Our Toddler Tells Mommy and Daddy to "Shut Up"!

Updated on February 23, 2009
V.E. asks from Colorado Springs, CO
10 answers

Our toddler heard my husband tell the cats to "shut up" one day after their incessant meowing...and now she tells us to "shut up"...we have since changed our ways and tell our cats to "be quiet"... for which my darling daughter will also tell us to do. Usually she says this when she is frustrated or not getting the attention she wants. And though she knows that hitting is not ok, instead of hitting us, she will verbally threaten by saying "Hit Mommy"..."Hit Daddy" to get our reaction. We have tried so many things to stop this behavior such as ignoring...time outs...but, she is strong willed and persistent. Any suggestions on how to handle these verbal expressions would be greatly appreciated! THANK YOU!

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So What Happened?

This is such great advice and I will try it ALL. It makes sense. Thank you! And just to clarify, my daughter is super smart...has thousands of words and sentences in her vocabulary and unfortunately she does understand the whole concept of "threatening" even though she is only 2. In fact, she stopped hitting because she knows it's not OK, and then started to say the word instead to get the reaction...then we she realized it wasn't OK to say the "HIT Mommy/Daddy"...so she now takes the "t" out of the word and says "HEEH Mommy/Daddy", thinking she is outsmarting us...which she is very good at! We're dumbfounded by her thinking skills. And, we're exhausted:(

More Answers



answers from Denver on

It won't happen overnight but being consistent will help her. She wants a reaction. Turning your back on her or walking out of the room is a good way to reenforce she is not being nice and you don't want to hear it. Time outs are effective they just take repetition over and over and she will eventually get it. Just hang tough. I have a strong willed little girl (though it started more when she was three) and I just found what worked for her, like what mattered and removed her from that fun play, took a toy away or whatever was her "currency" so to speak. Just keep doing what you are doing and don't give her a reaction, tell her after the punishment why she was in time out and have her apologize face to face every time. It will click! :) good luck



answers from Salt Lake City on

When my 2 yr old hits: "oh oh! We don't want to hit mommy. We want to be soft." they i rub her hand softly across me...and softly across her while saying "soft, soft"

When she says a word we don't like: "oh oh, we don't want to say that word. can you say _______"

also, "do you feel angry?" encourage her to name her feelings and tell her good job. we also do well with "do you need a hug?" and "I don't want to play that game. Let's play something else."



answers from Denver on

At that age, you just need to repeatedly tell her, "We don't tell adults to be quiet becuase that's a rude way to speak to adults. It's okay to say that the loud music is bothering you and to politely ask someone to please turn the music down, but we don't say shut up and be quiet."

Your gentle, repeated teaching is EXACTLY how the children will learn what's expected of them over time. But because she's such a tiny little child today, her brain's not deleloped enough yet to grasp the full lesson that you're teaching her. So keep teaching, and eventually she will get it.

This will be the same method you employ for the next 15 years, for everything from flushing the toilet to carrying her dinner dish to the sink, so learn to do it really calmly. My mother used yellingand spanking and sarcasm and humiliation. Guess what? It didn't work, and we ended up despising her and avoiding her our entire adult lives until she died. Good luck!



answers from Colorado Springs on

It's part of a two-year-old's job description to do this sort of thing. Some day she'll be three and she'll do different things. Right now you may be wondering if you'll live to see that day.

Just know that she's doing two-year-old stuff and you get to do the grown-up stuff. You're being grown up already by changing the way you talk so that your daughter will have a better example from you. (I started saying "please" and "thank you" to our pets so I'd remember always to say it to my children, even when they were driving me up the wall. The children are grown now, they're pretty good at "please" and "thank you," and I still say "Quiet, please," to the cats.)

Set your daughter as good an example in the way you respond to what comes out of her mouth. Don't put on the show she wants to see by overreacting to her trigger words and giving her that power. Stay calm and friendly and do try to maintain a sense of humor.

Give her hugs and kisses, not as a reward, but because you know you love her no matter what she tries or how trying she is. Always, of course, be on the lookout for positive things she does, and give her attention for those things. Kids usually end up choosing - after a while - to do the things that get them the attention they want.

If she tries her wonderful trigger words in front of the neighbors, Aunt Gertrude, or the minister, stay grown up and don't be embarrassed. Well, you'll be embarrassed, but don't make a big deal of it. Explain briefly that she's two and that she's testing everybody and everything. Most of them will understand.



answers from Denver on

Hi V. - those kiddos really know where to get us dont they? Best advice is to minimize the drama around things that she is saying to upset you in order to get attention. You cant really ignore her totally or else risk her upping the ante.

At 2, copying what we do and say is just how they do things - it's a developmental milestone and the fun and novelty of doing it will eventually wear off. The behavior will eventually fade away as long as it stops being an attention getter in which case it will persist as long as she is getting any kind of attention - positive or negative. It will be up to you to add some phrases to her repertoire that you like better than the ones she is using. Next time she says "hit mommy or daddy", I would just say something to build empathy and give correction. Something like "hit Daddy? Ouch! Hitting gives big owie - (daughter's name) no hit Daddy. Here, love Daddy. See? Be gentle with daddy"

Hope that helps you just a little!



answers from Denver on

I'm afraid I disagree a bit with the others. If your two year old has already learned these manipulative behaviors, I think you have to respond a bit more directly. I would give a stronger message that hitting, threatening and disrespectful talking is not acceptable, and give a negative consequence - removing yourself from her presence right away is probably the most negative. so if she wants to be with you and play with you she will learn to stop the behavior and the negative language. If she is that verbal, you can explain the new rules to her: you may not hit or threaten to hit anyone, or mommy and daddy will not play with you for 2 minutes. You may not tell us to shut up, or mommy and daddy will not play with you for 2 minutes (timeout is usually 1 minute per year of age). Just my opinion.



answers from Great Falls on

you have to be firm and consistant. I had a strong willed child and when he told me to shut up or to stop it I put him in his room and made him stay there for three minutes. Tell her firmly that she can't talk that way to you. And of course, she's going to copy what she hears from you. If she threatens by saying hit mommy, then she should go into time out. She needs to learn right away that it's not okay to hit you. Even the threat shouldn't be allowed. My youngest was a hitter, kicker and biter. We learned from hard experience what can happen if you let that behavior continue. I used to have to put him in a gentle body hold until his tantrem stopped. I can't seem to spell today sorry. It's never too early to learn about time outs, or have a favorite toy taken away for an hour or so. Good luck!!!!



answers from Salt Lake City on

I really got a lot out of the book "How to Talk to Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk." Even at your daughter's young age, I think you'd find that book useful. It's out in paperback, and probably at your library.
Even as you discourage the rude talk ("I don't like to hear rude words. It's not OK to be rude. In our family, we try to speak kindly.") you can validate her feelings ("You are so frustrated! You really want another cookie (or whatever). You really need my attention! I only listen to polite children.")
Then you can offer a happy distraction when the time is right, like, "When you're feeling better/when you're in control of your body come look at this cookbook with me so we can choose what to make for dinner."
Personally, I think time out should be pitched as an opportunity to chill out and relax away from stressors, not as a punishment. I sometimes announce that I need a time out and retreat to the bathroom for a few minutes so I don't yell, and I say so. Now, my oldest (6) will do that, too, and say he needs time out from his little brother so he doesn't hit him, so could I please stay with the younger one so the older one can have a time out in their room for a few minutes? I love that he's figuring out how to handle anger and frustration in reasonable ways.
You might also like the book for children "When Sophie gets really, really Angry."
Children tend to behave as well as they are treated, I've noticed, and age two and four are big developmental stages of learning cause and effect and appropriate ptotocols. Good luck!



answers from Denver on

She's two and learning and seeing what does and doesn't get a reaction. Continue to model best behavior and words and when she used "hit mommy" give her an alternative set of words to use, gently reminding her that we don't hit or say we will hit. She is not doing it to "threaten" you.. she's two. Help her expand her vocabulary so she can have the tools (words) to communicate her frustration. Of course, you also have to indicate that we don't always get what we want. Try giving choices (two that you like) so she can feel more in control of what is happening.



answers from Provo on

I would definatly be firm on saying it is not okay to "...." in our house. (However, if you are strongly reacting when you are saying it, she is getting the exact attention she wants. Instead say it firmly, but camly, with little emotion, and go on doing something else) Some kids will go first for the bad behavior because that is where they get the most recognition. If at any chance you hear her say or do things you would like to continue really capitolize on these and give lots of posivite attention. It takes a few months or more honestly, but when they start realizing they are getting attention more often for things that are good, they will start more of the desired behavior and less of the undesired...however ...a lot easier said than done!! :). But it has worked with my kids. Every kid is different, so you will have to find what works best with yours, but just another idea to try. good luck

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