Children Who Won't Obey One Parent

Updated on November 03, 2009
A.K. asks from Indianapolis, IN
11 answers

I have a son who will be 2 this January. He is a good boy for the most part, but he has his moments. He will listen to his daddy, but I cannot seem to discipline him at all. It doesn't matter what I do, he laughs and repeats the behavior for which he was being disciplined in the first place. A perfect example would be this afternoon. He is really into spitting right now. I told him to stop. He laughed and did it again. I told him in a slower, deeper voice to stop again. The same reaction. I also firmly tapped him on the backside. He laughed at me, walked away and started spitting again. At this point, I'm flat-out angry so just left the room. He does this to me all the time and I can't seem to do anything about it. HELP!!!

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So What Happened?

I do not spank unless a warning, time-out, taking something away and such don't work. I am not a fan of spanking. Rewarding him or taking things away does very little and there is no reasoning with him ("I don't like it when you spit at me because it's not very nice...") because he is 1. He just thinks it's funny. He also thinks that the consequences are funny. He laughs when I give him a warning and laughs again when I do time-out. I am a big fan of using time-outs. They work with my older child.

More Answers



answers from Columbus on

Your little boy is 2 and this is very common and appropriate behavior for a young child. He has a trick, when you scold and he laughs, he's trying to illicit the same response from you. When children are babies, they mimick and they expect you to do the same. It's truly annoying, but for them its natural. My kids went through this stage, it seems to be followed by a super sensitive stage where they will cry at the drop of a hat. My youngest daughter is almost 3, when I correct her with my voice she generally listens, or if she doesn't she gets corrected again, then removed or whatever disipline will be the most effective. When her daddy even says boo to her she cries and sobs uncontrollably. You need to be firm and consistent that this is bad. Don't get sucked into a power struggle, remove him from the situation. If he's spitting, tell him "no spitting, that's bad." Then take him and his attention to something else. Have him sing a song or count his fingers or anything involving his mouth so he can't spit. If he's throwing toys, say "throwing toys is bad, play nicely with your toys" and engage him in the behavior you want to see, or take the toys from him. At this age his attention span and communication skills are limited, so putting him in time out and expecting him to remember and vocalize about why he's there are too much. Mine would never stay there anyway. If he'll laugh and spit more, he'll just run away from time out, then you'll be spending more time on a behavior that needs discouraging, not encouraging. Time our works well for preschoolers, not toddlers. Toddlers need redirection. Toddlers look at you to see how things should be judged. If you give it no time and attention, they will also. If you talk and talk about it and spend time and attention on it, they'll think its good and continue. Good luck.

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answers from Elkhart on

Have dad help. When daddy is available, make sure he backs you up. "you will listen to mommy". that sort of thing. Maybe if he understands that daddy will be upset with him if he doesn't do what mommy says, then he will start getting the hint.
Is there something he really really likes? If he doesn't listen to you the first time, take that thing away, let him know that you are taking it away and why. Tell him that when he can listen like a good boy, he can have it back. This might be tv time, a toy, or an activity.
LOts and LOTs of prayer. If you can't get through to your little one, GOD can.

I wish you the best of luck! God bless.

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answers from Cincinnati on

I have 2 words for you... Positive Reinfocement.

Take a piece of colored poster paper and make a grid with a ruler. The squares need to be big enough for a sticker of some sort. [Muti-colored stars are always easy to find but at that age some other sort of small sticker may be a better motivator.] Put the chart in a public place – like on the refrigerator.

Assign several behaviors that you want to modify… [i.e. - No spitting, brushing teeth before bed, going to bed without a fight, a day without a temper tantrum, picking-up toys before bed, no hitting, no biting…]. No more than 5 behaviors at this age… maybe only 3 for awhile. You don’t want to focus on just the spitting. Once something is no longer an issue add something else to the chart.

Example – if he goes all day without spitting he gets a sticker on the chart. If he spits he doesn’t get a sticker that day. Stickers are never taken away once earned and are NEVER to be used as bribes. Every sticker must be earned. [At first you may want to give a sticker for a shorter period of time… maybe if he doesn’t spit from breakfast to lunch he gets a sticker… from lunch to dinner… from dinner to bedtime… bedtime to breakfast. Toddlers don’t have a very long attention span so that may be more effective at his age.] Once a certain number of stickers is earned… [a number that can be earned in a few days] he gets some special time with you. My niece loved making PBJ’s and going to swing at the neighborhood park with her dad. It’s not about expensive presents. It’s about getting your attention in a positive way.

Good luck.



answers from Indianapolis on

To be a bit direct, he does it because he can. He's just into the stage of doing things that aren't desireable, and isn't going to like hearing "no" - so you're really on the cusp of "terrible two's", and unless you "crank it up a notch", he's going to continue until something happens to make him stop. Meaning, Mommy has to mean it (with the tone you use, body language, and with conviction) when she says, "Stop it."

It's not just "Oh Honey, you need to stop that..." or using a slow deep voice. It's about "presence" too. My mother calls it "Using her Teacher voice"...voice with authority that without needing to, conveys, "Bad things will happen if you don't stop that NOW."

If he continues despite your direction to stop - then it's time for a time-out. Time-outs work if they're done right, "a la" SuperNanny style. (I used to think it was horse-hockey, but have changed my tune!)

Next time he spits, give him a warning. Tell him if he continues to spit, he's going to the naughty spot. When he does, take him to the naughty spot (a step, a corner, a bench, wherever you designate), and say, "I'm putting you in time out (or on the naughty spot) because you spit and Mommy told you not to. You're in time-out for 2 minutes." Walk away.

Each time he gets up, don't say anything, don't make eye contact, go take him back to the spot until he stays there. It's going to be a battle of wills, and the first time, it's may take a long long time because it's the first time you'll be actively enforcing discipline.

When he stays there for 2 minutes, go over and tell him, "Mommy put you in time out for spitting. Spitting isn't nice behavior. We don't spit. I want an apology." When he says "Sorry", say "Thank you", give him hugs and kisses and tell him you love him.

For what it's worth....and good luck!



answers from Columbus on

I had trouble with my two-year-old daughter, and a child psychologist that I work with suggested the following: tell him once to stop, or else he will get a time out. If he doesn't stop, immediately put him in time out. Don't threaten again. It will take a little while for him to realize you're serious, but once he sees that you follow through immediately on your threat, he will start to comply. I will say, though, that some behavior is just meant to be provoking, and is best ignored. My daughter started saying "shut up", despite my telling her that wasn't nice. I didn't feel it was enough to warrant a time out, so I ignored it and she stopped.

I will say, though - that the method of telling her once, and then following through REALLY works for us. Also, make sure you don't threaten something you can't or won't do. You have to be consistent and back up everything you say.

Good luck!



answers from Cleveland on


He needs to know that there will be a consequence for his actions. Once you tell him what that will be, YOU MUST FOLLOW THROUGH. I say that because kids figure out that mom says but doesn't do, thus, the threat is idle.

Establish a reward and timeout system. Rewards: Things he like to do, play with, favorite toys, books, etc. Praise him for things he's doing that you notice when he is good. Lots of hugs/praise for just doing things well. Have your husband do the same when HE notices that your son is doing well while you're in the room.

Timeouts: (note, if you want to remove a toy/favorite item for bad behavior, then do so. Be willing to accept crying/screaming. Tell him, to get toy back, he must show he can stop bad behavior). Start with 1 minute (should go up to 2 based on age). We designated one chair in a corner the timeout chair. On 1st spitting, ask to please stop as it passes germs (telling him simply why to stop). 2nd time, advise if he doesn't, he'll be on timeout. 3rd, take him/carry to chair and he sits there. Put on the timer. Advise he can't get off chair until buzzer goes off. Leave room. If he gets off. Put him back on. Leave. Sometimes, I've had to stay and keep my daughter on the chair until the timer rang. She learned over time that after 1 correction, she stopped the behavior.

KEY NOTE: Ask him after timeout, does he know why he was there. If yes, he should explain. If not, explain simply what you expected.

Checkout Babywise and Childwise books titles. They were both very helpful and have Christian values instilled as well. Good luck.



answers from Dayton on

Persistence, consistency, follow through. These are the hallmarks to get a child to obey you. By walking away you showed him that you aren't going to follow through on enforcing the rule. I know this is extremely hard when you have a stubborn child who is frurstrating you. However, the only way for him to learn that you are serious is for you to follow through each and every time. At first it may take you 20-30 times to get him to obey but each subsequent time it will be less. I worked as a child and family therapist in private practice and in a preschool for behaviorally chaallenged children prior to being a SAHM and behavior management is a lot of what I did. As a parent I know it's a lot harder said than done but I also know how very important it is. At this young age, this is when he's going to learn if you are serious or not on the discipline. That being said, walking away is good if you are afraid you will do something harmful. Just make sure this isn't your usual response. Good luck!



answers from Cincinnati on

Unless you felt you would hurt him, I wouldn't just leave the room. This allows him to continue the activity as he pleases. Putting him in time out may work if you stick to it, and do it the first time he does the offense, not the third. So, when you see him spit, he goes into time out. If he cries he has to sit there until he stops crying for 2 minutes while sitting there. Then explain what he's done wrong, and that if he does it again he will be back in time out.
So many times Mom's have more warnings and give more breaks than Dad's. I don't know if this is the case or not. If you find yourself saying "Don't do that or..." "I thought I told you not to do that, next time..." Then you are guilty of this. He knows this particular activity is wrong. If it's a new offense then you can give one warning.
Once you are consistently punishing and following through on the punishment, he will listen more. Putting him in time out then walking away each and every time he does it, even if he is bad as soon as he gets up. :(
If you are doing this, then I'm fresh out of ideas! BEST of Luck!
I have to say, I'm a single Mom, and I have to go through times where I feel like all I'm doing is punishing. Once he knows the rules and gets it out of his head that he can push his limits, he is a great kid.



answers from Indianapolis on

First and foremost, affirmation regarding obeying you to him FROM YOUR HUSBAND needs to happen often. AFFIRMATION AFFIRMATION AFFIRMATION! If he listens to him, he needs to help out and you need some back-up.

Secondly, there's obviously been something(s) that have happened where you didn't stick to your guns. Kids don't normally do this unless parents have given in or blown off inappropriate behavior.

Talk CONSTANTLY about what is appropriate and inappropriate. Talk about the consequences of bad and good behavior. GIVE CONSEQUENCES for bad/inappropriate behavior and DO NOT give in on whatever consequences you've decided upon. They won't respect you or believe you if you do. Talk about an ALTERNATIVE to the bad/inappropriate behavior.

Give them an inch..........they'll take a mile........



answers from Columbus on

A. my son is 2.5 and went threw the same stage (not spitting) but laughing when I tryed to discipline him. Believe me I know how frustrating that can be! All I can say is that it is a phase he will grow out of it, he is just testing your limits to see what he can and can't do. All I did was ignore my son when he did something minor and eventually he stopped. Its the terrible twos! Next he will cry about everything... no joke! But it does get better, and just hang in there!


answers from Indianapolis on

I think you're confusing discipline with punishment. He's too young or punishments. I don't know what else you've tried while "trying everything" but there is a lot of evidence that hitting children doesn't teach them anything. But when it comes to a 2-year-old, it does NOTHING except that bigger people get to hit little people when they aren't getting their way. Then you left which teaches him that if he just ignores you, you'll go away.

Look into Gentle Discipline or Non-Violent Discipline. No yelling, no threats, and NO HITTING. Teaching children to respect you because you respect them sets them up for a lifetime of mutual respect and a healthy relationship with other adults in authority like teachers. Hitting them teaches them to respect you out of fear and that they don't have to respect their teachers since they will never be hit at school.

Discipline should always fit the "crime". Hit someone? You don't get to play with them for a little while (1 minute per year of age works well). You take a toy from someone else, you don't get to play with it. Do something I ask you not to do, you get a time out and have to apologize to me. He's ONLY 2. He's supposed to test the limits, learn his boundaries, etc. Give him a break and calm down. He doesn't have to respect you because you're his mom, he needs to learn to respect you because you are a respectable person and realize that he's is as well.

Kids want to please us, if they aren't getting the positive attention they crave 24/7, then they resort to acting out. The most well-behaved children I know are never hit or "punished". Their moms use this formula anytime the child misbehaves:

I feel _______
when you _________
because _________.
Next time please ______ instead and I'll be much happier.

I feel annoyed
when you ignore me and spit again
because spitting is dirty and gross and I asked you to stop.
Next time please don't spit the first time I ask and I'll be much happier.

It gives them direct information about what is not acceptable and what they can do to make you happy. Then, the next time they do something you don't like and stop the first time you ask, make a big deal about how they listened and you didn't have to ask more than once. If you can't fill in the "because _____" then you need to figure out what you're finding fault with because a 2-year-old will never figure that out if you can't. Everybody wants to know WHY they can't do something and "because I said so" is a really bogus answer.

It will take some time after being punished, but give it 2 weeks of consistent use and you'll see a difference. And please remember he's only 2, he just doesn't get it most o the time.

Next question: 4 Year Old Spitting; Positive Discipline Suggestions?