Discipline Help

Updated on August 02, 2008
R.S. asks from Toms River, NJ
20 answers

I have two sons one is 6 and the other is 14 months, I am very experienced with children from being a pre-school teacher in the past and now a social worker for a school system (working with child study teams) and for the life of me I can't figure out my youngest child.. Let me start off by saying that he is a wonderful child and I love him to death but he is so stubborn! He doesn't respond to "no" or redirection and time out I don't feel is very effective at this age, when he is doing something that he is not supposed to be doing, he laughs and goes right back at it until I am screaming (which is not the best option) but the frustration level goes pretty high. I do not believe in hitting and I personally do not feel that it works anyway. And he is also a hitter and a bitter(which he only does at home and never in school) which he also thinks is funny and I do not know what to do about that either.

I have been around and taking care of children most of my life and I actually considered myself a kind of experienced when it comes to children but I am at a lose with my own. Any suggestions would be welcomed and grateful.


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answers from Glens Falls on

Hi R.. My son does the same things sometimes, and I used to get frustrated and scream at him too but you're right, it really doesn't work too well, and it sends a wrong message also. I noticed a couple of times after I had yelled very loudly my little one raising his voice when he didn't get what he wants. I agree with whomever said to try and ignore his behavior, depending on what he is doing. Especially if your 6 yo is around and watching, he very well might be trying to impress or get the attention of your older son. We do time outs with my son, he's 21 months and we've been doing them for 6 months at least I think. At first they didn't seem to make much difference but now he knows that he's made a mistake. If my son repeats the behavior after his time out, he gets another one, and if that doesn't work, I shut him in his room for a few seconds. This is not as long as a regular time out on the couch but it works and I have only had to do it twice -- he hates the door being shut on him.

I think that consistency is key, that you react the same way each time, even if it means he spends a lot of time in time out at at first. Acknowledge his good behavior. Also, it might be worth thinking about picking your battles. This is something my husband and I talked about a lot for a while. Clearly, we draw the line at things like hitting and biting, those are automatic time outs, but some other things that kids do to test their limits just aren't worth fighting about, at least in my opinion. Good luck with whatever you decide!



answers from New York on

Is he involved with sports, does he have a hobby that requires his attention and energy (and I do not mean pets)? He probably just needs something, and he doesn't know himself what he needs, it might be that he has too much time on his hands, is he always at home - that might jump his temper. It's hard to say without knowing him or your family. But if he's not busy try getting him busy, sign him up for something that requires lots of energy and determination.And be involved with him and his sports, do not allow him not to take it seriously... Good luck.



answers from Rochester on

Oh, I so want to see what happens here - my son is a biter, though I have been working with him (he's only 11 months, but a bite is a bite!)

Where does your husband stand on the issue? Are you two a united front?

Possibly some time together, just the two of you, might help, or time with Dad together. You might find something interesting about your son's point of view.

Also, keeping yourself calm is going to be a great asset.

I'm not sure what you take away from him when he does this - but on a daily basis, it might help to start removing favorite articles. You might have to go pretty far. I wouldn't discredit therapy, either. You want to bring up a socially responsible son, and he's no longer 3 years old.

He knows enough not to do it in school; he knows it is wrong. Something is making it acceptable at home (not in your eyes, but in his). You need to find that out and help him change his view of this.

Good Luck,



answers from New York on


If you can stand back and think about when these behaviors have occurred it might help you to prevent them again.
Does it happen at the same times every day? Are you most preoccupied w/ getting other tasks done? Is your child hungry or tired then? Is it before a sleep time (naps included?) Perhaps child is simply bored then and seeking to do something w/ you then-? Is it on certain days of the week when child spent w/ another caretaker? Influenced by other kids? Were you away from child a longer time then?

My son has been testing me more lately too. When I look at the various factors -- after I've cooled myself off- it seems to be when he hasn't had enough outdoor exercise/play and usually is around what would be naptime, bedtime or mealtime coming on but delayed for some reason.

Good Luck!



answers from Cedar Rapids on


Your son may be the effect of food allergies and/or lack of nutrition (meaning specific vitamins/minerals). I have seen this in my nephew and can recommend a pharmacist in FL that offers a free phone consultation so long as you purchase her recommended products. She suggests all natural products - no drugs.

I also explain to my son how his actions create 'privileges' and 'penalties' and that he has control over that. Explaining to him how I was disciplined as a kid (spanking, screaming, etc) and telling him how lucky he is that I don't do that had been a good reenforcer as well.



answers from New York on

Have you talked with your ped. about this? Maybe your son needs to be evaluated. I'm concerned that hurting something (hitting/biting) makes him laugh. It could be that he is simply looking for attention or a reaction. Who/what is he hitting & biting? Is there a pattern?

And I'm sure you've heard this before having worked with children. But it never hurts to get a little refresher. :-)

Try positively reinforcing behavior you want and ignoring behavior you don't want. Sometimes we have to distance ourselves from a situation and not get emotionally involved-- I know, its a hard thing to do. My husband loves to tell me this when I'm overdisciplining our very headstrong 24 mos old daughter.

Don't give your son a reaction unless its a behavior you want. My daughter loved to climb and stand on the coffee table and no amount of yelling would get her off of it, but when I ignored her (wouldn't look or talk to her) she got off the table herself. She doesn't even climb on it anymore. Obviously, if he is doing something that will cause himself or others serious bodily harm, you need to immediately address it (a firm NO and then redirection).

I also found that I could prevent negative behavior by doing things with my daughter. If I played with her, read a book, did a puzzle, took her for a walk, even for just 5-10 mins at a time (I have a 5 mos old that keeps me busy), she was less likely to act out and more likely to listen to me. Give your son a job when you can--here, hold mommy's keys; bring mommy the spoon, etc.--to make him feel involved and included in things.

So here's the general gist:
1. Talk to the ped. Make sure there's no medical issues.
2. Reinforce behavior you want--overly praise good deeds and ignore behavior you don't want
3. Spend positive time together

I hope this helps!



answers from New York on

What is your 6 doing when the baby is misbehaving? Is he an enthusiastic audience? It could be the baby is trying to impress him. The baby has also found your 'button'. He knows how to make you scream and probably enjoys that also. Time outs DO work at this age. IF you have a playpen or high chair put him in it until he understand that he did something bad. He understands everything you say to him. Just the fact that he doesnt bite at school proves that he knows right from wrong and he WILL get the idea of isolation in play pen or high chair or even crib. whatever you have that he can't get out of.


answers from New York on

I have been there, actually I'm still there! This behavior has been happening in waves with my son since he was about two, and he is now four years old. I posted a request similar to yours not too long ago, and I'll share with you what has worked for me.

I am a special education teacher, and I, too, thought that I'd be able to handle anything with my own child. Wrong! I have lost my temper, screamed, everything that you mentioned. We are not only mothers, we are also human beings with emotions.

First, the biting. The first time that it happens, you should scream out in pain, "OW! That REALLY hurt! No biting!" and make eye contact so that he sees the pain in your face. Then, he needs to kiss your booboo. Show him the mark where he bit you. Hopefully, this will be enough to drive home the message. However, if he continues to bite you or anyone else, the the next time you add a quick bite of your own to the end of your plea of pain. Use your teeth in the same area on his body, but not as hard as he has done to you. More of a gentle bite. The shock factor will drive home the message without actually inflicting harm.

Secondly, hitting. Follow basically the same steps as those for biting. However, don't actually hit him back in the same spot. One swatt on the bottom, or on the top of a hand will send the message without actually inflicting harm. He'll cry out of shock, not pain.

Finally, the main problem, laughing at you and ignoring "no". It worries me that he is not responding to time outs. You can do what the Nanny does and make sure that he remains in time out. Or, do what I have done. For my son, time outs caused temporary remorse, but not a behavior change. So, in addition to time outs, he also lost one of his treasured Thomas trains. One went on top of the refrigerator each time he had to go to time out, and he had to earn it back with good behavior. There were times when the entire top of the fridge was a train yard, but we were consistent, and he eventually turned himself around. Once he started earning back his trains and he felt good about himself (we made a big deal about it too), he began to make better choices.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure that everyone in your child's life is aware of the consequences and rewards. You all need to be consistent, no matter how cute he becomes, no matter how he cries and pleads, no matter how much he promises that he'll listen. Put a plan in place, and stick to it for the long haul.

Once this set of behaviors is under control, enjoy the peace. Be ready, though; there will be another one and you'll have to get creative again. Oh, and make sure he knows you love him, no matter what. Every night tell him that even though he may make you mad, you still love him and that tomorrow is another day to start over again. :-)



answers from New York on

try taking things away when he acts up. 14 month sis hard because they are too young to get it. try time out in his bed or crib with no toys etc. good luck.



answers from New York on

Hi R.,
Try telling your son what you want him to do instead of what you don't want him to do. If he still does what you don't want him to do, then ask him to repeat what you had just told him. Kids have the tendency to bleep out the don'ts! I use this in counseling and it works pretty well.
Make sure you praise the good things he does, children as well as adults love to be praised. Also make sure to use "thank you".
Good luck.



answers from New York on

Hi R.,

I'm sure you're doing good job with your children. When we started to have kids, I had no experiences at all, so I had to use my own kids to learn from the biginning but you have already a lot of experiences and knowlege. Have confidence! But when it comes to your own kids, somethings are more difficult because it involves different emotions. I think basically it's hard to think and act objectively becasue it's YOUR children. How about stepping back a little and think more objectively. Have you ever tried to think your children like the ones you deal with at school? Think and deal with your professional attitude. Try not to let your emotion control you but use your experiences and knowledge as a guide.



answers from New York on

Hi R.,

First, you have to forget your experience with other peoples children, which can sometimes be easier, and deal with your youngest child as is. We forget that our children come into this world with their own personalities.

He sounds like he needs extra attention. Some children just do. And he sounds like he needs disapline. He is not too young for time outs if they are used effectively. It also sounds like there is no consquences for his behavior. Your yelling is just you loosing your cool, but it does not address the bad behavior. But before you can address the bad behavior you may want to spend more alone time him doing something fun and special.

Don't get into the cycle of negativity with your child. Negativity is an energy that is draining, while positivity is uplifting. If he gets on your nerves too much take him to the park and talk with him, that breaks up the energy, but let him know if he doesn't listen to you there will be consquences for his behavior and then follow thru.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world!



answers from New York on

Hi R.-
You should read the book "Ask Supernanny" she has alot of helpful advice for all age groups. I used many of her suggestions and they worked really well.
Good Luck-



answers from New York on

Hello. I also have many years of experience in preschools and childcare, but I specifically worked with toddlers most of the time. I recommend that at home, if possible, you make a really well child-proofed "play" room that your toddler can't get into much trouble in. Put up good security gates. Keep only safe toys there and nothing else you are concerned he would not use properly. Then you can introduce one thing at a time that you think he would like to use (but you are not sure if he is ready for). For example, maybe the six year old uses crayons and he wants them too. So, you may set down some ground rules for using crayons...like "crayons are for drawing on paper only. If you do not draw on the paper, the crayons are going away." Then model this behavior for him by drawing a picture on paper (modeling is VERY important for toddlers because they are still developing language). Then offer him a couple of crayons and paper to use. if he does it properly, commend the behavior(!!!That's right, you drew on the paper!!); if he draws on the table/wall/himself, then take the crayons away immediately and say "the crayons are going away because you did not draw on the paper". Try again the next day. The End.

Do the same with other things until he "gets" it...

Good luck, dear.



answers from Albany on

I'm not in any way advocating this but I'll tell you what my friend did that was 100% effective with her 18 month old who is now a well-behaved and balanced teenager. At that young age, she would bite and pinch. All it took was one bite back and the behavior stopped. I think the girl was simply not aware that she was hurting someone. She was getting a reaction and it was a game....sort of like the "dropping an object over and over" game just to get a rise out of Mom!

I've never seen a child this age who "listens" to a parent. They don't understand that concept at that age. Be patient. Save your screams for emergencies like when your child runs to the road or else he will tune you out and you'll have nothing left when it really matters. 14 months is very young. Don't worry about it being part of his personality. He's really just a baby. Are you spending enough one on one time with him? I hope so.



answers from Rochester on

My second son is 13.5 mos. Honestly the best advice I can give is to wear him in a sling. Whenever my son starts to "act up" and I've checked all his trouble buttons (tired, hungry, teething, thirsty, overstimulated, hot, need to be changed, been in one room for too long and is bored), I wear him in a fabric back carrier called a mei tai and put some music on and dance a bit (just swaying hips will work) while I do what I need to do. If it's really bad I might have to take a break from what I am doing and just have a danceparty involving my older son too, or go for a walk outside for change of scenery. I always find that if I keep him so close, when he is ready to be on his own he amuses himself in positive ways (not constantly getting into no-nos). I also find that when my children begin to act up, if I walk around and tidy up for a minute and sing a song about what I am doing, sometimes they react to the clearing up of surroundings with a clearing up of attitude. Messy areas can cause negativity/frustration.

For the times when he's not "acting up", but just not responding to redirection or having a flare up of temper or stubborness, at this age I think distraction is your best bet... and as many times as he tries to do a no-no, mirror his repetition, saying "I know you want to XXXX- it seems like it might be fun- I bet YYYY would be an even better idea"- or "please try it this way", etc, and physically redirect him. If you start to get angry after the 3rd or 4th time, put him in his crib or playpen and allow yourself a few minutes of compassionate internal dialogue. I highly recommend the book "Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Compassion." While you might not be able to use it in every situation with your son, sometimes we moms really need to use it on OURSELVES with all those voices in our own heads accusing or blaming us when we feel frustrated, angry, or out of control. And remember that the more we speak with anger or in an out of control way, the more we are ensuring that our children will tune us out in the future because children harden their hearts when they feel aggression in an effort to protect themselves. Ultimately the best way to dissolve anger towards my kids, for me, is to empathize with them; to pretend I am in his shoes and try to feel what he is feeling, so I can look at the world through his eyes. I pretend I am 2.5 feet tall and trying to minipulate the world around me and just putting myself in his shoes tends to get me distracted from my own emotions- I guess its just an exercise in being OBJECTIVE.

With hitting I take his hand and rub it on my skin to show him how I want to be touched. If he persists in hitting, I take him to something he can hit or get him his toy hammer and show him how to use it to hit, then take his hand again and rub my face gently- saying something like "We hit with our hammer and heal with our hands".... saying it in a sing song voice or just plain turning it into a song works nicely for us. Biting, same thing- give him a teething ring or piece of bread or wet washcloth and say "Teeth on the teething ring, kiss mommy's fingers (or whatever he was biting). A last resort can be to get two puppets and act out the problems you are having with him. It might sound silly but its amazing how much our little ones DO understand; I make one hit the other one and then the other one gets mad and hits back, then have a third one come in and say "Hey you guys, you look so unhappy, why don't you try this" and model a positive behaviour like hugging or something. And who knows he might forget the whole thing anyway and try to start playing with the puppets! I got the puppets for my 3 yo but my 13 month old likes them too.



answers from New York on

hi R.;

you got a lot of good advice here but i really have to say that the accurate and correct usage of the formal "1-2-3 Magic" system by Dr. Thomas Phelan is probably the best way for you to go.

you can order this book on Amazon used for just a few bucks; if you read it you'll see that someone like you, an experienced teacher w two small kids, is a great candidate for success with this system. but you have to make a 100% commitment to using the system the right way and all the time.

you are right, yelling doeesn't work and it only degrades you in the child's eyes. it will cause problems later; believe me i know. my son is 3 and my daughter 17 months and i went thru a period of screaming at my son which made things a thousand times worse. then we went to a pediatric psychologist who was wonderful; he put things in perspective for us and told us that our son is bright and loving whcih we knew but which had gotten displaced in the bad behavior. he had us read this book, which wa s fast read, and start the system, and i kid you not, R., the problems in my house are OVER.

your 14 month old is too young to be totally responsive to this yet, but if you learn the system, use it gently with your 6 yr old, and get your 14 month old gently used to it, it will help you create order and respect in your household. you will see.

good luck to you,



answers from Albany on

He is just doing his job. He is only 1. Try and remember that. Instead of setting him up for all the things he cannot do, provide an environment where nothing is off limits. So when he grabs for the hot stove say no, pick him up and put him in the playroom that is toddler proof. My daughter was the same way. Very high maintainence, headstrong, determined, and curious. Attribute this to his high intelligence - it is what I did to get me through.

So his behavior is part of who he is - and his temperment you cannot change. Continue to use simple language in a repetitve manner. No biting! No hitting! Tell him what to do instead "No biting, give kisses." "No hitting, give hugs." Then you kiss & hug him and he will be rewarded for the positive behavior.

There is nothing wrong with your parenting skills and there is nothing wrong with your child. You just need to adjust his environment and be consistant.




answers from New York on

Hi R., I am sure you are very experienced but some times we run across the one child that baffles us. I have 4 sons and one daughter. My 4th child, 3rd son was very much as you described. Whenever I said NO to him he would laugh and his eyes would get dark. My daughter (14 at the time) said he was the devil's son. He was persistant, would not give up until he got his way. I had to be more persistant (and I had 3 teenagers at the time) He was biting, which I was told was frustration because he could not speak yet. The only thing that would get his attention was pulling the little hairs on the back of his neck (his father's idea) He did not have to do this for long. We would look hom straight in the eye and tell him the behavior was unacceptable. Matt is now 26 and very successful and respectful. P.S. our 5th child, his brother came along when Matt was 16 months old and he was very jealous and resentful. I believe it was just his personality. The brothers are now best friends. I hope this helps a little. Hang in there, you ae a good mom! Grandma Mary



answers from New York on

Hi-reading your request brought me back a decade or so. I am also a social worker with similar background working with children. My 4 children are now 19, 15, 14 and 10. After my oldest was born, I thought I was the best mom ever, that all my professional experience and education had really paid off. She was such a cooperative, sweet, joyful lttle girl. Then 3 years later I got just what I deserved. I now realize that many 1st born are identified with their parents and have a srong desire for their aproval. The following children do not share that burden. My 2nd daughter made me question and doubt myself. I recall crying when she was about 2 1/2 yrs because I thought she was going to grow into a selfish, demanding adult. Then I took a step back. I readjusted my expectations and my appoach. Of course, we do know what works for one child doesn't work for another. I won't go into the specifics here, because my daughter was a bit older than your little guy, so his needs are different.
My first piece of advice is to relax and wait it out. Behaviors you see at 14 mos are not what you will see 6 months from now. To me you are at the most challenging stage with him. I don't think 2's are terrible because by that age they have some modicum of sense. But from 12-24 mos, when they are mobile and curious, many little one's really don't understand the cause and effect of discipline. Constant supervision is the name of the game. Most Babies this age are physical not verbal. I recommend being very physically involved for example, pick up and remove your son from any shenanigans he may get into while at the same time saying no. Hopefuly in a few months the "no" concept will be in place in his little brain. While you relax your expectations of your son, give yourself a break too. It's hard be child development professional and have a child who is a handful. Enjoy his happy, curious, energetic nature, accept that he isn't going to comply for a while and it will all change before you know it. My daughter who came into this world with an intense and demanding nature, is almost 16. She is focused, creative, and has a mind of her own. I do not evr worry about her being selfish of inapprpriatley demanding. She has grown inot herslf. Best of luck. B.

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