General Question

Seek's avatar

How to discipline a toddler?

Asked by Seek (34734points) March 31st, 2010

I was so proud of my little man. He was an angel in public and at home – always all smiles and love.

Where did he go?! Now he’s 19 months old, starting to “use his words” for certain things, and still just as happy as ever… but now he’s become violent and defiant!

He only hurts me and his daddy. He’ll pinch both of us – hard – and slap me in the face. He pulls off my eyeglasses and throws them (very much not fun for half-blind me). He’ll get hold of something dangerous, and when we try to get it from him, he’ll laugh and run away.

“Time Out” is met with laughs. He honestly thinks it’s a game. He sits down, mommy says “time out”, he laughs and gets up. Mommy sits him down and says “time out”, he laughs more. Utterly useless. Whoever came up with this “time out” thing was on some serious drugs.

What the heck do I do? I don’t believe in spanking, but even when I’ve tried it, he just laughs at me.

What to do?

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50 Answers

partyparty's avatar

Put him in the ‘naughty corner’. Make sure that what you say you really do mean. He has to understand you are not joking when you tell him to do something.
Make him apologise for disrespecting you. When he apologises tell him you love him, but he must do as you tell him.

Response moderated
Seek's avatar

Yeah. Naughty corner is a joke.

dpworkin's avatar

This is a temperamental problem, widely known as the “Terrible Twos” that seems to be beginning a little early for you. The main thing is not to validate the behavior. I suggest that you talk to him and say, “The next time you hit mommy, mommy is going to…” and then make sure it happens, immediately with no recourse. In the case of one of my kids, it was five minutes in the bathroom with the door closed. (He was the stubborn one) but the message is that bad behavior has unpleasant consequence a favorite toy goes away for a day, something. But something you can carry through on immediately with no second chances. Above all, no spanking please.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

You continue to be consistent in your message of ‘no hitting’. I take my toddler’s hand after he hits and put it in mine, make him look at me and I repeat (boy, do I repeat over and over) that we don’t hit. When they misbehave, I give them a 5 second warning to stop whatever they’re doing before they are going to the time out area (against the hallway wall). If they don’t listen, it’s time out time. We close all doors and they’re against the wall alone (well just the 3 and a half year old) so that he can’t show us how much he ‘doesn’t care that he’s doing time out’. If it doesn’t work, we explain to him that if he doesn’t stop his insanity, he won’t watch cartoons or get his favorite snack or his favorite book – he always responds to this. If he’s in a full on tantrum, I make sure he drinks some water, pat his face with wet hands to calm him down and stay with him until he is calm and re-start the process. The key with your kid is that this too shall pass.

ucme's avatar

He’s pushing the boundaries to see where he stands,testing you out.He’ll grow out of it once he knows who’s boss.Be firm in your tone of voice & make sure it’s understood that you’re in charge.Happy days.

drClaw's avatar

I like to train kids the same way I train dogs, with a crate and a rolled up newspaper. I’d have this kid fetching my slippers in no time.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think you have to switch naughty corner to a different area and you have to explain that if he keeps laughing he’ll stay there longer. I know 19 months isn’t really the age to ‘get things’ and I know it can be so frustrating when they just laugh.

phillis's avatar

I only had the hitting thing occur a few times with my first daughter. My second daughter is another story. All I had to do when I was hit or pinched (or bitten!) was to IMMEDIATELY put the child down on the floor in a nonpainful, unceremonious DUMP and walk off. That got the message across extremely quickly that hitting mommy was not a fun thing to do. Mommy takes the snuggles away when you hit.

Being consistent is a bitch and a half. Unfortunately, not being consistent is causing problems. Did you know that high chairs are brilliant time-out devices? They keep your child safely strapped in so that they cannot run off and go play. Ignore (or pretend to) the screams and wailing. No eye contact whatsoever, no facial reaction.

Also, no bargaining! No: Mommy will do this, if you do this. He’s simply too young to understand long-term consequences. To a toddler, 5 minutes is too far in the future to comprehend. Immediate reaction is imperitive, even in public (even though I completely understand that the cringe factor is higher in public).

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Not funny but there was a PBS show where doctors came up the idea that the “terrible two’s” are the most violent of a human’s life and this is all natural and to be expected behavior as they feel out their (and push yours) boundaries. Enjoy!

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

Oh no! Looks like it’s time for another force-fed jar of horrible-tasting behavior correction paste (maybe two jars if some gets on the floor).

Judi's avatar

My daughters use the naughty corner very effectively. They have even been known to find suitable corners in resteraunts. The key is consistancy. And regular naps.

Snarp's avatar

There are two things that I would try that might be more effective than the time out/ naughty corner approach at this age (I’m a believer in this approach, but it works better as they get older, and requires extreme consistency and patience).

What I would try is simply saying “no biting (hitting, whatever), I don’t like that” and moving away. Leave them where they are or put them in a safe spot and leave. Don’t pay any attention to them whatsoever. Attention, even negative attention, can become a reward. Also try to make sure they get lots of attention when they’re doing the right thing.

The other thing I would focus on is trying to set them up for success. Try to find the cues that violence is immanent, and defuse the situation before it goes too far. That may mean recognizing when they are over-tired or hungry, getting them to bed or feeding them a little sooner, or other techniques. You have to be observant and creative.

Also recognize that it’s likely to continue for a while, just make sure you have a consistent response that they don’t see as getting attention (at this point the time out struggle may just be attention to them). As they get older it should get better.

Trillian's avatar

Call The Nanny. She ROCKS!

Pandora's avatar

I agree with @phillis. When my son was in his terrible twos a quick pop on the mouth was enough to stun him and when his hand went up again, so did mine and he would retreat. I probably only had to do it twice and he got he message. He’s old enough to understand that you will not allow him to hit your face or pinch. Pinching him back may also be necessary. Most importantly you have to be quick with your reflexes and stop his arm mid swing or pinch. A little sqeeze and a very firm no said in a low and serious voice will snap him out of his fun mood. I’m not saying to pop him or pinch hard enough to give him a mark but hard enough for him to understand consequences
. If he has time out you must remain close the first few times and face him towards a wall so there are no distractions to help them forget why they are there for and explain why you won’t accept his behavior.
Another way is, if he gets a treat with lunch usually, than deny him the treat. I know people are going to say it doesn’t work but it does. I worked with both of mine. Children have a good memory for routine and what they feel entitled too. I use to tell mine I would take them to the park the next day if they behaved the whole day and they would.
If they started to slip I would remind them that tomorrow is park day and they have to behave.
Most importantly watch what you say to your kid. You’ll be amazed how many times you may say no to a toddler because you are busy with other things. They easily get fustrated at this age.
And as mentioned. Be 100percent consistant. Its a little trying at first but as they understand that you mean business it becomes less trying. When you aren’t consistant your children view you as a liar. They may not totally understand the concept but they understand your not telling the truth and you won’t keep promises. They need to know you will keep all promises made. Both good and bad.

Snarp's avatar

Whatever you do, don’t listen to @Pandora. You don’t need to hit your child back, pinch them back, bite them back. This sends a message that may or may not work in the short term, but long term you’re teaching them that violence is the right way to respond. OK, they no longer hit or pinch mommy or daddy, but guess what their first response is going to be to other kids who upset them, especially smaller ones? Hitting back doesn’t teach that they shouldn’t hit, it teaches that they shouldn’t hit anyone who can defend themselves, and it makes bullies.

There’s never a reason to hit a child, certainly not one that young.

cazzie's avatar

This sound very familiar. My little guy is 5 now and went through this stage. I tried time out and putting him in another room for a while, but what really got him was two things.
Phillis mentioned one of them…. the ‘Dump and Leave’. When he realises that when he does that, he doesn’t get Mommy, it might drop.
The naughty corner or time out didn’t work for me, so I would put a toy in ‘jail’... up on a high shelve for a determined period of time.
We aren’t allowed to hit our kids here, so we get creative. I’m not saying I never slapped his hand away from a hot stove or electric outlet, but we don’t do the smaking thing.
He bit some as well, and did it at daycare. The crazy daycare lady bit him back. (she’s only one nutter amongst a team I trust and she’s not there much anymore)
What we have found is the more physical we got with him, (trying to restrain him, hold him down in a ‘naughty chair) the more the violence escalated. But the best thing was Toy Jail.
(don’t pop them in the mouth, then they just learn that violence is ok)

the100thmonkey's avatar

The key is consistency. Don’t let him get away with it ever.

Like @dpworkin, I put my children in their rooms (no entertainment options save books, which I encourage them to read anyway). I would allow them out when they apologised – even a two year old can say sorry.

After a few months, it became clear to both of them (they’re now 5 and 3) that they would be disciplined, and they wouldn’t like it. With my 5 year old, it now only takes a word to stop him, and the 3 year old is much the same, although he’s still quite stubborn about apologising.

GladysMensch's avatar

I agree with phyllis. Do not show any reaction at all other than to say “uh-oh, you hit me, that’s so sad” and immediately put the child into an enclosed space where he cannot play or hurt himself. The high-chair works beautifully, but you could use a crib as well. Don’t say anything or show any emotion while strapping the child in. The child will fight, but you are bigger and stronger and you will win. Then go to the other side of the room and do something else… read the paper, wash dishes… whatever. The child will likely freak out for a while; continue to ignore him. Once the tantrum is completed ask your son if he’s finished. If yes, then he can be released, otherwise he stays.

After a few times in the chair ask him if he would rather sit in the high-chair or in corner (or on the steps, or someplace else unexciting). If he chooses the corner and doesn’t stay there then follow it up with “uh-oh, that’s so sad, you decided to get up”, and strap him in the high chair.

The first few times will be the most difficult, but your son will quickly learn that negative behavior on his part results in negative consequences. And that’s what you want him to learn.

Most of these techniques are used in a system called Love and logic. My wife and I have used it with both daughters and it has worked quite well. I suggest checking it out.

Pandora's avatar

@snarp, I’m not advocating hitting them constantly where it will only make matters worse. It just that when children hit or pinch they first think it a game to see your reaction. Later it becomes habit or comes from anger. I said if you usually do it the first two times they will see it is not fun. And so you know, neither of my children grew up violent or aggressive. My son was only in a fight once and that was only to defend himself. The other child was being aggressive. He cried his heart out later because he didn’t like having to hit someone else. I used the corner from the time he was two till he was about 7 and then took things away as he got older.
The pop to the mouth or the hand was needed when he was under two because the corner was a difficult thing to grasps. My daughter only needed to be put in a corner after she was two. She never showed signs of aggression.
Some children need more than one way to get the point across. The corner doesn’t work for everyone. I knew plenty of children who would be abusive to other children and their parents did not believe in hitting either. Not all abusive children come from violent homes, sometimes they are just fustrated and it comes out in aggressive behavior but if its not corrected quickly it becomes a habit. They need to learn about consequences.

Snarp's avatar

@Pandora I’m sure your kids turned out fine. There’s never a reason to hit, pinch, bite, or otherwise physically punish a 19 month old, ever. Things were handled differently in the past, and you did it that way. Since then lots of childhood development experts and years of experience have shown that it’s not necessary or particularly productive.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Pandora I agree the kids should learn consequences – I just don’t see why those consequences need to include any smacking, hitting…they should know that consequences are of emotional, not physical nature in that the parent will be disappointed or not play with them anymore or they won’t do what they like but why teach impatience or impulsivity…they will learn plenty of that from others…a parent should (this is my opinion only) be a calm steady force in their life (even if that’s not always the case, we should strive for this) and never one that hurts them physically because there is an inherent power differential as is and to exploit it is irresponsible imo.

Seek's avatar

@Snarp , @Pandora

The simple fact is that my own mother was of the “beat them with whatever wasn’t too heavy to lift” crowd, so I don’t advocate hitting of any kind. I am sad to say that there are circumstances in which I spanked him before even realising what I was doing (i.e.: he tried to run into a fire pit with hot ashes in it, or found a broken glass bottle under the porch.) and I know from those instances that it is not a functional form of discipline for my son.

Pandora's avatar

@Snarp, if the new ways are so successful, why are teachers having to deal with so much aggressive behavior today compared to when I was a kid? I don’t think that experts have taken into account that children don’t all learn the same or accept what is being taught in the same fashion. No one formula works for every child because each child is unique to himself. Like I said. My daughter was docile so nothing needed to be done that was drastic, my son was very stubborn and drastic was the only thing he understood. For a little while. Besides a pop to the mouth wasn’t done to hurt him. It would just startle him. I would never hit a child hard enough to hurt them. It was like an indian pop. You know when you use to play cowboys and indians and pop you mouth to make Indian sounds , whooo, whoo. (no offense to Indians)

wundayatta's avatar

It’s always fascinating to see how many different approaches parents take. It’s hard to know how to compare them for a number of reasons. Parents are different. Kids are different. We can’t see the behavior we’re talking about. Still, most of these kids will grow up just fine. The parents may have some serious aggravation along the way, though.

Some thoughts:

I don’t know if your son is too young for time-out. I think at his age, you may still be in the explanation phase. That is, every time they do something you don’t like, tell them you don’t like it and why, and show them an alternative behavior that will get them what they want.

He is an angel in public and only behaves this way at home. This is typical. It means he knows he has to be careful in public, but it is safe to try new stuff out at home.

Something I wish all parents would avoid is the “you need to…” sentence. They don’t have to do anything. You want them to, and I think you should say that. To say “you need to” is to give up all your power. Let them know it matters to you, personally.

I always explained that if they took my glasses, it hurt me; I couldn’t see; it made me angry; and I flat out didn’t like it. So please don’t do it again. I almost always treated my kids with respect. They are independent people learning to make independent decisions. I don’t want them to do things because I tell them to. I want them to do things because they figure it out for themselves.

So I show them real world consequences. If they hurt me, I won’t like them. I won’t like to play with them. I’ll ignore them. I won’t give them what they want. I won’t feel like it. I am teaching them about relationships and the emotional consequences of their behavior. Behind the emotional consequences are real world consequences.

When you do this—if you do it—you do what you say and you show what you feel. You do not separate yourself from your emotions because you think you are boss. You don’t say “Mommy says you have to….” You own all your statements by saying “I want you to….”

Now another thing to think about is what is your son trying to achieve with this behavior, and to see if there are some alternatives that will get him the same thing without hurting anyone else. I’m not there, but if I had to guess, it sounds like he’s bored and wants to play, or over tired and doesn’t know how to soothe himself. Sometimes we would put our son in his crib (he couldn’t get out) in order to sleep (not for punishment). The crib is a safe place and can give him a chance to calm down, and often that is what the child wants. They simply don’t know how to calm down. That’s what time-out can do, when it works.

An example of giving them an alternative behavior:

Once my daughter was singing or screaming in a high pitched voice. It was giving me a headache. Rather than say “stop screaming,” I asked them is they could try to scream like this—and I yelled in a low pitched voice. They really got into it, and I never had to ask them to stop screaming again. I wish other parents would to this, because I’ve had my head torn apart by some other kids’ screams.

Regarding time out:

My daughter didn’t ever need it. Maybe once. But my son had an issue. I think he may have kicked or hit or something, and I sent him to time out. This was when he was probably three or four, You’re not supposed to have time outs be longer than a minute per year of age, I think.

Anyway, he hopped right out of time out, and I told him that if he moved out of time out, he’d get another time out. They were three minute time-outs, I think. In the end, he had twelve minutes of time-out, when he quit. That was the last time I ever had to worry about him being in time out, although not the last time he was in time-out.

I never hit him except once. It turned out that I was highly irritable at the time due to being in a mixed phase or a mania. As soon as I did that, I put myself into my own kind of timeout. I walked out the door and didn’t come back for a few hours.

You’ll have to take my word on this, but my kids are probably some of the most polite, well-behaved, respectful kids you’ll find. They are good with people, and natural peacemakers and leaders. And this is amongst a group full of kids from well-off, well-educated parents.

Although, my son, at age ten, still eats with his fingers, and seems to forget that you can use a knife and a fork at the same time!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Pandora I actually think that these days people are taking into account different types of learning more and more as we learn more about various conditions children may have and they’re no longer lumped into random groups in ‘special ed’. I just think that it has been shown that physical discipline has not positive effect and shouldn’t be utilized. To say that less spanking causes more aggressive behavior is illogical and a wrong conclusion to draw because there are so many other factors to consider. No child is the same but all children can be approached and disciplined without resorting to anything physical – but, again, you may not think so as a parent – all you’re doing is trying to validate your experience.

Snarp's avatar

@Pandora There are a lot of reasons for behavioral issues in schools, and @Simone_De_Beauvoir has mentioned a couple of issues. Others include more children having children, parents having less time to spend with their kids, and the list goes on. There’s no reason to think that parents being less physical with their kids leads to more aggressive behavior later on. There are plenty of kids raised both ways who turn out fine and plenty who don’t. But in general physical punishments don’t get any better results.

I know this kind of thing is a sensitive issue, so I want to make clear that I’m not attacking the way you parented. You did the best you could with the information available, which is all any of us do. It just happens that the information available has improved. Parents also used to be told to put their babies to sleep on their stomachs and there were no car safety seats. Heck, there weren’t even shoulder belts when I was a kid. So we would be foolish to approach modern parenting without looking at the latest information, even when it contradicts with some information that was good enough for us as kids.

Also, the words “a quick pop in the mouth” to me means something pretty abhorrent. When combined with it sometimes being necessary to pinch back, I get an impression of violence. Frankly, I was aghast when I read what you wrote. So I’m glad to hear that I misunderstood you.

phillis's avatar

Hi, @Pandora! Maybe I have a helpful explanation as to why discipline has become a very real problem in schools. In previous generations, many families could live off of one parent’s income, but not anymore. Latchkey kids are left to fend for themselves after arriving home from school, particularly if the parents cannot afford after school programs.

Both parents working, then coming home exhausted, leads to less energy left for raising children. Most parents know that a week of work leaves you so exhausted that, by the time Friday night rolls around, you can’t even think of putting on your dancing shoes. All you want to do is collapse in a chair and have some peace and quiet.

That being said, two important points: I am not a working parent. There is no excuse for my children to have behavioral problems, so they don’t. I also have to say that I am one of the ones who reacts quite negatively when somebody’s brat acts out in public, which segways nicely into the next point.

Tiredess notwithstanding, failing to teach your child thier social graces cuts them off from receiving positive reactions from society. It isn’t fair, but it is your child who pays – not you – for thier insufferable manners.

casheroo's avatar

123 Magic (sorry i’d link but i’m nursing) it took about two weeks to really work with my now 2.5 year old. we started at 23 months. We did slack off and I regret that so much.

We do time outs in the bedroom though, I don’t know how people have a naughty corner or chair.

Pandora's avatar

There are many reasons for children to be more aggressive today than before, but it still feels as if experts think that time out is the only hard and fast rule and don’t consider anything else as possibly working. I’m not advocating abusive behavior. My son till date is the only one I ever popped on the hand or mouth. And I never allowed my husband to spank him because he doesn’t know his own strength. There is a difference between abuse and disapline. I was hit as a kid but I never saw it as abusive. I could count the number of times. 3 times and oh, yes did I deserve it. Ok, maybe not one of them. LOL
Its a long story. My siblings also got disaplined and none of them are violent.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Pandora I think they do consider other methods just no methods that include physical harm (I read 3 parenting magazines and the OP’s issue is common and there are other suggestions besides time-outs given). I was hit as a kid and saw it as abusive – so what, you had one experience, I had another – doesn’t tell us much. I don’t think children that are spanked automatically grow up to be violent but some do learn that physical contact like spanking, hitting, whatever is okay to use to solve their problems and that’s not how I want my kids to grow up so why even take the chance. I simply couldn’t raise a hand to my child, when I yell at them, I feel terrible because I should be in control of my emotions.

Rarebear's avatar

I didn’t read the whole thread, so I apologize if this was said. We used a book called 1–2-3 Magic and it worked for us.

Pandora's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir First of all (((hugs))). Its not everyones cup of tea and there are people who don’t know the difference between abusive behavior and disappline. It is not my cup of tea either. I never liked having to resort to hitting even when it was lightly done. No one ever imagines having to harm your child in any way. But I realized being a parent isn’t easy with always easy decisions and I rather I pop them in the mouth and teach them about consequences before someone else comes along and beats the crap out of them because they never learned self control.
I’m not saying there aren’t other ways to disappline a child. Most of them work. But some children just never respond.
I use to work in a daycare center. Of course we never spanked or were abusive to the children in our care. We used time out and distraction and individual care to try to help children overcome their aggressive behavior. But I would see children who come in smacking their parents, hitting us and hitting other children and making otherwise gentle children turn to aggressive behavior as well. After hundreds of attempts to correct their behavior these children are held in contempt and passed on to the next class to continue their tyranny. Parents see it as the schools problems and the schools see it as a parent problem. In the mean time, like Phillis said, it is societies problem.

Cruiser's avatar

As difficult as it may seem it is a pretty simple approach that worked for us. He is trying to get your attention and found it works when he is being bad and even likes the additional attention he gets when he laughs at you as it gets him more of what he wants and that’s your attention. Ignore it!! Correct the bad behavior but be calm and very clear why you are upset. Never get angry or excited but again take the time to get down to his level and explain as clear as you can be about why you are displeased with his behavior. Give him a punishment appropriate to the crime.

Now…at the same time start praising his good behavior and make a really big deal out of it! Make being good fun for him and it will be fun for you as well. Start with small simple things and be consistent. Praise all his “little victories” we used to call them even just picking up one toy or even using nice words instead of bad words and things will turn around for you. I can almost guarantee it. If you have more than one child you have to be fair about it between the other children as they will get jealous of the little one getting all the attention. Another tip to try if your child is getting anxious and acting out give him a long firm hug. Even roll them up in a blanket they will almost always clam down instantly.

phillis's avatar

@Cruiser YES!! That is so important, to give lots of praise when something is done right! Jeezus, that cannot ever be overstated. I can’t tell you the personal growth I experienced when I began doing that for Allison, my first baby. I was forced to shift my thinking, if I wanted to provide her with a nurturing environment.

I was so accustomed to seeing the bad things people did that, doing the same thing to a child who didn’t deserve that crap, clearly outlined that I needed a drastic overhaul. It is this way of handling things that crushes a child’s delicate spirit. It sucks to be a kid!! All you hear all damn day is no, no, NO! It makes perfect sense to try something…...anything… achieve some sort of balance.

YARNLADY's avatar

@CruiserYes, I was just getting ready to suggest a restraint in the form of a very forceful hug, sometimes wrapping the child with my hands and feet. We have a ‘quiet time’ mat on the floor where the child can go of his own accord, or be held, if necessary, and wrapping (carefully, not as in tied up) with a blanket can help a lot. My Dad used to use a giant beach towel he would roll us up in.

@Seek_Kolinahr It takes a great deal of patience to teach a child how to behave without hitting. I use various methods of restraint. When pinching or glasses throwing occurs, a tight hold on their little hand, accompanied with a very loud OOWWWW, THAT HURT will usually put an end to that.

The laughing during time out is a defense mechanism. Just ignore it, he is not enjoying the experience, he is using one of the few pleasure inducing tricks he knows. If he laughs, it makes Mom and Dad happy.

I have so many ideas that might help, I won’t put them all here, because no one wants to read that long of an answer. See my PM

People with stories about how they or their children turned out fine even though they were hit simply do not understand the concept of the way to change an entire societies acceptance of physical violence. I’m sure there are horror stories right here on Fluther of people who grew up in homes where there was actual abuse, and they turned out fine. The idea of no hitting is about a loving, peaceful lifestyle for all of mankind.

phillis's avatar

To play the devil’s advocate, I am an advocate of a swift swat on the damn britches if your finger is headed toward that light socket after unplugging the cord, or you little body heads into the street. I came from a sickeningly abusive environment that took me most of my adult life to pull out of. I know how angry responses grips a child’s tiny spirit and shakes it like a pitbull with a ragdoll. The child is left broken and bleeding on the inside. Sometimes, those wounds never heal.

No matter what form of discipline is decided upon, it needs to come from the same place inside you that your love for your child resides. Discipline is the gift of guidance, not punishment. If the discipline comes from any other place, you WILL send the wrong message, and you WILL perpetuate the dysfunctional legacy of your own childhood, no matter how strongly you love your child.

wundayatta's avatar

@phillis I’m not sure giving “lots” of praise is the most effective approach. I think giving the right amount of praise is what you want. Kids aren’t dumb, and they know when parents are overdoing it. That teaches them to devalue praise and worse, mistrust the feedback from their parents. It also creates the danger that kids will work only for praise, which isn’t very good, either.

phillis's avatar

@wundayatta There are as many variations on how a person can view what I said, as there are people. For the purpose of clarification, yes…’re absolutely right. Overly fawning over a single crayon mark from little Rembrandt is not what I had in mind.

I will retain the “lots” part of my comment in light of how many people fail understand that children (EVERYBODY) can be guided not just with discipline, but also praise when effort is made, along with successful end results. If previous generations had understood this, there would be far less negative self-image issues than our population suffers from to date.

cak's avatar

At 19 months, they are figuring out new things to do – hitting is one of them – so is biting. It’s common. Walk into any daycare, preschool, Montessori Program and ask them how many times they have run into this behavior. Welcome to toddler-hood! remember, they are just in training to be a teen!

First of all, whatever you decide to do, stick with it. What worked for me, may not work for you. @wundayatta is about to faint when he reads this. @Wundayatta’s explanation technique (not really a technique, it’s just explaining things to your children) is a smart approach. One that I pretty much employed (ok, except for the sharpie marker incident all over the brand new paint. Then again, hubby wasn’t truly watching what was going on!) Anyway – telling them that it hurts, showing them where it hurt you and telling them it’s not okay to hurt people is how I started with both of mine. If the behavior continued, I would also add a time-out; however, time-outs can be used as a punishment or a time to regroup. In our house, it’s also be explained as a time to cool off. Think about what’s going on and what needs to change. For a little one, contain him. Remember the rule is one minute for every year, if you want to go by that rule. Leaving a 19 month old in time-out for 30 minutes, they won’t understand…I had a friend that did that…never understood why the child got restless!

Hitting or biting back, kind of sends that message right back to them. Something that never made too much sense to me.

Find a calm way to approach it, and stick with it! No matter what you do, if you don’t do it consistently, it will never work.

rahm_sahriv's avatar

There are times when a spanking is a good thing (spanking, not abuse or beating mind you, some people equate them with spanking and this is not the case).

Also, he must be met with consistency in his punishments. Giving him a spanking one day, a time out the next and a stern talking to on another day will only confuse him and make him more apt to misbehave, or laugh at the punishment he gets.

If spanking and time outs do not work, start taking away his toys and privileges (not sure what specific toys and privileges he has at this age, but there has to be something) and not give it back for a set amount of time that has been explained (do not give in either- if you take away his blanket for a day, it is gone for a whole day, not just until he behaves himself).

The key though is making the rules and being firm and consistent with them.

Blondesjon's avatar

You aren’t spanking him hard enough. You need to swing from the shoulder and have the child firmly immobilized over your knee. DON’T PULL THAT SWAT AT THE END. Follow through with some time alone in his room. Don’t explain the spanking to him, don’t argue with him, don’t reason with him. Spank his but, put him in his room and wait for the crying to end. It will.

Repeat as necessary.

jeanmay's avatar

Thanks so much for asking this question, as we have similar issues with our 25 month old. One of his first words was ‘no’, and for a long time now he’s been hitting mum and dad when he gets frustrated. If we’re not in reach he throws something – a book or a toy. When he was around 18 months he also giggled when we tried to discipline him.

We have made some progress – he doesn’t laugh anymore and understands when we’re cross with him. The timeout only worked for us if we both go into one room and shut the door behind us. That way he thinks we’re having a really fun secret party and he’s really sad to not be involved! (We don’t leave him very long, a minute is all it takes). Taking a favourite toy has also proved very effective, as has providing crazy applause and praise for good behaviour. All things folk have already mentioned, but just thought I’d share!

The important thing to remember is, he is still very young and his behaviour is normal. You are certainly not alone in your struggle and you seem to be approaching the situation with the right attitude. Follow your instincts, have patience and eventually he will learn what’s expected of him.

Thanks again for a great question, I really appreciated reading all the responses and it certainly reassured me to know that mine is not the only little monkey out there!

wundayatta's avatar

@cak Would you pass the smelling salts, please? ;-)

YARNLADY's avatar

I had both my grandkids (3 and 11 mo) all weekend, and it was really a test. The hardest, funniest time came at bed time. We were in the playroom/bedroom and they started getting too fussy. I put them both in the single bed with me. They were squirming, wriggling, kicking and crying. I tried the music box, which usually works, but the older one kept asking to go with Grandpa. I told him he had to be quiet, or Grandpa wouldn’t let him in, so he quieted down for a short time, and I immediately took him in with grandpa – it worked, he went right to sleep.

Not so the baby. He wanted to nurse himself to sleep, as he was used to. I rocked him for nearly an hour until he finally fell asleep. His Mom came and got him the next day because she was missing him too much.

cak's avatar

@wundayatta I can always claim I was under the influence of some very heavy pain killers. ;~)

wundayatta's avatar

@cak That’s the ticket! It’s probably the truth, too!

Silhouette's avatar

You have to have more stamina than the little guy. When you put him in time out, you have to make him stay there even if it means you spend the entire day sitting right there in front of him, repeatedly plopping his butt back down until he gives up and sits there for the 5 minutes of cooperation you are looking for.

Rewards for good behavior are important too.

Remember every time you break weak it’s a victory he won’t soon forget.

kostaweb's avatar


I agree with your comments on the matter. I also happen to agree with you all the way, and only with you.

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