Discipline Ideas for an Almost-2-year-old

Updated on May 19, 2010
K.K. asks from Saint Louis, MO
14 answers

My son's getting into the terrible twos, and my husband and I have no idea how to discipline him. Both our Parents as Teachers person and the pediatrician have suggested putting toys or whatever he's misusing in time out (in an attempt to both explain time out and take away the toy), but Logan thinks it's fun. Same goes for putting him in time out and counting down. I have no idea what to do, and I know that it's only going to get worse! Oh yeah, spanking is not an option. Thanks!

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answers from Dallas on

I highly suggest this book by Dr. Sears. It talks a lot about creating happy children and fostering good discipline, and averting stressful situations to minimize the problems in the first place and how to approach them when they happen. It is very helpful and has helped us out a lot. It shows how to teach the child how to control their frustrations and anger too. It is also anti-spanking and has a lot of effective techniques instead.

The Discipline Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Better-Behaved Child : For Birth to Age Ten


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answers from St. Louis on

I dont know if its right or not, but I took a different approach to timeout when my son was little. As a first time, single, mom I was kind of lost. I couldnt make myself just tie him down to a chair and listen to him cry or scream. So I told myself that when he threw a fit it was probably because he was overtired or overstimulated (too much going on at once) . So when he wouldnt listen after a few tries I would pick him and take him to my bedroom, leave the room darkened and lay him on the bed, screaming and all. Then I would lay down next to him with my back to him. When he stopped crying for even a second I would turn over and try to gently touch him or hug him. If he started crying again I would turn back and not face him. I didnt talk to him at all, just repeated this until he would let me hold him for more than a minute and seemed to be calmer. Sometimes he would try to hug me from behind while still crying but I would just ignore him until he stopped crying for a second or two, then try turning back to him again. Then I would start talking about what happened very quietly (the lower I talked, the quieter he would have to be to hear me). I would explain how maybe he was a little tired and didnt realize he was being mean or hurting my feelings, but maybe next time he could try to be nicer and tell me with words, etc. And I would ask him to tell me he was sorry, and he almost always did. And sometimes I told him I was sorry for yelling at him or overreacting and that I would try harder too. Then we would lay and maybe talk about something else for a minute, like what we were going to do when we got up ("maybe you could play with a different toy now. Which one do you think feels lonely because no one has played with it for awhile?"). Finally I would ask if he was ready to go back now, and if he was we would get up and go in the other room. The whole thing lasts about 10 minutes most of the time. My mom would be there when I would leave the room with him, and when we came back he would seem like a completely different kid to her, she was always amazed (and asked me what I did to him! LOL :)

With all the bright colors of toys, people bustling around, TV noise, etc I never realized how loud and stimulating just a normal setting can be. These calm moments helped both of us a lot - I would take him in there when I got to the point that I knew if I were the spanking sort I would be tempted to hit him. While laying there waiting for him I would just make myself space out, and think about how much I loved him (to keep myself from reacting to him crying by continuing to be tense myself). Many times I ended up crying (the good kind) while waiting for him, and especially by the time he hugged me - that would put me over the edge. And it helped me to explain to him how much I cared about him. And if he truly did something bad, we would end by talking about why it was wrong (sometimes just "calling me a name really hurt my feelings... did you want to hurt my feelings?") and if necessary what the punishment would be ("You took that toy away from your friend without asking. I think your friend should get to play with it today, and next time you could just ask her nicely to share").

Of course there is not always time for this, but whenever possible this worked wonders. If we happened to be out at a store or someplace, I would sternly say "SIT" ("stop" never worked with him - he could run into the street and me yell STOP a hundred times and he would ignore it, but SIT worked instantly - he plops right down!!) and then I would sit nearby and basically do the same thing - ignore him until he had a slight calm moment then touch his arm. If he started back up I take my hand away and just look at the sky and try to make myself calm. Finally when he had more than a second without crying I would start talking and say things like, "Wow, you were pretty out of control. Are you better now? Are you ready to get going again?" I would try to tell myself that I was not in so much of a hurry that 5 to 10 minutes would make that much difference. Once, on a REALLY bad tantrum (stomping feet, etc) we spent 30 minutes sitting on the sidewalk outside KMart ! But by the end he was fine.

Kids just get so much stimulation nowadays (and parents!), it gets a little overwhelming for their little nervous system I think :) Anyway - this really worked for us. I can see with some personalities it may not, and you cant think of it as punishing yourself - sometimes a time-out is exactly what we need too :)

Maybe his teacher could do something similar? Take him to a somewhat darker room (not by himself) for 5 minutes? It probably wouldnt be every day, and he could eventually learn to put himself in "time-out" (we called it "quiet time" instead so it would not be seen as part of the punishment... the punishment was decided and served AFTER *both* of us calmed down). My son a few times even announced "I need quiet time" and he would go lay on the bed by himself for a few minutes!

Maybe some part of this will work for you? Good luck to you!

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answers from Springfield on

Time out in his crib with the light on - if you are consistant with it it will work. My son is 3 1/2 and doesn't have a crib anymore but if I say go to your room until you can be calm he will go. Distraction is also a great tool. He is testing his boundries - so you need to let him know what they are.

One final note "Choose your battles carefully" - stick it on your fridge you will need it for the whole ride...!!!

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answers from St. Louis on

I absolutely believe that time outs are working for my 23 month old and have been an effective way to stop bad behavior for several months now. When she doesn't something we don't like, we warn her that "we don't throw our food" or "we don't tell Daddy 'no'" or whatever. If she does it again, we tell her she will go to time out if we see it again (if it's something physical like biting or kicking, she goes right to time out). Usually, reminding her of consequences does the trick. If it doesn't, she sits in the corner with no interaction for 2 minutes. We then remind her why she was in time out--if she can't tell us on her own--and ask her whether she is sorry. Once she apologizes, we ask her not to do "x" again and tell her we love her.

I feel the longer you wait to start enforcing the rules of a household, the more likely you are headed for a full-on teenager-sized battle! Enforce respect for rules and MUTUAL respect early on, and you're more likely to have a thoughtful kid who thinks before they act.

By the way, as tough as 2 can be, I hear that 3 is worse...so we need to brace ourselves!

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answers from St. Louis on

consistency is the key. Pick your method & stick to it. & if it seems to have no effect, then consider lengthening or expanding on it.

I am all for removing the toy. In fact, in my daycare, I use this method regularly. If the child is destructive with the toy (for example, using the toy hammer on the glass door/tv/etc....& if the child will not comply with my request to "stop"....then the hammer goes in timeout (on top of a shelf or put away in the cabinet) AND the child goes in timeout for not listening to me. The toy is not put back into play until the next day.

For issues more extreme than this, sometimes that timeout is in bed or in the hallway off the living room....depending on the age (if the child still uses a packNplay, then that's where timeout is). I have found that by removing the child from the action, the "quiet time" aids in calming the child....allowing their own self-soothing to kick in. Once the child is calm, then I address the issue & the child is returned to group.

Personally, I believe counting to 3 & regularly using timeout are great methods. Our older son did require spanking....timeout never worked for him. Our younger son rarely required spanking....as in maybe a total of 3 times by KG. It's all in the parents attitude & in the child's. For our older son, not much worked.....I used to say that if I lived to see his adulthood - then I knew he'd be a phenomenal adult! The ?? was whether or not I would survive! I had a muscle twitch below my eye from the time he was 18 months until almost 3....!!

"never let them see you sweat" is a perfect mantra for parents to remember when disciplining. Never react in anger; express your own anger & frustration over the event away from the child.....& you'll be in control thru-out. & that's an important factor in parenting.....to be in control. It's not our job to be the "friend"....it's our covent to be the parent! Peace.

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answers from Columbus on

time outs at this age have two purposes; 1. to teach cause and effect and 2. to reduce over stimulation. it is not a punishment. children at this age do not have a clear understanding of what is right and wrong other than mommy doesn't like this. timeout could be sitting in a quiet area with no toys on your lap. i completely agree with not spanking as a therapist. it teaches children that it's okay to get physically violent when i do not like something, it's okay to hit others and to let people hit me. it is just not a good idea. it teaches fear over respect. God does not tell us to hit children per the previous comment.


answers from Kansas City on

I think that time away is a better concept. Redirection has it's place. But redirection is not enough for serious problems like hitting, running through the house, jumping on the furniture etc. If they are putting themselves or someone else in danger, then they need time away. It's just a little different approach on redirection.

I also believe that this kind of dicipline is started younger than 2 years. The biggest problem that so many parents make is waiting until the child is too head strong. For instance, my infant grandson has been pulling hair for awhile. I grab his hand and gently squeeze adding a little more pressure until he lets go. While I'm squeezing his hand, I am saying be gentle, let go, or don't pull hair. He will stop, but he'll do it again later or the next day. I don't really expect him to stop now. But the fact that he'll stop without a fit when I tell him no is a great start.

Another thing we are working on with grandbaby boy is not grabbing this plastic bag of wet dishclothes we keep in the kitchen. It's a small thing really. It's the beginning of his learning the word no. We say it firmly and a little louder each time. He'll leave in his walker and go away a few feet and look back at us to see if we are watching when he tries to touch it again. I give him about 3-4 times of this game before I remove him from the room. He's only 9 months. But in time he'll understand that whenever we tell him no, he'll be moved or have to give up something he was doing if he doesn't listen.

In time, the redirection or time away can move on to things like sitting them in a crib for awhile. Give the warnings, tell them what to do, when they don't listen after a few times just quietly get up and place them in a crib or a highchair. If you put them in the highchair give them a few minutes with nothing to do. Then tell them we don't (fill in blank) and then give him one or two small toys. Let them play there until they have forgotten all about it for the moment.

As they get older and their memories get longer and their attention span gets longer, then I put them in another room or another situation sooner without many warnings. I like the idea of putting a toy up. But it works best if it's a toy they really love and one they will ask for. So they have to be older for that to work.

Think of it like learning basic math skills. Each concept will be added to another concept and build up to a more complicated process. You can not learn advanced math if you don't understand the earlier math. Precept upon precept.



answers from Chicago on

When you do the time outs are you with him? Perhaps he needs to be in his room or a play pen so he feels that it really is time out. I just read the book Magic 1-2-3 and it is about how to effectively do time outs.

How soon do you give him back his toy? When my son, 21 months, is hitting me with his bat, etc I take it away for the day or until after his next nap. It really upsets him but he is starting to think about it before he hits me when I warn him of the consequences.



answers from Wichita on

well K. if spanking is not an option, then that mean you have left God's Word out of it and your headed for big trouble. Look around you at the people who have chosen man's way to train up their children they are a mess, and a dishonor to their parents, but its not the childs fault it the parents for not training them up the way God says, He created us He certainly knows what it takes to train up this child. I have no other advice, because I trained mine according to God's Word.



answers from St. Louis on

At this age, redirection works well for minor behavor issues like touching something they shouldn't or trying to open a door, etc.
Misuse of something like throwing a toy I would give 1 warning and then take the toy away for the day.
Tantrums-ignore them! I don't leave the room because my little one will sometimes try to knock things over and I don't want her to get hurt. Let them scream and kick the floor. When they are done, help them up. You can't really engage in long conversations because half the time they won't remember why they are throwing a fit.
At this age they do not purposely try to upset us. They are learning and trying to deal with their feelings. They get frustrated very easily - hence the tantrums.
If you are using timeouts, set him down and do not talk to him. If he gets up, place him back without talking to him.
When time is up simply get him out of time out and keep your explanation simple "you were in time out for hitting. we use our hands for hugging, not hitting"

What ever you do, you need to be consistant. It will not work the first time, so don't give up.



answers from St. Louis on

I also have taken the no spanking approach...kudos to you! It can be a difficult road though and takes much patience and consistency. I began using the 'naughty seat' at age two - my daughter is now going on 5. If you have watched supernanny you have heard of the naughty seat.

I give my daughter a warning and if she didn't respond to that she sat on the naughty seat for two minutes (three minutes when she was 3, etc...). When I sat her on the seat I told her why she was sitting her..."I told you to stop jumping on the couch and since you didn't listen you will sit here for two minutes." If she got up I put her back on the seat and restarted the clock. She got up a couple times at the beginning but soon realized it would be quicker if she just did her time.

When the minutes were up, I went over to her, squatted down to her level and reminded her why she had to sit there and then told her she owed me an apology for her behavior. She would then apologize (sincerely) and then I would hug her, tell her I loved her and we could get on with our day.

I still use the naughty seat to this day...and it works for us 95% of the time. It's important the seat is away from distractions and toys and you have no contact with them while sitting on the seat (or stair, rug - whatever is available and convenient) Don't verbally respond to their yelling or screaming because of course they are looking for a reaction.

I certainly hope this helps...it has helped me. I have a 14month old son and plan on using the same technique with him.

Also - I forgot at the beginning there was lot of crying and screaming and I wouldn't respond until she would calm herself down - even if the minutes were up...I told her she needed to take some deep breaths and calm down before I could come and talk to her to get her off the seat. To this day - she uses her breath when she gets out of control...and let's face it we all get out of control somedays. :~)

Wishing you the best - remember to breathe yourself!




answers from Topeka on

I do not feel that time outs have any positive effect for a child this age, do you really expect a 2 year old to sit on his time out spot and seriously think about what he did that upset or offended you? All he knows is that Mom is unhappy with him and is refusing to have anything to do with him! It is perfectly normal for a 2 year old to feel unhappy, frustrated, angry...what our job as parents should be is to help them learn to deal with these feelings!! Think about how YOU would want someone to deal with you if you were going through the same thing that your son is going through at the moment that you are getting unhappy with him. For instance...if he has just used his crayons to draw on the wall instead of the paper....what does it teach him if you take his crayons away from him and sit him in a corner? Why not explain to him, in a calm tone, that crayons are for paper and coloring books and when we use them on things that they are not intended to be used on then someone has to clean it up. Have him help you clean up the mess...give him a cloth to work on cleaning along with you, as you explain that it makes extra work for Mom when she has to do this. You have achieved the same purpose, you have let him know that you do not like that fact that he has drawn on the wall, but you have put a practical spin on it...when he does that then SOMEONE has to clean it up!!! If he is unhappy because he is wanting to do something that you can't do at that moment and is starting to throw a bit of a tantrum ( PLEASE don't use the term "terrible twos" around him...it turns into a self fulfilling prophecy...what is someone constantly told you that you were in your "tortured thirties" ?? lol ). stop and ACKNOWLEDGE his feelings...."Honey, I understand that you are feeling sad because you want to play outside right now but we need to get dressed to go to the store and get something for dinner tonight. When we get home THEN you can play outside!" You can't make his feelings go away by simply sitting him in "time out"...use the situation to teach him how to appropriately deal with his feelings.
Leave the "discipline" to his Sgt when he goes to boot camp!!! lol



answers from Tulsa on

keep himn in time out till its not fun anymore. :)



answers from Austin on

My son just turned two so I know what you are going through. I like the positive discipline approach. Praise your son when he is behaving well. Tell him what a good boy he is and how mommy loves when he is acting so nicely. Children want attention no matter what. Whether it is good or bad attention. I put my son in timeout, but only when it is for something really serious. Timeouts can work against you if you use them too much. Try to involve your son in what you are doing around the house like laundry for example. I let my son hand me dirty clothes to put in the washer or put trash in the trash can. Tell him what a great helper he is! Ignore minor misbehavior. He will begin to understand he won't get your attention and it will correct itself eventually. Also try to figure out what is the trigger of the behavior. Last night my son was extremely difficult. We finally realized he has a molar coming in and then everything made sense. Good luck and I hope this helps!

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