Help with Discipline Ideas

Updated on March 30, 2010
J.W. asks from Olivehurst, CA
29 answers

Hi Ladies, My friend has a "spirited" 2 1/2 year old girl. She is having a hard time finding discipline that will work. She has tried doing time outs but her daughter laughs. She's tried taking toys away (one day she lost almost all of them to the garage) and finally at wits end she spanked her. All of this resulted in her daughter laughing. She's a good mom but doesn't know what else to do! She says her daughter almost gets a "high" off of being disciplined. Any helpful responses would be great! Thank you.

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M.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

I have 3 boys 6 and under, and I have found some profound help from www.nogreaterjoy.org. They have some great online tell-it-like-it-is articles with practical help for the battle of the wills.

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J.M.

answers from Fresno on

My daughter is the same. She responds to rewards not punishment. So we try to prevent the bad behavior by making a sticker chart for good behavior. For example if she takes her asthma meds without fighting or goes to bed without having a fit she can put a sticker on the chart. After so many stickers she gets something, like a trip to the zoo or a small toy. We also really praise her when she does a good job. So she gets a lot of attention for doing good things.

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R.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Has she tried ingnoring unacceptable behavior? Maybe she can make a "Good Girl" chart of some sort to reward good behavoir. If she yells or whines mom can just tell her she can't understand her when she talks like that..... Good luck!

BTW, What is Baby Boot Camp?

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J.E.

answers from Sacramento on

I agree with what the first poster said re: positive discipline techniques. I also use redirection. Also, what are the situations where she needs this discipline? With my son at first I tried telling him no, etc, etc, and yes they do play into it. It is a game. What has been working great so far with my 2-1/1 year old is something like this. Yesterday he was getting a little wild and he was on the floor with his legs up and sort of kicking me. Now I don't consider this something he needs to be "disciplined" for but I wanted him to know I didn't like it. I looked at him and said "(name) please do not kick mommy. I do not want to play with someone who kicks me." He did it again and I repeated it and just walked into the other room. After a couple of minutes he has forgotten what was happening anyway and moved on or he comes and gets me. I use this when I am getting him dressed or brushing teeth and he is not cooperating. I say "it is time to put our pants on" - if he doesn't do it I say "ok tell me when you are ready" and I walk outside the room. About 2 seconds later he comes and says "I'm ready" and we put them on easily. Basically he knows now that I'm just not going to interact with him if he isn't cooperating and it doesn't take long. Most of these situations are just trying to get him ready or getting him to eat dinner, etc. There really isn't much he does where I feel the need to punish him for any reason. I have found my self in situations where I start to get into a discussion with him and then think - why is it so important for me for him to do this thing - am I pushing it just because he isn't doing it or because it is serious enough that I need to hold my ground. Some people get into an "I'm the parent you will do what I say" situation even if the issue is irrelevant - its a power thing. There are times where I just let something go and move on. It isn't necessary for a parent to be on top of a child 24 hours a day telling them no and making sure there is a consequence for every little infraction. Kids are not robots - they are kids - they get tired or hungry, they get hyper, etc. As long as the parents set a good example and interact with the child respectively I think it goes a long way. I don't raise my voice at all with my toddler. I always talk very softly and calmly and that gets him to listen better. One of the serious things he might do is try to hit his little brother. Then he gets a little more of a stern discussion and then we redirect. Usually actions like this are because he is feeling like he isn't getting attention, or he is jealous or something. Telling him no and putting him in time out isn't going to help that situation in my mind. He knows he is not supposed to hit and I'd rather redirect and then deal with why he is frustrated and hitting - maybe by playing a game with him or something. Anyway, to summarize - positive reinforcement, pick your battles, analyze why the child might be acting in such a way, don't engage - just set expectations and walk away and lastly sometimes just give her a big hug. Its a big scary world and sometimes kids just need security and love. Tell your friend good luck!!

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B.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

Our older son is the same way. He just turned 5. He would laugh when we disciplined him, and I swear he would purposely do things to provoke that response. We consulted with a parenting coach, and she suggested we try a positive approach to discipline. This means with him we praise him when he does things right and don't overreact when he does something wrong. Often when he does things I don't like I just tell him that I don't want to play with him if he's going to be doing that. At first it was a real struggle, and I had to exercise great willpower, but after about a year of doing this he responds to it quite well.

Also, when he begins acting up I never tell him he's going to get a time out. Instead I ask him if he needs a break alone in his room. In this way he doesn't feel he's being sent away, but he's choosing to be alone. Much less alienating. And you know, he will often tell me now "I need a break in my room." and he gives himself his own time out! It does take time and persistence to get this to work.

We have a 19-month-old too, and if the older boy pushes or hits the younger boy, the parenting coach encouraged us to always put our attention on the younger boy first. This tells the older boy that he won't be getting special attention when he hits (which is what he gets if we discipline him before comforting the younger one).

Hope that helps!
B.

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N.I.

answers from San Diego on

I agree with the posters who speak about the positive attention needing to be the focus for the little girl (and lots of the other kids here, too!), but I have some other thoughts. As a mom of 4 grown kids and a midwife who's worked with thousands of kids over 25 years, I have seen almost every variation on discipline and I FIRMLY believe that punishment by hitting or subtracting love/things is the absolutely opposite way to go with hungry-for-guidance/love/attention kids.

1. This child is a BABY! She has barely been on the earth and doesn't come with a set of behaviors in how to work things through in this society. It is her parent's responsibility to teach her/guide her towards understanding social rules. If they haven't been explained, how is the kid supposed to know what they are?

2. Mom HAS to be the strong one. This child has absolute control over the "energy" of the family - and she knows it! Even if mom has to fake it, she canNOT let the child believe she is less than/scared of her/worried about the kid's future as a juvenile delinquent/etc. That is why losing control is funny to the girl! She won the energy battle! She is proving she has more control (literally) than her own mother. While it can be amusing, it can also be terrifying.

3. The child is BEGGING to be disciplined! NOT punished, but she is begging for guidelines she can follow. I believe the mom doesn't even *know* what the rules are for the house, so cannot outline them for the child. Absolute consistency with WHAT the rules are is crucial for getting a child to comply with parent's wishes and needs.

4. Mom needs to figure out the 100% must-do things... she MUST NOT go in the street, she must not put her hand on the fire, she must not hit her sibling, etc. Then figure out the other issues that really aren't all that crucial after all, but she has been reacting to because she is grasping at some control somewhere. Then, find a way to stop reacting to the things that are "so what."

5. A star chart is a FABULOUS idea and worked for my 4.5 year old when she was lying. Rewards shouldn't always be "things," but should be fun outings with mom. Even 2 stars can be rewarded with a special book reading any time the child wants it. Now, remember, the child is only 2.5! Find rewards that are appropriate for her age and stage (which might be younger or older than her chronological age).

6. Channel this kid's energy! Get her OUT, running around freely. Tire her out with karate class, gymnastics, dance class. (Not all of them, but one would be a great idea.) Get her mind thinking of other things, PLUS having her in a class of some sort will help her follow rules of other adults, not just her parents.

7. See if she's ready to read. Sometimes this kind of behavior is from sheer boredom and reading can take care of some of that. NEVER take books away as a punishment, either. Yikes! Books need to be seen as an absolute positive, always.

I hope these ideas help.

Barbara E. Herrera, LM, CPM
San Diego

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W.W.

answers from Sacramento on

If she's getting "high" off of it, practice positive disciple. Only acknowledge her when she's good and ignore the bad behavior. Unless she's doing something dangerous, then redirect (if she's leaning out a window take her outside to jump or sit at the table to cut; or if she's screaming start doing a dance routine; if she's pinching/biting/hitting try playing with play doh). It's a start and it may not work, but it could so your friend has nothing to lose! Good luck!

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M.T.

answers from Bakersfield on

Has she tried ignoring the toddler? A lot of this type of behaviour is for attention and even negative attention is better than no attention at all. If she's doing a time-out, for instance,she can say once, firmly, "You're going in the naughty chair for 2 min" (I am not a time-out fan but I think I read that you do however many minutes as per their age). Set a timer so she knows when it's time. IF she gets up, put her back, don't make eye contact, don't speak to her, just put her back and start the timer over at 2 min. i have a 7 year old with autism who has tantrum-like behaviour and this is how we handle it. I found that when I consistently just told him once "I'm going to take your blocks away b/c you're not picking up like I've told you to." and then did it, ignoring him, not speaking to him, just quietly doing it that it had a much stronger affect on him than telling him as I did it what I was doing, why and "Sorry I Have to do it" etc. We had an increase in negative behaviour for a while as he got used to the new way of us doing things and now he's more compliant.

I don't know how helpful that is with your friend's 2 1/2 year old but my son is developmentally about 3 1/2 and we also did this with our 4 year old daughter who started her "terrible twos" at 2 1/2 and still occasionally breaks down and has a little fit.

The other thing you friend can do is really look hard for things to offer praise to her daughter for. When she sees her sititng quietly eating supper she can comment on how nicely she's eating like a big girl or when she gets herself dresses comment on what a great job she's done dressing herself. Even things you expect of your child you can still give them lots of positive reinforcement for those things. Children will often respond to positive reinforcement better than efforts to control the negative behaviour so perhaps more focus on the good things she does combined with a little interaction as possible when dealing with the negative behaviour might help the child to take things more seriously and see that it's not a laughing matter and that it's a lot easier when she exhibits appropriate behaviour.

Both my children learned fairly quickly that negative behaviour means they get ingored and a consequence. Positive behaviour means they get attention and the kind of attention they want & need. When their need for positive attention is met (yes it takes some effort but it's worth it) then a lot of times the other behaviours slowly go away over time b/c they are ineffective in getting that need for your attention met.

Hope that helps.

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M.A.

answers from San Francisco on

I am a 77yr ol grandma during our days a good wacking on the leg should be good where it hurts another thing put pieces of dry grain riCE the floor at the corner of the room and have her kneel there facing the wall. this should do it GOOD LUCCK

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J.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

I think Bonnie gave a great answer. It's difficult to teach the proper way, because it's not a recipe, or a 1-2-3-step method. But it is bonding and being able to read the deeper message in your child that is key. Like Bonnie suggested, everyone needs a break sometimes; it's NOT shameful and it shouldn't be a punishment. I also like the suggestion of more bonding time: To me, that hit the nail on the head. Basically, don't worry too much about "right" and "wrong," according to any book. Know your child and why she's doing what she's doing AT THAT TIME. Your specific words and response are going to change to match the situation, but your CONSISTENCY needs to be in your unconditional acceptance of expression, forgiveness, and comforting demeanor. You're guiding your child to self-regulation. It's also okay to say things like, "No," or "I don't like to see that," etc. But save the serious "No" for when you need to grab her attention in a hurry.

In this little girl's case, I believe the psychology behind it is that she's disconnecting from her real feelings, so her expressions aren't matching her emotions. This is most likely due to a disconnect between her parents and her, and/or from shutting down her expressions instead of modeling and guiding her to acceptable ones -- and acknowledging the "real" emotion she's trying to get out. Her laugh may be covering embarrassment, anxiety, worry or confusion; I highly doubt it's true amusement. Figuring out what the true "reward" she's getting from the behavior is where I'd start. Then you can look for the need, and the root cause: Find out why she's so comfortable with the negative attention.

My stern caution is that punishment will escalate this behavior, and/or will cause her to become passive-aggressive and even self-punishing (which leads to all those lovely adult problems, later).

Hope that helps.
J. Smithson
Loving Hands Learn 'n' Play
http://lhlearnandplay.com

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J.S.

answers from Stockton on

If she wants discipline I'd suggest ignoring it if I could. Whatever she's doing wrong if possible to ignore I'd ignore.
Then when she's not acting out give her more attention.

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E.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

J.,

Does she get as much attention when she is good? Maybe she is happy with her discipline because she received attention that she was looking for. I am only bringing this possibility up because it can become a habit for a child and if carried into her teens can turn into run ins with the law.

Tell the mom to try to catch her daughter being good. This can sometimes be a job in itself. But even sitting quietly for a few minutes can be enough to reward her with a hug or kind words. Start small and slowly move to larger activities.

Hope this helps,

Evelyn

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L.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

It may be that her daughter feels like she's getting the "best" attention when she misbehaves. I'd recommend the "love & logic" books. My brother & sister-in-law swear by it. They have 3 kids (7,5 & 2 1/2) and they are really well behaved polite children. The idea is to use logic & praise with the child. Teaching them to make good decisions rather than bad ones. It also teaches the parents to focus on good behavior by using praise as a reward. Giving the child the most attention when they are doing something right. Hence, making a good decision.
Lots of luck to your friend!

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R.T.

answers from San Francisco on

Sounds like her daughter is seeking negitive attention. If she is doing time out appropriatly (following through with it on a consistant basis) it should work. It may take a few days of torture for the mom but it will work. The approach Supernanny uses works really well for my two daughters. She should also try using alot of possitive reinforcement. Praising her daughter for doing anything that is good. Even a simple "I really liked how you..." Hopefully this was helpful.

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J.G.

answers from San Diego on

I have had similar issues with my daughter. What finally worked was 'not responding'. A brief explanation of what she did wrong then alone in her room. It took a bit before she started connecting being 'bad' with being 'alone' but the message finally got through. Essentially, it is taking away the interaction that she is craving and receiving from getting in trouble.

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V.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

It sounds to me that if she is laughing when she is being disciplined, that she has no respect for her mom. Mom needs to not yell and not loose control, she needs to very calmly, but assertively tell her daughter what she wants from her (not ask, tell). There is no reason that a 2 1/2 year old should be rulling an adult. I am a Child Life Specialist with many years of experience in young children and most of the time, when parent's are having this problem is because there is a lack of respect. Discipline should not be used only when the child is doing something wrong, children need discipline in their lives all the time. This is where the respect is gained....there are limits and boundries in life. Parent's now a days, seem to read a lot of books that tell them how to rear their children....THROW them away! Use your common sense and remember how you were raised back in the day....with respect! Good luck

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L.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hey J.,
I am having some of the same issues with my daughter who is now 9 years old, and although I don't have any ideas at this time, please let me know what type of responses you have received regarding your issue. I do have a few suggestions;what does she enjoy other than her toys? How about various snacks, or trips to the park etc. Try taking these things away from her for a while. I find that this helps. When my daughter misbehaves I take away television and video games, but in this case since the child is so young, I would take away activities that she enjoys, or limit certain snacks etc, that she me love. Hope this helps

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R.D.

answers from San Francisco on

When my son got the "creepiest" it meant that we needed some bonding time. Go to the beach, the park, play a game, just the two of them. I don't mean directly after a "misbehavior", it's not a reward, but when they get up in the morning, before there have been any major blowups, they should head out. Or tell her tomorrow we are going to... so that hopefully she won't have the issues of dressing or whatever else may seep in. It may be attention she is seeking or displaying that they have gotten into a negative space together. I swear, at wits end instead of losing my temper I remember this, do it and it works. Good luck!

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D.R.

answers from San Francisco on

I am reading a book called making your children mind without loosing yours! By Dr Kevin Leman. (
Awsome book. He talks about reallity disipline.
Hope that will help
D.

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M.C.

answers from Honolulu on

Get her this book "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. It helped me.

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K.M.

answers from Salinas on

H J.,
I have two of those "spirited types". On is 8 and the other 4. It is hard to have these types of children. That's the honest truth. I have tried most of the ideas that have been sent to you. The postive approach is great. You really have to disapline yourself not to react to the bad behavoir. That is so hard. But pat yourself on the back when you do. One small step means a lot. I started renting episodes of the Supernanny(I use netflix) and boy , did that give me ideas. DRAW YOUR BOUNDRIES!!!!! It doesn't always feel good to be firm, however that's what these types of children (I don't know about any other kind since I don't have passive , mellow kids)are craving. Right now in this stage of parenting, we are not here to be their friends. That's a hard one too. Lots of positive feedback, if rewards help then go for it. I told my 8yr old,if you don't react to your sister's(4yr)bad behavoir I'd give him a penny. Well that worked a lot and she stops trying to get a reaction.You finds what works for your type of child. Best of luck to your friend.

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C.N.

answers from San Luis Obispo on

Dear J.,

They do get difficult at 2 1/2, you and your friend should do a lot of studying about 2 to 3 year olds. That would give you a clue about what to do, and how to do it.

In preschool, a child is disciplined by getting their attention onto another activity.

Taking the toys away is not a good way to discipline - spanking isn't either - maybe staying in her own room for a period of time would help. But you have to supervise so that when the child is having the tantrum she will not hurt herself. That is the best way - but that is my opinion. Somehow the parent has to get across the message that the child is not in charge. If time out sitting on a chair or a certain area of rug doesn't work, then stop it immediately and go to the room isolation. It will be disquieting to the child, but is more effective and they get the message sooner.

Good studying - www.drgreene.com, or About.com/pediatrician.

C. N.

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K.V.

answers from San Francisco on

Two and a half is still kinda young to be able to discipline kids. My son is also 2.5 yrs & really, all I can do is tell him firmly not to do whatever he's done & then re-direct him. Spanking is not the answer cuz it's discipling thru anger which is never effective & all you're doing is teaching your child to hit when angry. The little girl is laughing cuz she thinks it's so funny to see Mommy so mad. I also don't think taking away all her toys is the answer....the punishment is too much compared w/the crime. Again, probably done in anger so not effective. I'd suggest that your friend just verbally reprimand her daughter firmly & then involve her in something else.

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T.D.

answers from San Francisco on

I don't have direct experience (my baby is only 10 months old) but I read a great book that talks about ways to take the power play out of situations like that. It's called "Playful Parenting" by Lawrence Cohen. He says that children act out when they're feeling powerless or disconnected, and that parents can reconnect through play. Hope it helps!

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J.E.

answers from San Francisco on

Sounds like a power struggle. Kids often laugh when they are nervous, so that is something to consider also. Tell your friend to get:

Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka (Paperback - Feb 20, 2001)
Positive Discipline

Positive Discipline by Jane Ed.D. Nelsen (Paperback - May 30, 2006) or any of the many variations on this original...

Becoming the Parent You Want To Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser (Paperback - Feb 3, 1997)

J.

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C.A.

answers from San Francisco on

Hello,
Is she good at follow through? My cousin has 3 very "spirited" boys and I've notice she doesn't follow through. She takes the toys away for the day, but they have it again a few hours latter. Her oldest is now 12 and when she says she's taking something away he says, "yeah, right!"
Best of luck to her,
C.

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B.K.

answers from San Francisco on

Two good resources, depending on either your friend likes to get some counsel or read.

Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child by Robert J. MacKenzie

or

Sylvia Ford who is a local Early Childhood Consultant
([email protected]____.com), and has taught some really popular workshop. There is one called Young Mind Require Creative Discipline that I've attended, and it (from the workshop description) "highlights the aspects of early brain development that help us understand why young children can’t always do the right thing or control their behavior. Discussion will include information that can help adults be more creative and effective with limit setting, along with strategies and techniques that can promote positive self-guided behavior in children from approximately two to five years old."

You might ask your friend to check with Sylvia to see if she is giving this talk in the near future, or she can book some private time with her. Good luck!

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L.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi J. -

I have a "spirited" daughter, too! Although she's 12 now discipline has always been a challenge. I would go straight to the guru of child rearing and discipline - Dr. James Dobson. His book "The Strong Willed Child" is a must have for parents of these "high-spirited" little masterminds! As everyone knows, the groundwork laid when they're small is the foundation for all future interaction.

BY THE WAY - for anyone with boys (I have three) Dr. Dobson wrote a book called "Bringing Up Boys" that is incredible!! And I hear that he is writing "Bringing Up Girls" - check it out!

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