Discipline for 2 1/2 Yr Old

Updated on May 01, 2010
R.G. asks from Moreno Valley, CA
13 answers

hello to all moms!! well i've been having a little issue with my son who is soon to be 3 yrs old ( couple months) now i dont know why he has been throwing major tantrums, he is a well behaved kid for the most part but lately if he doesnt like what im telling him or he wants to do something he is not allowed to he will start to talk back to me and/ or he will throw himself or anything near him . i usually will put him in time out and talk to him after he's done but for some reason he will continue to talk back and/ or throw tantrum. before this behavior started he would behave and quit doing what he was doing but now it doesnt seem to work. i would like to know what else can i do to help him and me out. he really stresses me out sometimes because i dont want to be putting him in timeout all the time. i want him to be able to express his emotions in a healthy way and not act crazy.also, i want to know if im over reacting, is it ok for him to act this way?? any advice would be appreciated!!! thank you in advance!!

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answers from San Diego on

It is perfectly normal for a 2 1/2 year old to throw tantrums. What worked for me was either just walk away and ignore him while he is screaming or send him to his room (you might have to walk him to his room) and tell him he has to stay there until he can smile again. I used to close the door. My daughter would scream and yell, throw her things. When she calmed down, she would open the door and come out and we would go in her room and clean up the things she threw around. Then we would talk about it. The big thing is not to show him that he is going to gain anything from throwing a tantrum. At this age he is still learning to control frustration and his temper.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Allow him to express him self, perhaps ask him if he would shout and pout in his room so that you wouldn’t have to be so aggravated by it.

It is not crazy for small children to react this way. It is normal, and just a phase he will out grow it.
Maybe you can put together a sensory over load area, soft music, soft lighting and a place where he feel secure. A nice Blanket. My daughter is 3 and its the terrible 3's for sure! When i go to leave her at day care she would go bizerk and actually bang her head during a tantrum. So now she has her adjusting time. When I take her, I wrap her in a blanker and tell her she is safe and it is ok to cry into her blanket if she wants. It really helps her to know that I respect that she is feeling hurt or sad.

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answers from Las Vegas on

3 year olds do throw tantrums. Even the best of kids throw tantrums. It takes a lot of work to civilize kids. For me, I did a couple of things when my children were that age:

#1: Whenever my children threw a tantrum, immediately, the answer to whatever they were wanting was an automatic "No," from there on out. I do not negotiate with terrorist -- even if they are only 2 and are my own children.

#2: If they got aggressive (hitting, biting, throwing) or if their tantrum is just too much to bear, automatic time out like you have been doing.

#3: After time out, and after I explained to they why they were in time out and made them apologize to me, if I knew what set off the tantrum, I would recreate the scene and teach him how to more effectively ask for what they were wanting. For example, if he wanted a ball that his sister was playing with, I would hold the ball and teach him how to ask for the ball properly so, hopefully, there won't be a tantrum next time.

#4: When they are throwing the tantrum, I do label the emotion that they are feeling by saying, "I'm mad," or "I'm frustrated," but tag onto there, ". . . but I am going to have to go into time out until after I calm down," so that they will eventually have the words to express their feelings in a more productive way once they get the connection.

#5: Ignoring the tantrum -- literally turning your back and walking away from your crying kid until he cools down -- works as well. But you have to completely ignore it and continue to ignore it (unless your kid is being physically agressive, in which case it's time out) until your child figures out that tantrums get him nowhere and starts using his words instead.

That's about all I can think about to share right now. Hang in there. Children don't change overnight. You'll be working on behavior issues with him for several years to come.

Take care.

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answers from Dayton on

Hi R.,

I'm gonna pretty much agree with everyone else and tell you that the fits are absolutely normal and appropriate for age. They have the same feelings as adults - anger, fear, frustration, sorrow - but without the ability to control or express them like we do. Plus, they are beginning to exert their independence and "flex their muscles." This leads to lots of blow ups and tantrums and, yes, it can be frustrating and ,when in front of others, embarassing. The good news is that any parent worth their salt will know this is perfectly normal. For my part, when I am in public and hear a kid lose his sweet little mind, I usually say, "Oh, someone's not happy," to myself and move on.

You've gotten a lot of good advice here. I'll probably repeat some, but I thought I would share my "order of operations" that I use in order to avoid (and if that doesn't work) deal with conflict with my toddlers.

Try to state instructions of admonishments in a positive way like, "Please walk", "Use your quiet voice". Developmentally your child understands them more easily and can follow them better.

Give choices any time you can. Allow him to choose between two things as often as possible. It helps with the flexing muscles part because you are giving him appropriate ways to do it.

Redirection is awesome in avoiding conflict. Instead of laying down the law, so to speak, offer another alternative to the behavior you don't want. When he is running through the house determined to hurt himself, ask him to come help you fold washrags, or see if he wants to play beanbag toss with knotted up socks thrown into the laundry basket.

When my two young ones throw a fit, instead of starting with, "Stop" , I say, "I can't understand you when you are screaming or crying. Calm down so you can tell me what's wrong." This has worked really well. I guess just the validation that they will be heard helps.

If all else fails, I set up a spot that is just for fits. Not a time out really, but a place to cool off with some books, a blanket or lovey and such. I will say, "Do you need to go to your quiet place for a minute?" With sympathy, not censure.

Provide them with the words that they are having difficulty expressing. "Are you angry, tired, frustrated...." etc. And when you are having a play time act it out with him giving him lots of opportunities to practice appropriate responses.

Hope this helps, and try not to worry because they generally grow out of it.


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answers from Los Angeles on

R., It sounds like your little guy is really beginning to exert his will and independence, which is completely expected and age appropriate. I would be interested about how it is you are using time-out. Time-out when used as punishment will not solve the problem. It may even exacerbate it by causing resentment, retaliation, and revenge patterns in his behavior. However, when he is having a complete melt down you can try a cooling off period, or in Positive Discipline what we call a "Positive Time-Out". This cooling off period is simply an opportunity for both you and your son to calm down so that you are both in a place emotionally or mentally to focus on solving the problem or take advantage of the teachable moment by training him on more appropriate behavior.

Positive Time-Outs can be done together. You might say, "You are really upset right now, we need to calm down before we can solve this problem. Can I hold you for a few minutes, or would you like to read a book while we calm down?" Giving him some control about how he calms down, and not punishing him by separating him from you--who he needs the most when he is losing it. Or, he might enjoy going to his room to play for a few minutes--and you can let him know you will revisit the problem when you have both calmed down.

After you have had a few minutes away from the problem let him know that you understand how he feels by following these steps: 1. validating his feelings, 2. empathize without condoning, 3. share your feelings and perceptions of what is going on in the situation, and 4. come to a solution that works for both of you (ask him what he thinks he can do to solve the problem).

I hope this helps. Let me know how it goes by emailing me directly at [email protected]____.com

Wishing you more joy in parenting,

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answers from Austin on

Try these suggestions and more detail on discipline and tantrums is located at the links below.

Use positive discipline to redirect your child’s behavior, and you validate the legitimacy of your child’s desires and shows you care and understand. Redirecting endorses your child’s right to choose and begins to teach that others have rights, too.

Children also respond to reasoning – it just needs to be put into their language.

* ‘Inside feet’ versus ‘outside feet’
* ‘Soft hands’ versus ‘hard hands’
* ‘Inside voices’ versus ‘outside voices’

Good luck!

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answers from Houston on

My biggest advice is to be patient. The 2-4 year period is a time when many kids engage in tantrum behavior, and that doesn't have anything to do with how they're going to act as adults or even as older children. My daughter was a tantrum thrower and I tried everything legal and safe as discipline and nothing worked. Time out? She shrugged it off and I'd have to physically hold her in one place for the time out. Throwing away toys? If she was angry enough she'd help me do it? Spankings would only make her more upset and more tantrumy. Taking away priveleges had no impact. We literally tried everything suggested to us. You know what worked? Time. We learned to manage things. We only said "no" when we had to, and, then, we never relented, so that she learned that we'd never back away from "no." Now she is six and one of the best-behaved kids in her class and I get compliments on her behavior all of the time. Her baby brother is in the tantrum stage now, and I'm not stressing like I did with her. I modify my schedule- I know he's likely to throw a big tantrum in a particular store, so, I don't take him to that store- if he's with me, we buy groceries at another store. I'm not going to have to avoid Kroger the rest of his life, but why stress out him or me by taking him somewhere that, for whatever reason, triggers tantrums in him. He will grow out of this, as will your son. Remember, it is crazy for an adult to throw tantrums and act this way, but it is not crazy for a child to act this way. That's age appropriate behavior. I'm not suggesting you encourage it and don't ever reward it, but don't feel like you or he are crazy for it. That's why we call them the terrible twos.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi R.,

Your son's behavior is completely normal. At this age, children feel powerless and, consequently, try to claim power wherever possible. Punishing the behavior only perpetuates the power struggles and, as he gets older, you will see an increase in problematic behavior (talking back, defiance, rebelling, etc.) Here is an article I wrote that should be of some help to you.


Essentially, when you understand why your son is behaving this way, you can address it in an effective way that allows hims to express his emotions in a healthy way while also being respectful to you.

If I can be of any other help, feel free to contact me.
Be well,
G. B., M.A.
Child Development Specialist & Parent Educator

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answers from Honolulu on

3 is a hard age. Harder than 2.

Next, for a child to express his emotions in a healthy way... they have to be taught and have assistance on it. They can't do it by themselves... they don't have the maturity nor full emotional/cognitive development for that... but if taught... over time, they can attain the skills for "coping."
That is what I do with my kids.
My son now at 3.5 years old, if he is grumpy... he will actually articulate it and say "I'm grumpy and want to be alone... I"m going over there...." and he will, without yelling/tantrums. Then when he feels better, he comes to me and hugs me and tells me he feels better now and he will even apologize for being "grumpy."

Its all about teaching them about emotions, that its okay... but showing them other ways of coping.
It takes practice...on our part, being the Parent, to teach them... and then see them evolve in ability for it. Not always just putting a punishment or time-out on them just because. Kids also have to vent... and learn how to. Just like an Adult. Many adults don't even do that nicely. LOL

Both my kids, for their ages, are very articulate emotionally and expressing it... it was an evolving of it and how we taught them. While respecting that they have emotions and can be happy or grumpy too... they are only human. But teaching them how to cope.. .or express it and navigate themselves.

all the best,



answers from Los Angeles on

Get down to his level and tell him in a very calm (not angry) voice that his behavior in speaking to you is not acceptable. Then tell him he will be in time out for 5-10 min. and ignore him in time out unless he get out. Then quietly put him back with no talking or looking at him. When his time out is done, ask him if he knows why he was in time out and have him tell you and then tell him to say he is sorry. Then hug him and let him know you love him. He may be acting out because he wants to spend quality time with you. Try it. Hope it works.



answers from Los Angeles on

I would say you really have to assess the maturity of your son. Sometimes physical age is not an indication of maturity.. especially with boys.
If you honestly think he understand what you are saying than you may need to give him a longer time out away from you so that he can't fuel the fire. Perhaps putting him in his room for 15 minutes (away from the family) would help.



answers from San Diego on

Hello, Several years ago, my husband and I had custody of our grandson (from 5 months to 3 1/2 years). He would get so frustraded after a visit from his parents that I couldn't help him. He would tear into me or anyone around when he got angry. I ended up bleeding many times. After being told that we would be transitioning him to his parents over a few months period. I had recently gotten him to be more calm, then he began the raging all over again (after being told that he would be going to live with them). I took him to see a counselor to try and help him through this. The counselor told me to put him in his room as soon as he started to rage and to hold the door closed. He also said that as soon as my grandson stopped to open the door, take his little hand and walk back out. I would always tell him that we would try again. He got the picture pretty quickly. I was afraid that he would think I was being mean, but he seemed to understand why he was in there. It never took more that a couple of minutes. He is now 11 years old and he is such a sweetheart. We have great times together.
Good luck with your precious little boy.



answers from Los Angeles on

He's starting to assert his independence..there was just an article on time outs and how its not the way to go ..here on mamapedia a few days ago..i always hug things out..calms my son right down..now he's 4..but i remember i was doing the hug it out thing..instead of bumping heads..and i would talk to him about what was going on and how he was feeling ..and i would explain why he couldn't tough this or that..or whatever he was doing..not just time out or discipline..
try saying "do u need a hug?" right when u guys are butting heads..then say.."lets talk about this and let mama explain why u can't do that"
I show my son things..like i was burning a candle by the bath and he wanted to burn some paper with it..so i showed him people who have been burned on the computer..and i explained why i don't want him to play with fire..and its b/c i love him and would not want this to happen to him..he totally understands and says he won't do it again.

good luck


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