34 answers

17 Month Old Discipline

I have a beautiful determined 17 month-old boy that has started screaming and at times falling to the ground when he does not get what he wants. I know that communication is an issue (even though I am teaching him sign). I want to set limits, say no when appropriate and I don't want to go the spanking route. Please advise.

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Wow....thank you, thank you. I can't believe how kind you all are. I am surrounded by experts in the "practical" raising of a child. There are so many great ideas and I have felt really frustrated not knowing what to do. I now have a game plan. I will get back to you all. Again. Thank you, thank you.

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Sounds like he's hit the terrible two's a little early. When my children would throw a tantrum I either put them in a separate room or walked away. I didn't want to give them attention for throwing a fit. When they calm down, they'll come and find you and you can try it again. =)

When my son does this, I ask "oh, no - are you feeling mad?" or frustrated or angry or sad...etc. usually he'll respond "ya, I mad!!!" Then I say "awww - I'm sorry you're mad. Do you need a mommy hug?" Then he comes and gets a hug and calms down in my arms and it's over. I like that he's learning names for his emotions.

My grandfather had a different approach. He'd pull up a chair and holler, "hey everybody, Mary's having a tantrum - everybody come watch!!" even in public he'd watch her like it was a show or a play and invite everyone around to come watch. I don't know why this works, but it kept him from getting mad and the kid's tantrum always ended quickly.

I would simply state "no" to whatever he is demanding and walk away. Ignoring his tantrums will help him to learn that they dont work. You could also tell him "when you are done screaming, you can come join me in the living room. Then we can read a book together." then walk away.

More Answers

there are so many other ways to discipline. one idea is time out. another is taking away his favorite toy. a reversed idea is to reward him for good behavior. personally, i think a swat isn't too bad, but there are other ways too.

My son did, and still does the same. He's 21 months old now and it's only gotten worse. I've found the thing that works is to pick him up, without any anger (the hard part!) and place him on the naughty step, or in other words the bottom step of our stairs. You could use a chair, a bed, whatever. This does a few things. It removes him from whatever situation is causing him to be upset, it allows him to calm himself down, which I think is a very important aspect of learning self control, and then it allows me to explain why his behavior is inappropriate. I always give him a hug and a kiss when he's done. Oh, and I do one minute for each year of life--so he only sits there for one minute. This has worked amazingly well for us. It hasn't lessened the tantrums, but it has lessened the duration of the tantrums.I think you are correct, the terrible twos are caused by a toddlers inability to communicate, and their frustration at not being able to control their environment. I usually understand what caused the tantrum, and talking about it to him, letting him know I understand what's going on--I think anyway--helps.

Yeah, here come the "Terrible Two's," I ignored them at first and made sure he wouldn't hurt himself. I still do that and if he gets worse and tell's me "No" after after I have asked him not to do something, he gets "time out" on the couch. We don't have a naughty step, but the idea is the same. He has to stay there for 2 minutes, one minute for each year of age, like the Super Nanny says.
Hope that helps, Good Luck!

Welcome to toddlerhood! ;-) The only thing that I find works is to ignore his fits. Make sure he is in a safe place and leave him be. When he is done calmly ask him what he needed because "mommy can't understand you when you are screaming" "use your big boy words" At this age they are forming independance and oppinions but do not know how to express them. " I know you are up set by __________ bu we need to _______.

I have also used "feeling faces" Put drawings of faces showing different emotions.. happy, sad, hurt, scared, mad, excited, etc. Make a game when you intro the faces and them put them on your fridge or another place he can reach. Ask hime to show you how he feel then acknowlage his feeling.

What ever you do, try not to give in to the fits. Once you do...you have to start all over and this time he will push harder. Find what works for you and stick with it. After having 3 kids and working in a day care... this is the secret to success! Good luck!

Within reason, try ignoring his tantrums. Get a "time out" stool and set it off to the side. Put him there until he is done. If he gets up, put him back. He is looking for you to get fed up and give in and let him have his way.
Tell him calmly that you will talk to him when he decides to be good. Whatever you do, DO NOT give into what he wants otherwise it will only get worse as he gets older and in his mind you will ALWAYS be the pushover.
Good luck, and be strong. :)
He is old enough for boundaries. You just have to be strong enough to enforce them, as hard as it might be.

When my son does this, I ask "oh, no - are you feeling mad?" or frustrated or angry or sad...etc. usually he'll respond "ya, I mad!!!" Then I say "awww - I'm sorry you're mad. Do you need a mommy hug?" Then he comes and gets a hug and calms down in my arms and it's over. I like that he's learning names for his emotions.

My grandfather had a different approach. He'd pull up a chair and holler, "hey everybody, Mary's having a tantrum - everybody come watch!!" even in public he'd watch her like it was a show or a play and invite everyone around to come watch. I don't know why this works, but it kept him from getting mad and the kid's tantrum always ended quickly.

I think you have some great advice here. I'd also reiterate that you don't want to give in to him no matter what-- even if you change your mind about something. Just make sure he's safe and then give him minimal attention during the fit.

Also, I always go back to this, but try to let him have some control over his life-- give him choices about what he wants to wear, eat or play with-- you pre pick only two choices and then present those to him. He'll be less likely to throw a fit if he feels like he gets to decide on something and have some control over his life.

Another form of prevention-- is he doing this in public? If you need to take him somewhere, make sure he is well fed and not too tired and you don't take too long doing really boring (to kids) stuff, if possible.

P.S. Kudos to you on not spanking. I made it work with my two children. They are older and well behaved children now.

R.,

For whatever it is worth, my son started to have similar tantrum problems when he was a toddler. Although I am not a behaviorist, I figured Skinner might know something, so I set about to extinguish the behavior according to behaviorist practice. It worked.

I did so as follows: When my son began engaging in tantrum behavior (falling on the ground, screaming, kicking, holding his breath, etc.) I first made sure he was in a situation where he would not hurt himself, then I left the room or otherwise totally ignored his behavior, giving him ABSOLUTELY NO ATTENTION WHATSOEVER, until he resumed normal behavior and stopped tantrumming. I did this consistently, without fail. As a result, he only had about three or four tantrum incidents, total.

The theory behind this strategy is as follows: If you reinforce the negative behavior by giving the child what he wants when he engages in the negative behavior, you teach him that the negative behavior works and gets him the results he wants, so he will do it again and again and again. Even negative attention (yelling, spanking, getting upset) serves to reinforce the bad behavior. What's more, intermittent attention to bad behavior (e.g., reinforcing the behavior some of the time and ignoring it some of the time) sets up an intermittent reinforcement schedule, which makes the behavior almost impossible to extinguish because he learns that if he keeps up the behavior you will eventually relent and give him what he wants as a result of the bad behavior. Only when the child CONSISTENTLY gets NO attention (none, zero, zilch) for the bad behavior, he learns that the bad behavior is useless, stops doing it, and looks to other types of behavior, hopefully more positive, to get what he wants.

Good luck.

Linda B.

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