am 7 months pregnant with my second, the issue has resurfaced. I would like to know what pregnant moms have done with toddlers who run away because they know mommy can't catch them or pick them up. This happens on the way to the car at the park, on the way to the car at day care, etc. where I have very little recourse in terms of immediate consequence. My daughter is FAST. She's old enough not to go into the street (thank God) although she runs along residential sidewalks where cars can easily come out of driveways and it's very dangerous. If I take her by the hand, she goes limp and I can't drag her even when I want to. Reasoning with her is not working. Of course I realize this may have a lot to do w/ the fact that she's also very aware that a baby is coming and has taken acting out to a whole new level.

I was hoping for some sage disciplinary advice before I go to the last resort--the dreaded leash. I actually broke down and cried on the the street today after she sprinted off downhill toward an intersection at 5:30 pm. I was scared to death. getting desparate


I would clear your schedule for a few weeks and out-stubborn your daughter. Tell her that if she runs away from you again she will have to hold your hand from then on. Once she runs away (and she will) take her hand and explain that she ran away so now she holds your hand. When she goes limp, wait. Eventually she will realize there are other things she wants to be doing and will move. Depending on how stubborn she is you may want to pick up a good book or something else to do. It might make it a bit faster if you kept fun activities in the car or she was going to a fun activity. Eventually she will realize she doesn't get to walk by herself by going limp and will hold your hand. This will be important for after the baby as well-imagine how hard it will be to chase her down once your new little one gets here. Good luck.


I can totally relate--when I was pregnant with my second my son was very fast and would run away just like your daughter. When he was under two and I put him down with out holding his hand, he would just bolt. When I was pregnant I just picked him up, not knowing what else to do. Sometime it hurt me--in retrospect, although nothing really happened, it was the wrong thing to do (but what do you do?)... Can dad take her to school until after baby is born? Perhaps getting help from others? One thought is that perhaps you should just go for the leash. When you bust it out explain to her why you need to use it--because she runs away and she could get hurt. Point out the driveways to her--show her how the cars pull in and out. Tell her that the driver cannot see her over the hood of the car. She will probaby hate the leash, and not want to wear it. Perhaps then she will behave? I used to grab my son by his upper arm (right under the shoulder) this seemed to work better than holding his hand (and possibly injuring him... when he went one way and I went the other)... good luck! good luck with the two of them... and just expect some transition time! mom of 2, too


I think you have to be very strategic about where you go for the remainder of your pregnancy. I am 6 months along and not quite at the point where I cannot lift my 2- year-old, but we're getting there. I no longer take him on simple walks around the block because he usually decides he doesn't want to walk any more when we're at the farthest point from home. I choose parks that are easy in/easy out from the car, like Thousand Oaks. Also, I find that if I give him the opportunity to really run free in an enclosed environment (like an unused tennis court), he is less likely to run away out in the open. Tennis courts in the rain are a good time for a toddler. I've taken to keeping illicit treats (like juice boxes) in the diaper bag as a lure to calmly go back to the car when I'm ready for playtime to be over. I haven't gone the leash route yet but I won't hestitate to do so if safety becomes a real issue. They make backpack-style ones now that are cute and not so obvious. Good luck. big momma


When he's at your house, it is completely reasonable to tell him that he needs to follow your rules, and it is completely reasonable to tell him that if he can't do that, he will have to leave. It would be a good idea to tell his mother first, maybe over the phone while arranging the visit, so she also knows what to expect. Believe me, after you do it once, it is unlikely to have to happen again. About a month ago I carried my (hysterical) 2.5 year old out of the local hardware store and drove her home (do not pass go, do not purchase the necessary items) when she pitched a screaming kicking fit about riding in the shopping cart. That sure did make an impression, and I haven't had to argue with her about the subject since. There is a lot to be said for letting kids know when their behavior is unacceptable. Sara


Too soon to start disciplining 17-month-old?

Dec 2004

Hi fellow friends and neighbors! Happy Holidays to you all. I have a question that I need some advice from you experienced parents about as far as disciplining my child. I hope you can help me either with your thoughts, suggestions or just support. I have a 16 almost 17-month-old daughter. She is a good kid. Very sweet and well behaved (at least I think so as far as what I noticed in comparison to other kids her age that we know)- by the way, I hate comparisons because I do know that NO two children are alike yet I am just trying to make a vague point. My concern and question to you all is this; what age is it appropriate to start to really discipline a child. NO, I don't mean spanking or anything like that what so ever! I mean time-outs or whatever works. I want my daughter to be as well behaved as possible. I know not to expect perfection and I do not yet I also don't want to raise a whiny, spoiled child that kids may not want to play with. I just need to know what some of you think as far as what you did, read, etc. etc. that worked relatively well and successful for you!? Hope you can help me out with this Thanks in advance. Sincerely, A first time Mom that wants to raise a happy, healthy and nice child overall


I know exactly where you are -- we had such a child (he's now an extremely happy and social 3.5 year old, quite empathetic and well liked).

At around 18 months, I would pick one behavior that I wanted to change (usually something physical -- the inevitable biting or hitting that crops up occasionally). Then I would do two things: 1) Say ''no hitting'' (or whatever) in a very calm tone, and 2) pick a very low-key consequence for it (e.g. hitting mommy resulted in mommy putting him down and leaving the room for 30 sec or so). We didn't use time-outs for a very long time. At 2 and 2.5, he was taken to the couch for a bit of time to ''calm down'' if need be (he didn't see this as a bad thing; we would give him his blanket and his pacifier and allow him to sit, untimed, until he felt better). At that age, almost all of his tantrums were due to being hungry, anyway, so we learned to avoid them by giving him a snack when he seemed cranky, and keeping to a rigid lunchtime and dinnertime schedule.

We didn't begin formal ''time-outs'' (with the label, the timer, and the notion of punishment) until our little scientist started testing, around the time he was 3. Very formally, very systematically doing precisely what we had just told him not to while looking us straight in the eye. Clearly wanting to see what would happen. If there is a logical consequence we use that (e.g. hitting something with his toy hammer when we've just asked him not to results in our putting the hammer away for a while); if there's no obvious consequence, he gets a time-out. Again, very calm, and regardless of his pleading, negotiating, and crying. Actually, it's amazing how suddenly the crying switches off when he figures out it's not doing any good...

All in all, it seems to be working. His preschool teachers really like him, as do our babysitters. Karen


I started ''disciplining'' my spirited girl at around 18 months. This was when it became pretty obvious she was defying my non- negotiable rules or orders intentionally. (e.g., hitting or kicking me, then deliberately sailing her foot into me after I'd asked her to stop while changing her diaper.) She's pretty sensitive, so the discipline started out as simple things such as telling her if she didn't stop screaming or hitting or whatever she was doing that needed to change, I would pick her up and put her in the other room. This was pure hell for her, and she would last all of 10 seconds before she would come running back. If the behavior kept up, I'd do it again and would tell her that she needed some time alone. Usually this worked, and it didn't usually last more than 2 or 3 minutes. As she's gotten older (about 27 months now), her tantrums I have gotten more complex and longer lasting, but I can also talk to her. I have difficulty letting an episode last more than 5 minutes, because sometimes the sobbing becomes and end in itself and she doesn't seem to remember what she was crying about. So I will change the scenery, or ask if she needs a hug, then talk about what she did and what I had to do to teach her the correct behavior. It's occasionally pretty awful, as calm as this sounds, and I have been known to strong-arm her into her pajamas, for example. But I generally seem to be rewarded when I am firm by not having to fight about it next time, and as she gets older she understands the talking more. One other thing that works is to say, ''I'm going to count to three, and if you're stillcrying when I get to three then I'll have to (whatever)'' or I can give her positive incentive such as ''if you can stop crying when I count to three then we can (do whatever)'' The clearer I am on the consequences and helping her understand the choices she is making, the better. The worst thing to do, I've found, is to make a threat that you simply won't follow through on. Give her a choice, lay out the consequences, and follow through with it, whether it means she doesn't get to watch her program, loses the toy for 5 minutes, sits down (like a time out) for 2 minutes. She's also starting to get the idea (and meaning of) ''I'm sorry'' and repeating the rule (''no hitting''). It feels really stupid sometimes, but she will eventually give in if she realizes that's the rule, and those are the consequences. (It may help that she's a pretty verbal kid). anon


Our daughter is now 2 years and 9 months and we haven't yet felt the need to ''discipline'' her per se. Once I gave her a time out, but it was mostly because I was frustrated and I regret it. I don't think the time out teaches her anything as it has no connection to the ''missbehavior''.

What we've done since she was small is set clear and logical limits (mostly vis a vis things that would hurt her) and enforce them by saying ''no'', physically restraining her if that didn't work or taking the object away if appropriate. For example, she tries to climb into the sofa table, I'll say ''no''. The first couple of times she'll try to test this limit and do it anyway - so I go and stop her from doing it. After that, if she slips, I just need to remind her by saying ''no'' again. The key is to start with few, essential limits and go on from there.

IMHO, our daughter is extremely well behaved for a child her age - but it's important to understand what a child that age can and cannot do. Self-control, for example, doesn't come until later, so you need to be ready to control them and not get mad when they don't do it themselves. Explaining your logic and behavior to them can work wonders, but you also have to be willing to accept their own logic.

Remember that ultimately what matters is that you have a well adjusted child, one who is confident and who doesn't need to missbehave to gain attention or achieve other goals. So don't focus as much on the discipline as on nurturing your child and modeling good behavior. anon


Dear New Mom: Your daughter sounds great, and it's obvious you are a very aware Mommy. I think the age at which children need guidance from adults is early, and that there's a really good and effective way to offer that guidance without alienating your child from you in the process, which is what spanking and even time out can do. When a child wants something or does something that can't be allowed, such as wanting to play with sharp tin cans in the recycling bin, you can offer some other alternative, while saying no. Sometimes, a child can be flexible about what he/she wants, and turn and be happy with the alternative offered. And sometimes, saying no, even with an alternative, sparks a big issue for the child. They ONLY want the thing they want, and not the thing that's safer, or necessary to do at the moment. At these moments, you partner with your child to offer your listening and attention, while your child cries or tantrums to release his/her feelings about not being able to do what she wants to do. It's very simple, but not at all what most parenting approaches teach. The beauty of it is when the child has finished crying, what has happened is that you have been there, accepting of her feelings but gently firm about the limit. You have offered her yourself, your love and attention, instead of the thing she wanted. When she has cried all the way through her disappointment or her frustration, she'll feel relaxed, close to you, and will make good choices again. This works with children who are being aggressive, children who won't settle down at night to sleep, children who want to pull the dog's tail, with any of the things children want but can't have, or want to do but can't be allowed to do. When you're listening, they really cry hard. The sweeter you are, the harder they cry. That's actually what they WANT to do-- often, they know you will have to say no, and they ask for what you'll say no to, so they can get an emotional load off their shoulders and restore their feelings of closeness to you--being listened to through a good cry does it every time. Try it. It's respectful of the child, lets you be firm on the limit, and it goes WITH a natural emotional release process every child wants and tries to use (children who whine are trying to have a good cry, but don't have anyone paying close enough attention to them to safely get into the cry they need to have to clear up their behavior and restore their feelings of being in charge of their lives again). Parents Leadership Institute has a good booklet, Setting Limits with Children, that's only $5 and is available on line at www.parentingbyconnection.org. Hope this helps! PLI is doing a Tantrum Training class at Habitot Children's Museum starting March 2nd that will teach more about this approach to children's difficult moments. Yours, Patty W Director, Parents Leadership Institute


My child learned at about 20 months what no means. I was gently teaching her no by wagging my finger and looking stern (on my good days, that is, and speaking a rather firm, mean no on bad days like when she dumps her bowl of sticky rice on the floor). She now mimics the finger wag and ''no, no, no'' when she sees something hot or dangerous and that was my clue that she truly understood ''no.'' We've not used a time out yet for discipline. If you read the book(s) on Parent Effectiveness Training, or P.E.T, you may get some good ideas for discipline for when your child is 3 on up. Their method is a no lose method of working out problems TOGETHER, rather than a parent dictatorship based on punishment or fear. I really like the approach and plan to begin using with my daughter. Good luck! Parent working at better discipline methods


I went to seminar on ''living with ones and twos'' put on by a nurse at Banana's recently, and she gave a lot of great advice on discipline. She said that even at a year, you can start teaching your child not to do certain things. For example, if your child starts hitting people, even if only lightly, since they don't have a great concept of force and may hit harder later on, say 'no hitting'' and give a 30 second time out by sitting the child on your lap facing outward. Or put them somewhere that is very boring, but only for half a minute. Do this as many times as needed (ten times or more if the child keeps trying to touch the oven. Say ''stay away from the stove, it's hot''. She also said to keep the explanation very short and don't bother trying to reason or go into great detail. Just a simple, easy to remember sentence.) The idea is that if you give a boring, predictable reaction, then there's little incentive to keep doing the offending action. Anything longer than half a minute is too long in that the child may actually forget what he's being punished for. She also said to watch your child all the time so you will know when you need to step in and you can do it right away when it's happening. What's a bad idea to do is to make a big fuss by yelling or saying no, no, no a lot or getting angry or giving some otherwise ''interesting'' response. Modeling is great, and best done before the child gets into a bad situation. Distraction is also good, as well as avoiding any likely points of friction (e.g., babyproof the VCR so you don't have to say ''no don't touch the VCR'' all the time) if possible. Anyway, I learned quite a bit and recommend her program at Banana's in Berkeley! mom of one year old


2-year-old pushing and hitting - what can I do?

Dec 2003

My 2 year old son has been doing a lot of pushing and hitting when he is around other kids. This started about 4 months ago and I keep thinking it will pass (I know it is normal to some degree) so my discipline has been fairly mild. I typically remove him from the situaiton immediately and talk/explain firmly, but not threateningly our overly loud, about why we don't hit or push. Then we resume play as usual. I'm wondering if I should take a firmer approach and if so how and what do I do (I prefer not to spank). I'm getting to the point where I don't want to go anywhere where we'll be around other kids like parks or birthday parties because I'm tired of following him around in fear he'll harm another child. I'm also tired of treating him like he's a bad kid that has to be watched and can't be trusted. I don't want to tell him ''no'' all day long. He is a sweet, loveable and cooperative child in every other way. Much of this behavior started with the birth of his little sister 4 months ago. How much of this is typical ''terrible twos'' behavior and how much is acting out because of a new sibling in the house? When will it stop and what can I do to enforce consistent and reliable discipline measures? What I'm doing now isn't working. After our talk he will usually go right back and do it again. How do you enforce firm discipline in a 2 year old? anon


I would begin a firm act up-go home policy. Tell him beforehand that going out is a privilege, and that if he hits anyone you will go home. When he hits, go home. Don't reproach or scold, or say I told you so, just leave. If he asks why, explain matter-of-factly. Don't give in to begging to stay. He is little, so it may take 10 or more times before it sinks in, but it will sink in. susan


You are right to be concerned about this behaviour. Not only is it cutting into what should be a fun playtime for him with other kids but it will make it difficult for you to arrange playdates and transition him into school at some point. Now is the time to get the message across to him that it is not okay to hit and push. I applaud your self-control in not yelling at him and certainly spanking would be counter productive and confusing.

My background. I have two kids, one is four and one is five. I won't go into the details but they have all kinds of issues that might have caused them to act this way but I never put up with it. They are generally very well behaved kids -- no hitting, pushing or grabbing and no tantrums. I have an idea for you that does not require yelling, spanking, or saying no repeatedly.

The good news is that you are already half way there! Removing him from the situation immediatly is perfect. But since that and and the 'talking to' is not working I would take it to the next level by telling him that if he hits or pushes there will be no resumption of play.

Here is what I would do. Next time you are about to let him loose in a social situation lay down the law with him before he starts to play. Keep it simple, just ''I can't let you play with others of you hit/push. You can choose to play nicely and we will stay or you can choose to hit/push and we will leave''. The first time you pack him into the car he will be stunned. The second time (and maybe third and fourth...) he will throw a fit. Always be sure to give him the same little speach ''You hit/pushed which means we have to leave''. Don't reinforce the bad behaviour by then going and doing something fun. Just take him and home and say...''okay, now you are going to have to play by yourself''.

At the same time focus on giving him strategies for dealing with frustration that do not involve hitting or pushing. Stuff like, using words to express his feelings, taking turns, walking away or saying 'quit it', getting help from an adult (althought this last one is a slippery slope). He will benefit for the rest of his life from the mastery of these concepts.

As for not wanting to following him around and not trusting him. Unfortunately, for the safety of the other kids and so that *you* can build the trust of the other parents you are going to have to do this until he gets himself under control.

Finally, I recommend that you don't try to figure this out by attaching some sort of an explanation about the arrival of a sibling. Its just a pure waste of time and energy. He's doing what he's doing for what ever reason... you just need to help him understand that its not right and that he has alternatives. hard liner


We experienced the same problems with our son and resorted to all types of disciplines (including spanking, which I said I would never do). We finally re-grouped, spoke with an expert (Meg Zweibeck), and came up with a solution that worked for us. Her advise was to make the discipline as boring as possible (which was the opposite of what we were doing - getting very upset, taking him aside, talking to him at length, yelling - we ran the gamut of all the wrong things to do). She suggested separating the two children who were involved and having our son go somewhere boring (sitting quietly on the stairs, for instance for a minute or so). That was his one warning. If he did it again, we told him we would go home. Only use this if you are actually prepared to follow through with it and leave. She even suggested having a playdate with the intention of leaving once a problem arose in order to let him know we were serious. The other thing that worked for us with daycare was, if he hit or punched (or bit or pushed, etc. - we had to list every possible offense)during the day at daycare, he got no treats (including no dessert or whatever special toy he was into that week) and no TV for that evening. This really did the trick. There were a few offenses after that, but they were far and few between. Of course, you would take away whatever your child is really attached to. We also had to remind him every morning about the rules. I hope this helps and you might be able to nip this in the bud sooner than we did! Good Luck! Nancy


2.5 year old laughs when I discipline him

Jan 2002

When my son was an infant I read in Dr. Sears Baby Book what I thought sounded like great discipline advice - save your scary, concerned voice for the really important, dangerous messages - e.g. don't run into the street. I'm not a yeller, so it was easy for me to save that voice until the appropriate moment - don't play with outlets, don't touch the stove, etc. But from the first moment I used it, my son only LAUGHED at the change in my tone (still does - very frustrating). We do use Time Outs when behavior starts to go too far, but now at 2 1/2, my husband and I are concerned with his lack of appropriate fear/ respect/ danger towards the necessary things in this world. I don't think he's out of control, and though fairly fearless at the park, I know he does tend to boss other kids around with the phrases he hears. Good habits start early, and if he's doing the same things he is now as a teen, one of us may not survive! Any words of advice, books, etc? Thanks! anonymous please


For me, the most part of discipline was teaching the behavior I wanted -- ie. Hold my hand at the corner and even when we were walking in busy neighborhoods. I also think, controlling your toddler's space as much as possible is helpful -- I insisted on using the stroller in a number of situations where either the car or pedestrian traffic would be to intense. That said, Toddlers are creatures of impulse, and it takes hundreds of repetitions to teach the most basic of rules. It gets better at 3-1/2 when they can start to understand other people's feelings. For us, there was also a noticable improvement at 5. Anonymous


I too survived this kind of reaction in my toddler boys, an apparent disregard for my warnings and obvious (to me) dangers. The laughing really sends you over the fence, doesn't it? I think you need to plan on being their boundary for awhile, and trust that they do actually hear you although they don't act like it. I found that my kids later asked about all the scary things I warned them about (cars, getting lost, and strangers), but only on their own schedules, not when we were in the midst of the situation. Meantime I discovered (though I wish I had sooner, as always), that if I could moderate my emotional reaction and simply remove them from the danger each time, they did finally get what they could and could not do. You can't trust them to be responsible for their own safety AT ALL at this age, but you can teach them what safety rules are/boundaries are, and then consistently enforce them. Somehow, eventually they do internalize them. Another trick I learned from our pediatrician is too have the conversation ahead of time, when you anticipate a situation, when you are all calm, and then remind them at the time,of your expectation that they will remember or cooperate etc. just before going into the park or store or wherever. Good luck!


My wife would probably kill me if she read this but, here goes. Our son is about to turn two. As you might guess, at this age he pays little heed to danger. But, he's learning gradually. For example, when I take him to the playground, I give him a little space around the age appropriate equipment. He's fallen off or tripped several times. I let him go so long as he's not too high up and he'll land in the wood chips. He's learning about his limitations by knowing what it feels like to lose control and take a tumble. As a result he's more careful and more confident. Obviously, I counter other more dangerous situations, like traffic or sharp objects, by removing him from the danger. But, whenever possible I let him discover for himself what's dangerous and what's safe. Gregg


Discipline at 19 Months

April 1999

Our daughter is 19 months old. We don't believe that hitting or other corporal punishment is right for our family, so we are avoiding that as a means of discipline.

Unfortunately, there are times when consequences need to be demonstrated swiftly and decisively. The way I was brought up, a whack across the behind delivered the message. The positive thing about that was that it was over immediately, whereas alternative punishments can drag out for what to a toddler's mind is an interminable duration.

Our daughter, when reprimanded, will escalate the encounter, running through all the things she knows we have prohibited, usually ending with her spitting. (Gets a good reaction from us!) This process is quite normal, and it doesn't bother me per se: She is only retesting the boundaries. But I need a firm way of reaffirming the boundaries.

My sister, as I recall, took a middle ground with her kids (all grown now.) She would very deliberately, and in a calm, measured way, draw the child aside and administer a token slap - more a tap, really - on the hand. I don't know how she did it, but they always got the clear message that it was punishment, even though it was clearly neither painful nor frightening.

I tried this approach with my daughter, but she considers the tap on the hand a big joke, and launches into the gamut of prohibited activities, winding up with a good spit. I tried restraining her arms when she was engaging in bad behavior - just hold her hands and tell her to stop. That turned into a battle of wills, to see who could struggle the longest. I gave that up after a few tries. It really did not feel right to be that embattled. So how do you do it? How does one deliver an instant and clear message that certain behavior will not be tolerated, without hitting?


I think that positive redirection is the most effective alternative. Just immediately turn the child toward an appropriate acitivity. They get the message and punishment is not needed.


Wow, toddler disipline -- this is a tough one. I have a 23-month-old and struggle with my *own* temper, almost daily. What I have found works best is to 1. limit my reaction to the forbidden activity as much as possible, and 2. move the child away from the offensive object/activity. I had originally followed my sister's model of flicking my child's hand when she did something offensive, but I realized after a while that it is no better than hitting. The purpose is to inflict pain, and I don't believe in that, so I decided I'm not going to do it. Besides, when I do, she cries like hell and it makes me feel terrible and then I end up apologizing, which totally confuses her.


I assure you, this isn't always easy to do, but when my kid starts doing something that's not okay, but not unsafe (e.g. throwing food, climbing on the coffee table, etc.), I try to react as little as possible, simply looking away from her and continuing to eat, or even leaving the room. Not raising my voice, I might say, Throwing food is not okay. With food, I might take away her plate, calmly asking, All done? Not reacting with my instinctive reaction (raising my voice, grabbing her food away, etc.) takes the enjoyment right out of it for her. If what she's doing is unsafe or making a mess (e.g. dumping water out of the bath, climbing the bookcase), I calmly remove the cup from her hand and/or physically remove her to another space, saying something positive like, Bathwater stays in the bath or whatever. If I have to do it five times in a row, so be it. It's not easy, especially when I'm in a cranky mood, but I'm the grownup and I am working on disciplining *myself* to do it right. I'm not opposed to saying, No! if it needs to be said, but I try to follow the positive discipline model and say what she *can* do, and only if necessary say what she can't do. E.g. instead of, No standing on your highchair! I say Put your bottom on the chair, like mama. I try to keep my instructions short, e.g. Don't touch. or Biting people is not okay, let's find something else you can bite. Maybe you can tell your daughter spitting is okay if she's at the sink, or give her a spitting cup where she can spit to her heart's content. I feel it's my job as the grownup to find some way to redirect my kid or distract her from the unwanted action, even if my temper is flaring and it's the 20th incident that day. Needless to say, I don't succeed every time, but practice does indeed make it easier.

I think the period from 18 to 24 months is the hardest for this kind of thing, but trust me, be patient and she will learn. I noticed after a while that my kid only occasionally hangs up the phone while I'm on the portable, and hardly ever climbs on the coffee table any more (except if we have guests -- surprise, surprise! It took me a while to figure out this is not coincidence!). They have so much to learn, and I truly believe that with imagination and patience, we can teach them without hitting them. Best of luck.


It's wonderful that you are avoiding corporal punishment. Try picking her up and taking her away from the setting and giving her a time- out. Ideally she should sit down for a minute or two (a timer may help). If she won't sit though, you have to decide whether you want to physically hold her down or just put her in her room (if it's child-proofed). If you're out you can put her in her car seat and buckle it. You may have to force her into the seat, but...


What worked for us and for our day care provider was the thinking chair. We just placed our kids in a chair for a specified period of time and told them what they had done that was not acceptable and told them they had to sit there for a period of time and think about it. At the end of the time, not usually very long for little ones, we discussed what was not OK about their behavior and then they could get up. Remarkably, it works most of the time. It sounds like you may have one of those smart push the envelope kids and I got a lot from listening to Helen Neville who works at Kaiser in Oakland and specializes in the spirited child. She gives a lot of support and creative ways to approach your child's different way of dealing with issues. Consistency is key in all cases. Good luck!


For ordinary discipline try the 'time out' method. Remove the child from whatever activity is happening. Have them be separate for a few minutes. There's more to this method but I've forgotten it - someone else will elaborate, perhaps. My mom used to have us stand in a corner! I think that is a similar approach. You can also try giving an 'order' and counting to 10 out loud. It is amazing how often that works. By 10 your wish has been carried out (but not much sooner!). For serious or dangerous behavior (e.g., reaching for something too hot) your voice alone can stop the child by its high pitch and definitive 'No!' Even to this day I can use a different voice for immediate and complete quiet in the car when I'm driving the kids and find myself in a situation where I have to concentrate on the road. Use 'I' language if you can. It's harder for us who did not grow up with it. I need... I want... I feel...' Instead of You should... you must... you know... And the more 'holding time' the better, when you just hold your young child and sometimes sing or talk quietly and pay attention to them with your eyes and arms. My son, when young, and especially after the birth of his sister, needed daily sessions for holding time, and then his behavior improved.


I remember all too well the feeling that you describe: If this escalation in behavior continues - what is the endpoint. I can only say that my 3 1/2 year old no longer demonstrates quite the same level of escalation. He seems to have developed some internal control (? conscience). What did we do that seems to have helped? - a) We tried to be consistent and clear about the behaviors that were unacceptable - hitting, throwing food, etc. b) removing him from the situation; eg. putting him in his room for some time alone, he can choose when to come out; but if the behavior continues, he went right back into his room. c) following through with natural consequences of his actions eg. taking a toy away if he was using it as a weapon, taking food away if he was throwing it, or, even, taking myself out of the room. All of this is very hard work; I am very interested in other parents' ideas.


In response to the recent inquiry about toddler discipline, I'd like to recommend a book that I have found to be a wonderful, enlightened, empowering guide to some very difficult parenting issues, entitled: Redirecting Children's Behavior: Discipline that Builds Self-Esteem, by Kathryn Kvols. (The publisher is INCAF Publications in Gainesville, Florida.) This is a wise, caring, and highly practical guide to some of the very tough issues we all face as parents. I have gained great insights from this book and apply its teachings often. It is useful whether kids are little, medium, or pretty big. Topics include agression, negotiation, problem-solving, sibling rivalry, consequences and limit setting, all in an appropriately supportive context. We've especially found the suggestion of the family meeting a very useful one, and one night each week my husband, two kids (ages 3 and 5) and I convene for a meeting to discuss any issues that have arisen over the previous few days. Now, when something comes up, my daughter will say, Now there's an issue I'll need to remember for Sunday night. We record our conversations in a special notebook, and check on our progress at subsequent meetings. It's been a great communication tool for our family and is helping to set the stage when the road gets rocky as they get older. (If any other digest readers have similar ideas for enhanced family communication, I'd love to learn of them.) Anyway, this is just one of several good ideas to have come from this book. Kathyrn Kvols speaks from time to time in the Bay Area, and was most recently hosted by the Habitot Museum last year.


We never had to do anything beyond a time out, which means 2 minutes in the crib with the railing up. This did not make the crib a hated place for sleeping, by the way. If you have another safe, self-contained space in the house, use that instead. Then we go in and repeat the rule she violated that time such as no kicking on the changing table, okay? or no hitting Mama, okay? She more or less agrees through her sobs, because she wants an end to time out and she knows that we then take her out and continue playing or whatever. Toddlers know from the tone of our voices when they did something wrong. They also don't like to have their activities interrupted. Time out is a very useful tool for relevant violations. (Don't overdo it. Pick your battles based on safety issues). We don't surprise her with it either. When she misbehaves and seems to want to continue, we ask her firmly if she wants a time out (providing a warning and a choice), which she always declines. In 90% of the cases the bad behavior will stop immediately, if it doesn't, she'll get time out. A nice variety, if the bad behavior involves an object, is to give the object time out somewhere out of sight until forgotten. We always use that option first, rather than subjecting our daughter to a time out. There is no reason to spank children or slap their hands. You can gain firm control on safety issues but if you want control over all kinds of stuff (such as eat this now) you're on lost ground trying to raise an individual person with whatever method you apply.


A lot of how your child responds to your efforts at discipline may have to do with certain temperament traits she has. It's helpful to understand your child's temperament when you're trying to figure out discipline and other issues. Neighborhood Moms is sponsoring an event with two reknowned speakers on child temperament on Thursday, April 29, from 7-9 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church, 5201 Park Blvd., Piedmont (just below Hwy. 13). Dr. James Cameron, executive director of the Preventive Ounce, and Rona Renner, R.N., family educator at Kaiser Permanente in Richmond and parenting talk show host on KPFA, will discuss what temperament is and how parents can identify their children's temperament traits and work with them instead of against them.


Parents Disagree about Discipline for 13-month-old

I'm hoping someone can recommend a parenting class or some kind of expert (or book?) to consult about discipline and related issues. My husband and I are first-time parents of a 13-month-old. We have pretty different parenting styles, particularly when the baby is doing something he shouldn't be. For example, when our son hits me in the face, I'll tell him in a normal voice that he shouldn't do that or we don't hit in our house, catch his hands to prevent him doing it again, and try to distract him and move on to something else. My husband is more likely to get angry and use an angry tone of voice and/or put him in his crib (crying) for a timeout. This is very distressing to me. I was afraid of my father and don't want my son to be. The two of us argue about what the right approach is in many situations, but we're certainly not experts on how to rear children and neither of us has much evidence to back up our positions. It doesn't help that on several other issues that we've tried to research there seems to be a fairly wide range of opinion among the authors of baby books, mostly without any apparent foundation other than personal preference. I don't have a lot of faith that the situation would be much better regarding this issue (but I'd love to be wrong on that).

This is getting to be a real problem between us. I imagine some of you have been in a similar situation, and I'd like to know how you dealt with it. Thanks in advance.


To the parent looking for a parenting class, I recommend a class called Redirecting Children's Behavior. We attended a six-week, 3-hour per week class provided by my niece's day care provider in Alameda. It was very eye-opening for both my husband and me and provided a forum for us to discuss how we wanted to raise our daughter. We attended the class about 1 year ago and continue to refer to the concepts that we learned about in this class. Here is a web site with information about the class and also Kathryn Kvols book, Redirecting Children's Behavior: http://www.jetlink.net/~positive/incaf.html The website has a listing of class instructors too. Best of luck to you and your family. BergaHoo Family


I have two recommendations... The first is The Discipline Book by Dr. William Sears. It's a great book and discusses discipline from birth to adolescence. It's coming from an attachment parenting perspective. Another book is P.E.T., Parent, Effectiveness, Training and emphasizes non-punative discipline. Also it might be a good idea to do some web searching on Diane Baumrinds (I think that's the spelling) work on parenting style's. She discusses authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive parenting and the impact that each can have on a child. It could be good information to help your husband understand that there are better ways.... Good Luck...


William & Martha Sears have a few books about babies and parenting that I really enjoy and rely on--their The Discipline Book might have some ideas for you. They're parents of 8 kids, I think, and very intuitive. Jessica


In regard to the request for training/book suggestions for Discipline, I would like to highly recommend two different discipline books i have found exceptionally helpful. They are:

Discipline for Life - Getting it Right with Children, By Madeline Swift and Smart Love by Martha Heineman Piper and William Piper

The Smart Love book starts with infancy - and while i don't necessarily agree with all the specific recommendations about weaning and sleeping, overall the book advocates an extremeley tender, perceptive, forgiving approach to what they call Loving Regulation as opposed to discipline. They have a psychology background and the book definitely has an emphasis on long-term psycological well-being. They are decidedly anti-permissive, so that may please your husband - and they are also extremely anti-harsh-discipline. I think you'll like the book!

The Discipline for Life book has lots of concrete examples of situations from preschool age on up (I don't remember any infant/young toddler stuff, but your child will be an older toddler very soon!) and I believe there is a training program/packet that one can order from the back of the book - but I haven't seen that. The gist of this book is building life-long self-discipline in your child, as opposed to handign down discipline that actually erodes self-discipline in the long run. It was also very helpful to me and several people I know who read it. Good luck! Lyla


For the example you gave (how to handle your son's hitting) my personal opinion is that your husband's technique is probably better-- a loud no and a (very brief) timeout will be more effective (and are not too harsh) for hitting. By 13 mos. your son is making the connection between what he is doing and the consequences, so you can take steps other than just distracting him. Even a loud angry NO will not scare him unduly. I think that holding the child's hands down just teaches him that you are physically stronger, and you want to get the emphasis away from physical reactions. But for the larger issue, you should really try to do counseling, because it can be such a stressful thing for the entire family when Mom and Dad have different views about discipline. It is very hard for both of you when your gut is telling you one thing and your husband another. A good counselor who can help you figure out how to resolve these issues in a way you're both comfortable with is one of the best gifts you can give your child. Fran


When you say your husband speaks in an angry voice and puts your son in his crib for a time out, does he get red-in-the-face angry, shout loudly enough to scare you or handle your son roughly? If not, if his response is more moderate than that, it is within an acceptable range of behavior. It is appropriate to speak in a moderately angry voice and put a 13-month old in his crib if he hits you. It's also appropriate to speak in a normal voice and restrain him. Fathers do tend to be firmer with children and mothers tend to be more protective. These are normal differences. You are both communicating disapproval of his behavior, and as long as your ways of doing so are effective and moderate, your child will perceive you as being consistent and safe in your responses to him.


Re: the question about different parenting styles, I'd recommend the book When Partners Become Parents, by Cowan & Cowan. It discusses many of the problems that typically arise in relationships after children are born. Good luck! S. Martin


I like the Disciplne book by Sears. BUT, as you say, you can find every style that you want in these parenting books, which means it is really up to you to decide. This Sears book goes along with their attachment-style parenting. They do not advocate time outs and harsh words for 1 year olds, and I also found this to be ineffective disciplne. It seems to help the yelling parent let off steam, but does not teach good behavior to a child. Distraction works better at this age. By two years, time outs will help, but not at one (my personal opinion, and experience). I don't think yelling ever helps.

However, you raise another issue, that of both parents agreeing on what is appropriate. I agree, it might be more productive to go to a class or a consultant than to a book. However, having taken a few seminars at Banana's, I can tell you that you can find teachers who run the whole spectrum of harsh to gentle disciplne just like the parenting books. So, what I would recomend to you is a couples/parents therapist. If you husband won't go, go by yourself. I did this, and it is helping both of us a lot. See the web site for recomendations, or e-mail me. I think it is OK to have different levels of strictness, but it is ideal if both parents agree that neither is out of line. Good luck! Lisa


When you consider a parenting class, you may want to note what you already know: there is NO one way to parent that all experts (or parents!) will agree on. I think that the underlying need is for you to find ways to help each of you focus on what values and needs of yours are present in your different choices, find a way to connect with each other about your different needs, and through that establish trust, connection, and communication that will help you parent with more harmony and understanding and ultimately provide more of what you want for your son.

In the Bay Area, seven trainers (including me) teach a process called Nonviolent Communication that has been successfully used internationally to help couples, families, schools, organizations and warring nations to reach a deeper connection and understanding. Its basic premise is that the deepest level of understanding between people or peoples can be reached by connecting with the feelings and needs that motivate our actions, rather than with our thoughts and ideas alone. It is a profound, simple, challenging process, which has been of tremendous help to me as a parent and in relationship with my partner, so much so that I have decided I want to share what I've learned. I am now in the midst of creating special workshops in Nonviolent Communication for parents. Check out the organization's web site at www.cnvc.org. Inbal


In response to the issue of parenting styles: our kids are now 7 and 5, and my husband and I have been wrestling with these issues for about 7 years, give or take. His fuse is much shorter, he is much more inclined to let the kids cry it out, and he walks away in a fraction of the time I do. His home of origin was characterized by intolerance and a lot of free floating anger, and while he has done a lot of soul searching to become a good parent, and has made quantum leaps, we still have very different styles that are in full relief when the kids need us most. So: some years ago, we each (at different times) took the same parenting class, from Diane Chapman (who may still be teaching this class - which I highly recommend. We took our class at Hearts Leap School - I don't know if she still teaches it there.) Diane uses a book in the workshop which has become our family's best child-rearing companion: Redirecting Children's Behavior: Discipline that Builds Self-Esteem. It is filled with practical guidance about natural consequences (like not threatening to eliminate tv for a week if the kid isn't going to bed on time, but rather moving bedtime earlier for each night the kid goes to bed later than is scheduled, for instance). It is a book that both my husband and I could embrace, very empathetic, clear, infinitely practical and deeply loving and respectful of the child's spirit. I highly recommend it. The author is Kathryn Kvols - she was scheduled to speak last year at the Habitot Museum, but had to reschedule, so I don't know if she'll be coming this way anytime soon. If she does, I will definitely be in the audience, as she has been an important parenting teacher of mine.

One other thing we learned from this class: You can't teach a drowning person to swim. You can't teach a life lesson to a child (or husband) who is upset. Work things out during calm times. Talk in advance about how to handle a situation before it arises (when, in Diane's language, intensity is low.) If you know that you can't bear to have your kids cry it out, (which is true for me), let that be known. My husband hates it when I intervene, but I tell him in advance that he can do what he can works things out his own way up until the time he walks away, leaving hurt feelings behind, and at that point I will need to take action, even if it means interfering. But now he knows that about me, and understands that is how things will need to be. Best of luck.


To the Mom whose son hits her in the face- Think about it from your son's point of view. I hit Mommy in the face... what happens? Oh, Daddy gets mad. Daddy will not allow me to hit Mommy. This makes the child feels safe. A child does not want to be more powerful than the parent. If you are not even strong enough to protect yourself from your child hitting you, how can your child believe that you are strong enough to protect him from real or imaginary dangers. The world is a scary place to little ones, and we need to be strong for them.

When the child loses control, he wants the parent to step in and help him. Your husband loves his son and is trying to do what he thinks is best. To ignore your child's inappropriate behavior by distracting him is abandoning him morally. Don't be so sensitive, he is not fragile and your husband is not trying to destroy the kid's self image. Don't project your own bad childhood experiences on your son. Time-out is not cruel torture, it is appropriate discipline to the behavior. Trust your husband. He is not the same as your father. Amy


Also recommended: Rona Renner's parenting workshops (2 people)