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Discipline for Preschoolers

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3-year-old guilt-tripping me when I discipline her

Sept 2007

Greetings, everybody! My family and I recently moved rather far away from the Bay Area, and I really miss it. So does my child. I think that's the crux of this, but I still don't quite know what to do. My 3 year old is unnaturally attuned to my ''happiness'' -- so much so, if I reprimand her, she cries and wails, ''I just want you to be happy!''

It's our fault. My husband and I have been really, really stressed about this move, and between the dislocation and the arguments, our daughter is rather anxious herself. Fair enough. We know this and are addressing it as best we can -- no more arguing, we actively lower the stress level, lots of quality activities together, attention paid to her (and each other), etc. But how do I discipline her? Even better, how do I reprimand her without invoking my ''unhappiness''? She is 3, she needs the occasional reprimand, and the stern voice muct come out, but what can I do when my tightly-strung little girl weeps at my slightest show of displeasure?

And, of course, this is maddening because I am stressed out about this whole move (we moved overseas), and can't always play Mary Poppins for my kid. Fair enough not to snipe at Daddy in her presence, but... I can't be smiley all the time. And it is all the time, as I am a SAHM. Some times I am not happy, some times I am just weary, and some times I'm perfectly cheerful. But she pitches a hairy fit, and I end up feeling awful because my kid is weeping, ''Please be happy, Mommy, I want you to be happy,'' just because I told her she needed a time out.

It's heart-breaking. And it's not as if I've been a raving lunatic, that she's so worried I'll explode. I'm just not sure what this is, but I don't know quite what to do about it. Help! ololon


Your child is manipulating you and trying to parent you. This is not your child's job. When I say manipulating you it's not negative, your child is learning how to operate in the world.

It would be helpful if you would take your child out to a playground and have a great day. Then sit down with a picnic and explain that moving has been hard on everyone. That while you may be sad, you have been sad before and you know that this is just temporary. You may even describe a time when you were sad because a class was too hard or someone took something from you. Then talk about how it worked out to be okay. Then be honest and say that there are times to talk about being sad and there are times when you need to teach your child how to behave.

It sound's like your child is very intelligent. Explain that when there are consequences to her misbehavior, it is not the time to talk about being sad. I personally do not believe in time outs for kids. I believe in time outs for toys - you throw a toy and the toy needs to be put up for an hour because the proper use of toys is not throwing them.

It also sounds like you're too invested in whether she's happy, sad, nervous, etc. These are her feelings to work out. In the middle of weeping may be the time to say ''I can see you're sad.'' It is not the best time to explore why she's sad. She needs space physical and psychic to learn to control her own emotions. Three year old feelings are huge.

In my experience three year olds cry a lot - it's like it lets off some steam or pressure. By the way they call it terrible 2s because it lasts for two years not because it's for two year olds. Mom of a Sensitive Daughter Also


What you are dealing with is one smart cookie. You did have a stressful move and certainly have a lot on your plate. Your 3 year old has figured out how to get you going and get the focus off her. My youngest (almost 4)started saying ''Don't be angry, Mommy!'' when I told him to do something he didn't want to do - put on his shoes, turn off the TV, etc. It would sound dramatic except whenever he would use this phrase, I was at my calmest moments. I then would tell him (trying not to laugh) ''I'm not angry, you just need to get your shoes''. When your daughter starts the ''be happy'' routine, I would just say, ''Mommy is happy, but you are having a time out now for stepping on the cat.'' Go into your most neutral voice and keep the discussion on the naughty behavior. Sometimes zen mama
Wow, what an amazingly effective manipulation your daughter has come up with.

Respond neutrally but firmly, sticking to the subject at hand: ''More important than making me happy is to make good decisions, such as not flinging the paint around the room or crossing the street without looking'' (or whatever the issue is).

Children use things because they know they can trigger us. Take away the trigger (even if you fake your neutrality), and the manipulation stops working and fizzles out. anon


Your daughter seems wonderfully sensitive, and I was sad when I read that your ''stern'' voice can make her cry. My son is only two and is thus less interpersonally aware than your daughter, but he is also easily influenced by my tone of voice.

Luckily you don't have to make her cry to teach her the difference between right and wrong! Have you read ''Unconditional Parenting''? It's a difficult book in some ways -- the author is against both bribes and punishment as child-rearing methods, so it's totally different from anything I'd ever read before. Basically, the author is against anything we as parents do that makes our children feel that our love for them is conditional upon their *behavior*. This means no ''love removal'' strategies such as time-outs, ignoring the child, or stern voices or spanking. Also, no ''bribery'' techniques like sticker charts, treats for good behavior, or saying ''Good job!''

The problem is supposed to be that your child will learn that you only love them when they're good. That's a lot of pressure. Sure, *we* know we love them all the time, but do *they* know it from our behavior? Some very convincing studies show that they do not.

Best of luck to you. Your daughter sounds like a remarkable little girl, and I hope you can nurture her gentle spirit. Trying out unconditionality


I'd say, 1) try to find something in your new home that you enjoy, and maybe try to discover some things with your 3 yr old. 2) Be straightforward when you discipline her. Don't ''reprimand'' her, just redirect her attention. Like, ''I'm sorry, honey, but you know we can't behave that way.'' and let her know what the consequences will be (toy on time out, her on time out) 3) and if you're weary, whatever, tell her you're weary and you're going to get more cranky with bad behavior on her part (and DO focus on the behavior, and tell her what behavior you want. Even model it for her-you'd be surprised. She may just mimic it right back for you!) 4) don't react to the ''I just want you to be happy'' thing. If my kid said that to me, I wouldn't have a reaction, probably because I don't feel that unhappy in my current situation. So even though you may not be there yet, take little steps to convince yourself on short-term intervals, that she's not telling you some sort of ''truth'' about wanting you to be happy, she's just saying what manages to work and get a reaction. You could even go so far as to say, ''happy has nothing to do with it. I just want you to stop throwing things.'' or whatever it is she's doing. Or say, ''I would feel very happy right now if you sat down and finished eating your dinner.'' Then show her that you're pleased when she's done it. She may need some postivie reinforcement. Oh, and if she pitches a fit, tell her that the consequences will get worse if she does that.Then she can retrain herself that pitchign a fit won't get what she wants. She's really doing as she's been trained, if you think about it, and it works because you've got a lot on your mind.
I found that reading 123 Magic was very helpful. Also when she wants something she can't have, try giving her something she can - water instead of juice - instead of just saying no. I find that no is not very effective for my kids - they need another thing to focus their energy on or they just dig in their heels and escalate. anon

Disciplining 3 and 5 year olds: which battles to fight?

June 2007

I eagerly read each reply to the Discipline 101 question as I feel I’ve gotten off track on some of the basics. There are 2 issues I’m hoping to get some guidance and perspective from experienced, been-there-done-that parents. I have a 5 ˝ y.o. boy & a 3 y.o girl.

One issue has to do with getting what I call “sassy” toward us and other adults. It happens most often when we’re disciplining them, making requests/setting limits, or just out of the blue when they’re feeling rambunctious. It’s gotten out of hand lately because they encourage eachother. I’ll say “time to go” and my son will stick out his tongue or say “ok pee pee.” Or he’ll imitate the question or say in a silly voice “no, I’m not doing it!” He’ll do what I say (I always follow through) but he’ll be sassy along the way. He’s quickly teaching my daughter. My sense is that this is totally unacceptable, partly because I’m absolutely not comfortable with it myself and partly because I am certain it won’t fly with other people. I’m asking you all because it’s become a big, frequent battle that’s straining our time together.

The other issue has to do with how rambunctious they get. We’re by no means the serious, children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard parents, but our kids are often the ones at parties that take it to the highest level of rowdy. Other kids seem to have a stopping point (they’ll be playing instruments and within a very short time they’ll be playing as loud as possible just for the sake of it) We’ll try to redirect them but it’s a matter of time before it gets high-energy. They do the same thing at home, getting so wound up at meals they forget about eating (we separate them now). They march through the house and within 2 minutes they’re running full speed so we’ll send them to the yard or playroom. We’ll burn energy at the park and they’ll still fall into it instantly at home. This is only a problem when the two of them are together.

It seems to me these two tendencies are like entertainment for them – pushing the limits to see how and when we’ll intervene. The fact that we’re not crystal clear on how to think about it is making things worse. So far they’ve been battles we’ve chosen to fight but there are so many gray areas so I’m hoping for some clear guidelines. Thank you! bugbees


Wow, I think it's great you posted about this. It sounds like a really difficult situation and one that needs addressing. My first thought (as far as the rambunctiosness goes) was to split them up a little more, if you can. It seems they're egging each other on. I know one mom whose kids always have quiet time during the day. Not to sleep; just to chill out, on their own in their own rooms. She says it mellows them out. The other is to get together with your partner and come up with a 'policy' regarding the sassing or talking back. Then inform the kids of the consequences and stick to it. That whole 'okay poo poo' and tongue sticking out is NOT OK!!! So, for example, maybe every single time he does it he needs to go sit down for a minute alone. Let him know that it's not nice, not appropriate, is not going to get him what he wants. Gold stars for days when he's polite and not rude? Only getting 'treats' for days when he's cooperative AND polite? I don't know, but I'm glad you're bringing it up, because it seems to me that kids who don't get any discipline are not kids I want to be around EVER! They get away with murder! It's a nightmare! So thank you for dealing with it! And I'm curious what other people have to say. I may need that advice someday, too. It's not enough to do what you say; their are rules of behaviour that need to be adhered to, as well. namastesf
The book ''1-2-3 Magic'' helps us a lot with this sort of thing. They start the sassing, then you start the count. THey know their time is up soon! Try it. anon
Hello concerned parent, I think it is so great that you are aware of these issues that are making life difficult for your family. If these behaviors are making you uncomfortable, then it is certainly time to address them with your children. I would not be afraid to set limits. Sounds to me like that's what your kids are looking for. ''How silly can I be before a parent helps me to settle down?'' I would decide with your partner what you expect from the kids and what you feel is really not okay. Then, I would talk to the kids separately, at a time when they are not silly, about why these behaviors are not working. Ask them why they think they get so silly and then talk with them about how to fix the problem. ie...''We have noticed that you and your sister/bro sometimes get so silly that it is not safe or comfortable for other people.'' Then pose the question, ''We are going to need to do something as a family to make this easier. Do you have any ideas?''. Then you can really brain storm together. Kids can sometimes come up with great and unexpected solutions to problems that involve them. Maybe they need a little quiet time. Maybe they need to you sit with them. Maybe they need to leave when an atmosphere is too unstructured. You might be able to find out by asking and then putting your adult heads together. A weekly family meeting run by the kids where you check in about what is working, plan meals and outings and address what's not working can be really great. Bottom line, do something now so that you don't continue to worry and so that you and your kids will be more at ease in social situations and at home. Good luck! teacher who loves kids
Hi, I hope that this can help. My daughter is only 6 months old so my advice is coming from eight years of experience as a 5th grade teacher at an inner city school in Richmond. I should also say that my sister and I ganged up on my mom when we were younger. Looking back on it, I realize how mean we were. At the time we thought that it was funny to upset our mom. She was never strict enough with us. Looking a child in the eye and telling them ''You many not talk to me with that voice.'' is powerful. It must be done in a calm but stern voice and only when there is clear eye contact. I think that you'll be much happier if your children learn that it is not acceptable for them to be rude to you. That's it. They may not talk back. I would work on this first so that they are clear about who is in charge. The next step it to work on behavior issues that you are not comfortable with. ''Positive Discipline'' helped me with teaching my students how to behave. We practiced appropriate behavior before going out on field trips, working in groups, lining up...it works and I never feel like I've been mean to my students. I'm in charge of the class, but I love them and don't want to mistreat them. good luck anon
These are two battles that you should definitely pick. It just gets worse as the kids get older and bigger if you don't nip it in the bud now. Sassiness is not tolerated in or outside of our house. If my kid sasses at me, the fun stops IMMEDIATELY. (Imagine the cartoon sound effect of a needle being picked up off a spinning LP record, complete with scratching sound.) I don't give ''warnings'' or ''second chances'' or rolled eyeballs ignoring sassy behavior. I calmly explain that his voice/attitude/behavior is not tolerated, and child gets placed in a time-out. If we're out at a store or somewhere, I take the child outside the store and stand him against a wall for a few minutes. After a few minutes, fun continues unless it happens again. With out-of-control behavior, my kids get a few ''warnings'' so they know what is within bounds and what is out-of-bounds and have a chance to correct their behavior, but after their second warning, THE FUN STOPS. I use the 1-2-3 magic approach with them and it works pretty well. Fun Parent, really
Short answer: Yes, those issues are worth correcting. How do you instill a child with a sense of respect towards others in all areas if you ignore those? How... oh, I feel for you! My child has certain friend who, when together, create the very same ''bad energy'' that drives us all crazy. But when it's siblings...!! Oy! I would try doing simple role-play, acting out with toys. Recreate a very recent scenario. Show how rude, sassy, talking back from Teddy makes Dinosaur feel sad and frustrated because Dinosaur thinks Teddy isn't listening to her and is being mean. It isn't respectful behavior. Tell them what respect is and why it's important. Then demonstrate the RIGHT way for Teddy to behave in the same situation. Then have your child act out the scenario - to make sure they understand it, to allow them to show they know how to do it right. Then lots of PRAISE. And when it happens in real life, you can remind your child calmly and firmly (without anger or pleading) ''Now, you know that's not the right way to respond - try it again'' And then very SPECIFIC PRAISE them when they get it right, especially when they get it right without reminding them! (''I really liked how you listened and answered when it was time to go - you were so helpful and it made me feel good that you listened to me. Thank you!'') I would try something similar for the overly-rambuctioness behavior too. Tell them how respect also includes other peoples things, ears, and ''personal space'' and how it's important to know how and when to ''turn it down''. Maybe work out a signal - ''When I point my thumb down, that means use your indoor voice and stop jumping'' But in the end, good ol' sibling rivalry, emulation, and imitation will work in your favor. Big bro will love to show lil sis the right way (and correct her) and she'll want to do what he does, especially if it gets her praise. And she'll be happy to tell on him when he gets it wrong... Mom of Two
Addition to my post suggesting role play. Forgot to add: When bad behavior happens again in real life and you give the chance to do it right... and then child STILL does it wrong (because they will!) You can say (with moderate anger) ''No - try again'' (short and to the point). Still no success, then ''You didn't do the right thing. There will be a consequence'' (which you need to discuss during role play, otherwise everyone is unprepared). So, whatever will have the most immediate possible resonance - if at home, a time out or loss of privledge or toy gets put away for set period time. If in public and probably with other child, then you have to keep a step ahead to what's actually feasible. I've given my child a time out in a corner of a grocery store, or had one in the car while I stood outside with the other (can be tricky!), or cut short something even if it's inconvenient. Mom of Two
This definitely happens at my house. Two resources that helped me were the books ''Between Parent and Child'' and ''How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk''. When my daughter sasses, I tell her I don't like it, it's not respectful and I expect her to respect me. I tell her I'm in charge, I make the decisions but I like to hear her ideas if she can share them with me using her regular voice. If she won't share ideas respectfully, my decision is the one that happens. Also I tell her that I can tell by the way she is talking that she feels____ but I expect her behavior to be ____ and if she can't do ___ by herself, I will make it easy for her or follow with a natural consequence. For example I say it's time to go to school and she says somthing disrespectful/ly I say, ''Im sorry you feel frustrated but if we don't go now I can't get/do ___. Decide what you want, fighting with me or ___. If they cant decide I say,'' OK you didn't pick so ___ will happen. Make a better choice next time. '' Also, getting myself enough rest, good food and down time make it way way easier to follow through on this method. hope this helps

Daughter, 4, laughs when I discipline her!

June 2006

Help! Our nearly four year old daughter has had a personality change. First, I should note that we have consistently had a challenge with hitting (me and my husband) that we've had a hard time nipping in the bud. We were having some success, but then the problem returned after she spent a week at grandma's. She has started ignoring us when we talk to her, refusing to do basics like getting dressed, and hitting and kicking. The really tough part that is new is that any trips to the time out have turned into laughing fits on her part. She thinks it is hilarious to kick and hit all the way to the corner, run out repeatedly. Time outs seems to make things worse. It's all a game at this point. I am at my wits end about what to do. I admit that I've resorted to a swat or two, which seems completely ineffective. I've tried toy confiscation with some success. Please help! bewildered mom


Welcome to four!

It sounds like your daughter is getting a jump start on the fours.

People warn you about 2 and its difficulties, no one says anything about the joys of a four-year old! Four is 'two with attitude.' Four was really tough for me with my first son because I was wondering where my sweet little boy went. My son has always had a temper, but never long crazy temper-tantrum without end. So when the troubles of four arrived, I just didn't know what to do! I thought I was a total failure as a parent when nothing worked--not even time out. Potty talk was a big thing with my kid--and this really bugged me! So what worked?

Realizing that this was just a phase--my son did outgrow it and is now a five year old who is mostly polite and doesn't like to be 'in trouble.' Knowing that this was a normal part of the preschooler trying to control his world helped A LOT.

Using timers and other things as the rule enforcer, not me or my husband. If he wouldn't pick up his toys or something I would set the timer--if the requested actin or behavior wasn't accomplished by the time it buzzed, the toys would be mine or something else would happen--he would go straight to bed or whatever. Usually just the action of setting the time would help!

Hitting and biting are hard. My son wasn't really big into this but I think I would just make my hand flat (like with horses and dogs) and block myself with the flat hand so he couldn't bite me--there was so 'part' sticking out that he could sink those sharp little teeth into. I would say once ''we don't bite/hit'' in a really freaky boring definite tone (sharp tone?) and then, ignore him. I explained to him that I wasn't going to give him negative attention, (when the drama was over) and would just leave the room or get away from him until he was nice again. four is difficult!


First, I would definitely take hitting out of your discipline toolbox. Your child is testing you and determining what is/is not appropriate behavior. If you hit her for hitting, you are sending an extremely confusing message.

When my 4-year-old behaves aggressively, it usually is because one of his needs is unmet. Sometimes, he is tired or hungry or scared. Other times, it just means that he needs attention (something all human beings crave). Have you tried sitting down with her and re-connecting with her when she acts like this? It sounds simple but works wonders with my little guy. I ask him what is going on and what he is feeling when he acts like that. Then, I respond to THAT. Not the misbehavior but the feelings underlying it.

Another recommendation I have is to check out motheringdotcommune, an online message board. Their gentle- discipline forum is chalk-full of amazing, insightful and, above all, respectful and gentle discipline techniques. I have learned so much there.

Four can be a challenging age, for sure. Hang in there and resolve to teach your child non-violently and respectfully. You can do it! Gentle Discipliner


Yes, it's complicated, especially because your child's laughter is likely to push your buttons and make you angry. I highly recommend watching the DVD or video version of, ''1-2-3 Magic - Managing difficult Behavior in Children 2-12 (1990)''. There's also a book by the same name, but watching the video allows you to adopt the techniques immediately. This video was recommended to us by the parents of twins, and we have seen it recommended on many parent websites. Very helpful good luck
Hi there, You may want to seek counseling. Seeing a counselor does not mean that there is necessarily anything deeply wrong with your child or family. But someone who is an expert on toddlers would best know how to deal with certain behaviors when parents are at a loss anon

Disciplining a very contrary 3-year-old

September 2003

My strong willed (and somewhat ''spoiled'' - my mom's word) 3 1/2 year old is disobedient. He is very contrary and likes to challenge my authority. He is especially challenging in public -- sometimes he'll just lie down if he doesn't get his way -- it can be embarrassing, he also stands on furniture at someone's house and won't get down unless I drag him or he will not leave a playground or something he really enjoys without me begging him and pleading and promising a treat (these are not frequent occurences but they do happen sometimes). He is aggressive with other children and has a hard time refraining from pushing them (on a bad day). He finds ways of controlling us through tears, pouting, etc. I am beginning to think that he truly needs an occasional spanking (believe me I've tried the gentler methods but they don't work i.e., positive reinforcement, warnings, threats,). Recently I've given him a hand spank on the bottom (after several warnings), he sometimes laughs and pretends to spank himself. If I give him a harder spank he will settle down and obey. I hate the thought of spanking and have been philosophically opposed to it (plus it just seems politically incorrect) but frankly the talking doesn't seem effective. I feel he is a little out of hand and wild. I know he needs more discipline, I just don't know of other options. Any suggestions would be helpful. He is also resentful about the divorce I am going through and the attention that his sibling is receiving (who is younger). Thanks. dawn


Gosh, your son sounds just like mine. My son is wonderful, sensitive and smart. Until recently, he has also periodically been insistent on his way, laying on the floor pounding his fists and screaming in public, unaffectionate, unsocial and generally disrespectful.

My husband and I decided we had had enough and agreed on a non- tolerance policy in our house for bad manners and rude behavior. We explained to our son that we absolutely were not going to tolerate the behavior any more. We explained in detail what bad manners looks like. We also gave him examples of alternative good manners. We explained that bad manners require some punishment, like putting away his Legos for a period of time.

When he heard all this he was not happy and began crying and being disrespectful to his dad. I felt strongly that we should not physically abandon him or treat him as if he was bad, we kept focusing on the behavior. I held him as he sobbed. I explained that he needed to tell his father he was sorry. He refused. I explained there would be consequences. He told me to put his Legos away. This went on for a while with me alternately trying to arouse some sympathy in him or threatening to put away more toys. After nearly 2 hours (this took real commitment on our part) I told him I was going to pack up all his books (his favorite things). He screamed for me not to. I gave him one more chance to apologize and he did! Quite honestly, I don?t know what I would have done if the books had not compelled him to comply.

Immediately, and for about 3 weeks now, he has seemed like a new child. He is outgoing, he greets his friends with a ?Hello? and a hug. He hugs and kisses my husband and me. He is happier than I?ve ever seen him. He talks and sings more. He asks if this or that is good manners. When I point out that something that he is doing is bad manners, he usually stops. We still have our moments, but I?d say they have diminished by at least 90%. I?m shocked at the transformation and wonder if he also achieved some developmental milestone. But in the end, I believe that he now understands his boundaries in feels more secure and therefore happier. It is also much easier and more pleasant to be with him, so I am happier, less tired and a more fun parent.

I can?t speak to your separation from your husband. However, I can see that having these boundaries and having had this discussion with our son allows him a context within which to discuss his feelings and how these feelings are connected to his behavior.

Best wishes, Been There


First of all - I can totally relate. What I have found really helps is: DON'T EVER GIVE IN TO A TANTRUM. Dr. Phil (I know...) was discussing behavior problems in toddlers and he pointed out that if you give in when they are having a tantrum, you really are rewarding the behavior. I think I had heard that before - but this time it just totally clicked. Before, I think I gave in a lot of times when the issue wasn't a big deal (Oh, OK, you can have one more bite of cookie). But now, as soon as he starts yelling and crying and acting up -- there is NO WAY I give in. I just calmly ignore him or walk away. He is way better now and rarely throws tantrum. Basically you just need to set limits and stick to them. You might want to read Positive Discipline -- it is really good. There was also an interesting article in the Chronicle on Sunday regarding raising children who are respectful: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi- bin/article.cgifile=/chronicle/archive/2003/08/31/CM221694.DTL Good luck! Katherine
You're right -- warnings and threats don't work. Making good on warnings and threats does work. I'm opposed to spanking not just because it seems like it conveys the opposite message we usually want to teach children (don't hit) but also because it doesn't teach anything other than might makes right. If you're trying to create a civilized, polite, considerate child there are better ways. All three year olds are sometimes disobedient, and sometimes contrary, and they are more that way when they're tired or hungry. But I've noticed that 3 is only an awful age when parents didn't fight the tough discipline battles at age 2. And if you don't fight them at 3, 4 will be even worse. So -- here's my advice. First, if you think the problem is being tired or hungry, etc., make sure to get him some food or a nap before things get out of hand. There's nothing that feels more pointless than fighting a discipline battle that could have been prevented with a few crackers. Second, choose logical consequences. Time outs are good for out-of-control behavior and hitting -- things where the logical consequences are that you don't get to be around other people because you are too unpleasant. Leave the park or other fun place if he acts out there. If the problem is that he puts up a fuss about leaving, then tell him he will sacrifice some other fun thing at home -- a favorite treat, etc. Be strict. Set limits, keep them, no exception. If the rule is no feet on the couch at your friend's house, you say, ''We don't put our feet on the couch.'' If that doesn't get a response you say, ''Feet off, the couch, now.'' Then you pick him up and take him off the couch. If he fights, flails, or gets back onthe couch, you say ''If you can't follow the rules of the house, you can't be in the house.'' Then you take him home. The important thing with all of this is not to be angry or punitive, just firm and calm and consistent. No arguments, no negotiations, just do it. Remember kids love limits and they love predictability. He doesn't want to win this fight. nelly
Hi. You know, I think you saved the most important part of your post for the end...the divorce. Children often act out their frustrations in ways that defy grown up logic. You may try discussing this with your pediatrician, because s/he may have an idea if a play therapist might be in order. That being said, I feel for you. My niece was the same way, and my 3 year old son will test me far more than his father. But, what I learned is pretty basic (that doesn't mean easy! It comes down to routine, preparation and swift action. It's retraining for both of you. You prepare him in a way thats almost mantra-like.. ''If you do (behavior like throwing toys, etc), this (consequence, leave the playground etc.) will happen'' 20, 30 times before you go somewhere. Then remind him on the spot. Then if he does the behavior, the consequence must happen IMMEDIATELY! No turning back, no matter what tears ensue, and you must do this everytime, no matter how inconvienient it may be(and I must add, I dont believe in spanking, so that is not an option here). He is beyond old enough to know what he can get away with, and if you give in, you have just taught him he can do the bad behavior. The hard part for you will be the consistency, but the benefits will be enormous, and you will be teaching your youngest the rules early on. Good Luck!! Lisa
I think the key sentences in your posting were, ''He finds ways of controlling us through tears, pouting, etc.'' and ''He is also resentful about the divorce I am going through and the attention that his sibling is receiving.''

Those are big issues. Toddlers need to know that you're in charge because if mommy isn't, who is? They test boundaries because that's the only way for them to figure out what the boundaries are. It sounds like your authority has been undermined for him and he's looking for just who is in charge.

My advice: If he's controlling you it's because you're letting him do so. You're the parent - be patient, be loving, be intolerant of inappropriate behavior. It's tough sometimes but caving into his demands now will undermine his coping skills and cause greater problems later. anon


We've been going through very similar stuff - in fact, I've posted similar queries. I'm reading all the books that have been recommended and have gleaned some truly useful stuff. If your son attends pre-school, I would also ask for advice from the teachers.

Two things I've actually done that seemed to ''help'' - during my son's screaming tantrums in his room, when closing the doors only increased the volume, I went in his room and screamed with him. I told him his screaming was making me so upset I needed to scream too. I also showed him how to hit his pillow to release more frustration. It worked for me and surprised him so much he stopped and we were able to talk about the whole thing calmly. The next time he had a regular old ''You can't make me, I don't want to'' tantrum, I copied him - got on the floor and repeated what he said and did. Again, he stopped dead and stared at me and tried his hardest not to smile. And then we talked a lot more calmly.

Obviously these are not methods to do in public (well, might be less embarrassing than hitting...), but it sure helps to release that scary tension and anxiety over what to possibly do next to get the bad behavior to stop. But sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do - and I'd rather laugh than cry in retrospect over something I did in public.
Another Worn Out Mom


The problem with punishment is that you are forced to rely on more and more punitive methods to get a response. Well, that's not the only problem but it is a big one.

He does not need a spanking - he needs to connect with you. Kids do not want to make their parent's lives a living hell - that is our adult bias - they really simply want to please us and they can't act ''better'' unless they feel good.

Have you read ''Kids Are Worth It''? I would heartily recommend it as an introduction to why punishment doesn't work. Then I'd move on to other books with specific tools ''Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline'' comes to mind.

Positive parenting is not about getting kids to mind and making immediate behaviour changes; it is about instilling a good sense of self esteem and internal behaviour modification. Kathy


I'm not a child therapist but it seems your son is going through a lot between a divorce, a new sibling and potentialy starting preschool again... his ''mis-behavior'' could be a sign that he needs some time with you alone. Maybe it would be a good idea to put some time aside to do what he wants to do just with you. Read, play, cuddle... Also the book ''Becoming the parent you want to be'' might be of some help. It greatly helped me become the parent I wanted and still want to be. m

Bad behavior escalates with discipline! (4-year-old)

August 2003

As we navigate the waters of parenting with our 4 year old, gleaning advice from multiple sources, trying to find the healthiest, sanest, most sensible methods for dealing with the difficult moments, my partner and I too often find ourselves in a blind corner that I have yet to read about.

Here's the scenario: Child does something bad (i.e. hits sibling, or runs away in public, or won't get ready for bed). Parent sets limits and explains appropriate consequences (calmly, firmly - i.e. time out or removal from scene or no reading). Child repeats bad thing. Parent acts appropriately. But THEN child responds with behavior that is WORSE than the original offense.

What then? It becomes a different issue at that point. How do you teach a pre-schooler that if they have to deal with consequences, and the response to the the pre-explained consequence is NOT screaming, throwing toys, hitting parent, etc? How do you do a time out on top of a time out? Leave the park and leave...again?? Not read and... not read?

We have found ourselves in this situation too many times now, and that's where we always find the yelling and sometimes ludicrous stuff (''Fine, I'll remove ALL your toys!!) and sometimes scary stuff (grabbing, threats) starts. We try and anticipate, take that deeper breath, dig deep for our emergency reserves... but usually we're exhausted in every way.

Help!! What book, seminar, advice deals with that? Need your tips and tricks, please! Exhausted


I read and enjoyed ''How to behave so your preschooler will too'' by the same author of ''How to behave to your child will too.'' This one is meant for parents of 2-5 year olds and it gave me a lot of ideas. He explains WHY preschoolers do what they do and gives ideas for discipline. Other books didn't explain WHY is such a rational way, so this was the most helpful book for me. fellow mom of a preschooler
The first thing you have to do is find your child's form of currency--- What are your child's favorite things to do? My child loves dress up cloths sweets and pbs cartoons. Then when they act inappropriatly, you have to tell them calmly that if they ''choose'' to behave badly, then they are choosing to lose one or more of their priveleges. When they act up, take away positive attention, this means ignore them, go about your business for a few minutes and then calmly return your attention (this was the actual intention of a ''time out'', it was not a chair or a timed sentance). I tell my child to go to her room untill she is ready to behave (she is used to this by now, because when she was little I would take her there myself). When she is calm I ask her if it was O.K. to behave in that way, she'll say no and I will tell her that her behavior has a consequence, and by now she knows this, so I will make her choose which one of her favorite activities she will lose. I also make sure to give her plenty of positive attention when she behaves, ''thank you for using your manners'', ''what a sweet little girl you are being'', etc.

Consistency seems to be the most important thing--- Never give in to crying for things, or they will never stop.

I wish you lots of luck! anon


there's a great book called ''positive discipline'' by jane nelson. i have read and re-read it because sometimes, i need to refresh my memory. good luck!
I have had similar problems with my 3-y-o son, and look forward to other advice that you will get. But here's what I do. Frequently my son will react very badly to discipline, and will start to push his bad behavior. I view it as his anger and frustration, first because something's already out of balance to cause the bad behavior, and second because he's having liberties curtailed as a consequence to his bad behavior. I say to him,'' I know you're frustrated and angry, but the way your are behaving is not okay. You need to take a break (I don't like ''time-outs'') and clear your head a little.'' I try not to punish his emotions, but to make clear that his behavior needs to change. I also try to make clear that he had a choice as to how to behave, and will be able to make the right choice when he has calmed down. Anyway, it's hard, and hard not to get angry myself. But I find when i keep my emotions clear he tends to get clear more quickly, too. Good luck with it. in the trenches too
We struggled with the same exhausting discipline problems when pediatrician recommended the video ''1-2-3'' Magic: Managing Difficult Behavior in 2-12 Year Olds'' (also available as a book). We bought it on Amazon.com for about $27, but I know Kaiser shows it to the public regularly. Our whole family watched the tape and we started using the 1-2-3 method, and instantly things got better. The author really knows what we're up against as parents, explains why *just* counting to three doesn't work (it's because we get too emotional and talk too much), and gives you practical ways to give consequences in the car, in the grocery store, with grandparents, when the child is destructive, when the child won't stay in the time out -- you name it, he anticipates it. We've eliminated the yelling and frustration, and our four-year-old has actually thanked us. We almost never get to three anymore. We enjoy him once again! Good luck. anon
You are experiencing power struggles and you will be exhausted long before your child will be at this. Your child is upping the ante with each misbehavior, so more punishment (without changing other things) is just egging him on. A short and concise book I found *very* helpful is ''Food Fights and Bedtime Battles: A Working Parents Guide to Negotiating Daily Power Struggles'' by Tim Jordan. It is relevant for all parents, not just working parents. He explains what is going on from both your and your child's perspectives and gives both general and specific advice on what you can do to get out of the struggle and ultimately make life more enjoyable for all. I got my copy at Cody's on a day I felt particularly exhausted by my 23-month old's new ''disagreeableness'', and I found pretty quick relief for the new power struggles we were in (now we've moved on to new ones, of course, but we don't get stuck in the same old one, which bodes well, the author says, for dealing with the teenage years !). anon
What you're describing sounds like what might be termed a ''strong willed'' child. Have you read the book ''Setting LImits with your Strong-Willed Child'' by Robert MacKenzie or ''Parenting te Strong-Willed Child'' by Rex Forehand? They talk about power struggles and the ''dance'' between parent and child, particularly when the parent and child have incompatible temperaments. Good luck!

Not Spanking - What else to do? (2.5 year old)

January 2003

My husband and I want very much not to spank or hit our 2 1/2 year old daughter. But lately that is proving harder and harder. She has been becoming increasingly moody, whiney and clingy since early last month, I guess. For the past week, though, she's been at her worst thus far. She gets angry for seemingly no reason, shouts at whoever is around, runs away, hits things, herself or me, throws thing and slams her bedroom door. She's also gotten very good at ignoring us, me, her mother, especially.

Example: I tried to check her diaper for poop this morning to which she told me, ''Alone!'' (leave me alone), then went over to the computer and put her finger up to push the on/off button. I immediately told her no and not to do that, but she did anyway. I wanted so much at that moment to spank her butt! But I held back and just yelled NO and I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT at her instead. Of course she got upset and ran away from me.

I honestly don't know what to do to discipline or punish her. Time outs are almost fruitless because I have to physically make her stay wherever it is I'm trying to give her a time out, so she's just whining and squirming to get away. When she did something else naughty after turning off the computer, I stopped the video she was watching for a while. Taking something away is the only thing I've been able to come up with, besides my instant urge to whack her backside.

can anyone out there relate to this behavior and shed some light on the whys and hows to deal with it properly? Sometimes I feel like I'm doing everything wrong, like she wouldn't behave so badly if I were a better mother. I hate that feeling more than anything! Also, we're going to visit my Mother-in-Law this month and I so don't want them to think she's the devil's child!

Thanks, Jennifer


What helped me was research that showed that spanking doesn't improve behavior, and tends to lead to more spanking -- most people who spank small kids do so very often, more than once a week (and I can't quite remember the data, but I think it was even more than once a day.) I can understand how that would happen because in the course of the day a little kid repeatedly tests the limits. What I try to do is remind myself that I'm teaching behavior, and to think through how I want to do that. I've reserved time-outs for times when my child has actually hurt someone. At 2-1/2 we had a problem with her hitting me, and I would just put her in her room for a minute or two, and then talk to her about not hurting. If she misuses something I put it away for a little while -- a few hours or a day. Keep in mind that her job is to test limits, and your job is to set limits -- setting limits is different than punishing, it's doing things like moving your child when they touch the computer and you don't want them to. (Sometimes I think the reason they stay small for such a long time, is so that we can continue to carry them during the period of time before they are rational.) Good luck, and don't let your mother-in-law dictate your parenting. anon
First of all, I don't believe there are any devil children. Second, at 2.5, your child is right in the midst of a stage in testing limits, expanding her horizons, and taking charge of herself. Thus the behavior of wanting to try the computer, and not wanting to have her diaper changed. Third, you are not a bad mother; it just sound like you are overwhelmed right now.

Trying to discipline a two year old is something different from disciplining an older child. I don't believe spanking is ever appropriate. In fact, I think it would make things worse, for you and your child.

Try calling your pediatrician for advice first. That way, you might feel more connected to another important person in the child's life, and it would give YOU some support, too.

Then, I would suggest reading some information about toddlers' developmental process first, and then books about discipline. I like T. Barry Brazelton and the Sears folks on both. They seem to have a good balance, that the parent needs to set limits, but also that the limits aren't going to work if they aren't appropriate to the child's developmental stage.

Finally, it sounds like you need a break. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, too, so that you can give to the child what she needs at this dynamic and exciting stage in her life. anon.


Don't fear! We have all been there! Here is what I have done and what seems to work well:

1. Don't take yourself so seriously. With my first child, I needed to do everything ''right'' and she had to be ''good.'' With my second child, I learned to lighten up a bit and relax. Relax! It's okay.

2. Try making ''discipline'' a game. For example, you mention the diaper incident. One thing that really works with my kids is to tell them, ''Whatever you do, DON'T let me change your diaper!'' Kids love this. When she comes over to you, say something like, ''Okay, I'm going to hug you, but I am NOT going to change your diaper! No way!'' Smile as you are doing this, so she knows you are teasing. Even as she lets you change her diaper, keep saying things like, ''Boy, I am sure glad Lizzy doesn't have a poopie diaper! I am sure glad Lizzy doesn't want me to change her diaper!'' You can even pretend that you don't know where she is, even as you are changing her. ''Hmmm, I wonder where Lizzy is? She must be hiding!'' After you have finished, seem surprised that you have changed her diaper and say something like, ''Hey! What are you doing here?'' and add a tickle.

3. I try to remember to remove the object or remove the child, rather than trying to get the child to remember that she is not supposed to touch something. Remember, just because you said that she could not touch the computer yesterday does not mean that is true for today. Can you put a chair in front of the computer? Tape? A piece of fabric? I would try to not make a big deal about it, and simply pick her up, give her a kiss, and say something like, ''Oh, remember, only mommy can touch the computer. You can touch the T.V. changer/mommy's purse/the vaccum'' and so on. Then move on and offer to read her a book or something. I think it helps to tell kids what they CAN do, rather than what they cannot do. Or, tell them what kind of behavior you WANT, rather than what you don't want.

4. Since I am signing this without my name, I will add that my second child is a lot nicer to be around and easy going than my first. I can't help but think that it is because I am so much nicer to the second one. I am more relaxed, more understanding, less rigid, and so on with the second one. I use gentle reminders, such as, ''remember, we must speak nicely to each other'' or ''Oh, I don't like that voice you are using to speak to me. Would you like to try again?'' If she says no, I do not get mad, I simply say, ''Okay. I will listen to you when you are ready,'' to which she always replies, ''Okay, I am ready now!'' I have NEVER spanked the 3 1/2 year old, and the few times I have swatted the seven year old have felt horrible. It has not helped, I have felt totally depressed, and he looks devestated. It is not worth it, and it does not work. I think hugs and kisses work a lot better; it is just remembering to do it!

Good luck. And brace yourself: Age three is more challenging than age two! Been there, too


There is good advice on this subject and all related to discipline in the Sears' book ''The Discipline Book''. Pam
I've recently been discussing this with my husband--he is anti- spanking, while I think it's not quite the road to ruin that people make it out to be. I think there are times when it is the only effective way to enforce good behavior--for example, when you are in the car on the way to grandma's and the child is deliberately poking the younger sibling against your express command. There are no privileges to take away right then, and removing toys or activities would only make the situation worse. Can't do a time out. Turning around and not going to grandma's mainly hurts grandma.

That said, according to my husband's wishes we are not spanking. The main reason I am going along with this is that I recognize in myself that some of my urge to spank is anger and frustration, and I don't want to be hitting my child out of anger. We also agree he is going through an important stage right now (almost 3), where he is trying to be more independent, and is dealing with a new sibling. My husband thinks if we can get through this stage without spanking, we'll all the better for it, and will have taught him important lessons.

My advice would be, if you think there are no other better alternatives in certain kinds of discipline situations (that you have thought out in advance, like the one I described above), and when you find yourselves in that situation you can react calmly and without anger and give a warning (as in, ''If you do that again, I'm going to spank you''), I think you could spank with impunity.

Anonymous, of course, in this day and age!


This such a very trying age, and you are in the heat of it. It sounds like you have an active toddler, you're probably a bit tired yourself, and may be trying to actually get something done when you're with her. All a challenge. But please don't spank. It's a downward spiral. Your daughter is trying to understand her own limits and independence, and the first way kids do that is to test their parents. She actually may be resentful if you're trying to get work done, and she knows just which buttons to push (literally and figuratively). I think everyone goes through it, and few talk about it. Ultimately, your kids will model your behavior and you may just be teaching her that hitting is how you resolve things (which gets to be a problem when they get to school). Sometimes you just have to fake the behaviour you want to teach (and at the first free chance, go scream into a pillow or when you're driving alone in the car.) Some suggestions: There are great books on this-- my favorite was the Discipline Book by Sears. You might try giving her ''quiet time'', saying to her ''It's not ok for you to do XYZ. It does ABC (messes up your computer work) and it makes me very angry and frustrated. When you do that, I have to spend time fixing it and that takes time away from playing with you. You will need to sit down for X minutes and have some quiet time.'' Try to make this more of a cooling off period (for both of you) than a punishment. People say the no. of minutes should equal the number of years of age--and make her do something totally BORING for that time, but let her know when the time is up. A kitchen timer is pretty effective--since she can watch it tick and knows she's free when the bell goes off. A friend whose parenting I really admire told me this trick, saying you've got to be rather nonchalant and make it a really boring event for them--part of what they love at this age is that it's their first opportunity to control YOU (and they're oh so good at it) which she successfully does by getting you worked up and upset. Taking the drama away is half the battle. As to your mother in law, you may just want to call her in advance to tell her not to be alarmed, but you've got a two year old, and the types of behavior she's been exhibiting. You may want to tell her what you and your husband are trying to do about it so she gets it (rather than contradicts it). Maybe she'll be able to relate and offer advice-- if she's not that kind, don't worry about what she thinks. What's important is your daughter and her development (and your sanity). been there
My daughter is also 2.5 so I know this behavior well. After being consistent in my reaction to her behavior, she has really not done the same thing more than once. I also do not want to spank her, but have a couple of times when she has acted deliberately (such as grabbing and throwing my glasses after my repeated requests to have them back). I never spank or give her a timeout or take away toy when her behavior is due to being tired or hungry.

I try to be consistent in reacting to her behavior, and try to keep that consistent with how she is expected to behave at preschool (you did not mention if your daughter goes to school, but I think this makes a huge difference in learning consistent behavior and communication and social skills). After the throwing-my-glasses incident, she is always polite when she asks to hold my glasses and gives them back as soon as I ask for them. She has gotten timeouts for hitting her brother and for slamming doors. She took her timeout in her stroller, parked on the side of the couch. For spitting or throwing food, I took the food away. For hitting a teacher at preschool, she had a timeout at school and was not allowed to play with her dolls at home that evening.

Basically I think she is at a testing stage. She learns that whatever action is not acceptable and she doesn't do it again. I make sure she knows exactly what she did to receive the punishment. I remind her that she must have good manners if she wants to do whatever (go to a restaurant, park, etc).

I think kids will keep testing if there are no consequences, and kids want to know their boundaries. If they have no clear boundaries they will keep pushing. anon


You are not alone!!! I have struggled with trying not to spank my 5 year old. I have been successful for the most part but it is really hard at times. The books I have found most helpful are the Positive Discipline series by Jane Nelson (I think). There is also a local woman who teaches classes based on these books named Barbara. Her classes have been listed in the PN announcments. I have heard they are excellent, though expensive which is why I have not taken them yet. Most important, don't ''beat yourself'' up. It is great you are asking for help and making a conscious decision not to spank. And if you do end up giving her a swat at some point, it is not the end of the world (though people may think it is!). Good luck. I will be reading responses to your post for myself, as well. anon
We have a child the same age as yours and use time outs. He won't stay put either, so we use a baby gate on his bedroom door or another room (upstairs guest room when we are upstairs) to enforce ''time outs.'' Holding an angry toddler only seems to enrage them more and not give them space to calm down in. The rule I read is ''one minute per year of age.'' Lately we warn him, and then give him the time out if he continues to disobey or misbehave and frankly after a few time outs, just saying ''do you want a time out?'' is enough to dissuade him almost every time. When out in public like at parks etc, I take the stroller and use it as a time out place if he misbehaves there. I have also used the car when I am coming or going and he fights me getting in or out etc (meaning I stand next to the car outside of it while he screams inside for a few minutes.) After particularly bad tantrums (when very overtired) he will now say ''all done,'' when I have asked him to calm down and told him he can't come out until he stops screaming etc. It's just a tough age, but you have to do something for their own learning and your own sanity. A lot of tantrums seem to result from frustration and separating the child from the cause of the frustration seems to help much more than shouting and hitting, which probably just adds to the frustration for both of you. Cheryl
Needless to say this is all my personal opinion and I'm no expert. I have no idea what will work for you, but I can tell you what worked for us.

Our son, who is 5 now, gave us a real run for our money at about 2.5. A couple of times he drove me absolutely up a wall. One time I did spank him, even though my wife and I agreed that we weren't going to. A couple of other times I wound up picking him up and being (what I felt later) as being too rough. It wasn't that I physically hurt him, but I realized later that an accident could have easily occurred and he could have been injured.

The time I spanked him - and almost all the other times when things got out of hand - he thought it was a game (which made me even more angry). Here's where we went:

Time Outs - this was very bad in the beginning. We would put him in time out and he just wouldn't go. Finally we resorted to physically pinning him to the bed. A couple of times we closed the doors to his room and my wife and I had to hold the doors closed (two different doors) while he banged and screamed on the other side. He is quite physical and a couple of times my wife simply couldn't handle him. More than once I had to lie on top of him to get him to stop fighting. Since then the need for time- outs has diminished and they are never so physical. When he's resistant to time-outs we have resorted to:

No More Videos - one day, quite by accident, I threatened to throw out all of his videos if he didn't cooperate (he's allowed 1/2 hour per day). This has worked like a charm. It's like kryptonite. Once or twice early on I have had to put all the videos in a paper bag and take them out on to the porch and threatened to throw them away. Now we often hold the priveldge of watching video over his head if he is not being cooperative. We seldom have had to threaten to throw them away. This has been VERY successful and I'm surprised how well it still works.

My rules for myself are the following -

1) If I feel like I'm getting too angry I don't do anything physical - it's just too risky - physically and psychologicaly. If I feel like I'm in control (which doesn't mean I'm not angry) then I will pick him up and put him on his bed. We don't have to ''sit on him'' anymore or threaten to do so - We only had to do this a couple of times so that he got the picture. And most importantly - the pinning him down was always controled and never felt dangerous. I will tag team my wife (or she me) if things are getting too wild.

2) I require my wife to take an active role in this sort of discipline. It just seems to make sense so that he doesn't associate this behaviour with just me as the father. She is totally supportive and we are in total agreement about the way to handle him.

3) I followed up each unpleasant episode (and any of this kind of physicality was unpleasant) with a conversation with my son. For the few times that I had felt like things were getting out of control I appoligized to him. I will explain to him in clear and simple terms that his behaviour can't be tolerated and that I don't like to get physical, and that I would rather talk to him if things are going south.

It's about setting limits and the video thing proves this to me. The threat to thow away the videos is not why he's stopping. It's because he knows that this is the limit, he's reached it, and he doesn't want to go any further. (I can't wait to see what happens when he really tests that limit :) ).

Spanking didn't work at all with him - he thought it was funny, and there was no way I was going to up the ante - too scary.

The pinning him down was very effective, and very unpleasant (to us - he seemed to recover quite quickly). I want to re-iterate that this was done carefully, I was angry sometimes, but very much in control of the anger, we only had to do this a handful of times (enough that he knew we were serious).

My father chased me around with a belt a couple of times. My mother did the ''Wait till your father gets home'' thing a few times. These were very unpleasant episodes which really hurt my relationship with both of them.

So in closing (I didn't mean for this to be so long). I think you have to engage - that's what they want, locking yourself in your room to wait it out is not a good option (in my opinion). You have to set limits - that's what they want. If they want to get physical, you'll have little choice but to get physical as well - but be very careful, don't be angry and remember that you weigh a lot more than they do. If you have the luxury of tag- teaming with your mate, that works well too. There have been plenty of instances where my wife was on the recieving end and she called me in because she was just going to blow and I was able to come in cooly and calmly and apply the right amount of force for the right reasons. She has done the same for me.

If it gets to be too much I would seek professional advice quickly.

Good luck, dan


i would highly recommend the book called positive discipline. i found it to be very helpful. there are no easy answers. it takes time for you to learn how to use new discipine techniques and it takes time for the children to test these techniques. things do get better. suzie
Get ''Children--The Challenge'', by Rudolph Dreikurs. I can't praise it highly enough. I've recommended it many times to this list over the years, and someone else did also, within the last few months. I am currently rereading it for about the 5th time and always find something useful that I've forgotten. Dreikurs was a child psychiatrist who is full of common sense, as well. The book was written in the early 60's and could say more about modern technical distractions such as TV and video games, but don't let its 60-ish air put you off. Fran
I've responded once already but decided I have more to add. Usually when my daughter gets out of control it is because she is tired or hungry. Instead of telling her no or stop, I try to be calm and say, let's have some quiet time or let's have some cereal. Regarding the computer (camera, TV, etc) I explain to her that some things are only for little people to use together with big people, and to ask politely if she would like to use it together, or I offer to help her find something that can be a pretend computer for her to use by herself. Also, I often thank her for using good manners and for being helpful and point out whenever she has done a good job at something. Hope this helps. anon
I really can relate to your frustration when trying to parent a 2.5 year old (I also have a two year old). The first thing I want to say is that this is normal toddler behavior. What your daughter is trying to do is to exhert her independence and autonomy. We really want our children to go throught this stage because it is a normal part of growing from a baby to a child. But of course it is difficult for pretty much all parents. I am also happy that you are considering options other than spanking.

I don't support spanking because I feel that children learn more by example than anything. Spanking will teach your child to fear you and that the bigger person gets their way and that hitting is a way to deal with problems. My father spanked me and I can tell you that the main lesson I learned was to fear men. This did not serve me well later in life when trying to negotiate with 2 powerful male business partners!

I also notice in your description that you get angry at your child and raise your voice (understandable). I would like you to consider, though, that when she gets angry and storms away, that she may be matching your behavior and your energy when dealing with conflict.

Anyway, I have been following guidance from a system called Non- violent communication (NVC) that has a parent's practice group in Oakland. I have learned so much and have found that the trust an cooperation between my son and I has really blossomed. The system emphasizes having power WITH your children rather than power OVER them. This doesn't mean being permissive, but it does mean understanding their feelings and needs and understanding your own, and then going from there.

Some things that come to mind that have been helpful for me: 1) In these moments can you take a breath and give yourself a little empathy? For example: ''I am feeling so frustrated because my need for calm and quiet isn't being met!'' (or your need for acceptance from your in laws?). Giving yourself empathy can center and calm you and your child will then be calmer too. Then 2) Can you also ask yourself what needs your child is trying to meet? For example: my son used to throw food at the dinner table. I would immediately jump to thinking ''He's trying to disobey me or is disrespecting me'' But then when I took a moment to look I realized that no, he actually has a need to experiment with throwing things and doesn't realize that we don't throw food at the table. Later we threw balls outside and I also calmly explained that we don't throw food at the table. If he did continue to throw food (meeting his need for autonomy, perhaps?) I would immediately remove him from the table. But calmly. A simple cause and effect lesson.

To learn more about NVC for parents: http://www.cnvc.org/parents.htm anon


You are asking a very complex set of questions here and I don't think we can do it justice in this forum! I've just begun to do a lot of reading on the topic of discipline since I have an almost-two-year-old. I think you are basically confusing ''punishment'' and ''discipline'', and you may have some unrealistic expectations for your toddler. (Testing you and needing to be physically restrained rather than just told what to do -- or not to do -- is perfectly normal and developmentally appropriate at that age!)

I recommend getting a book or two and reading up on techniques to help you train and teach your child without getting angry, using spanking, or feeling incompetent. One I like is ''Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood'' (or something like that). The books on ''Positive Discipline'' (there are a number of different ones) are also pretty good. There are plenty of others; go to the library or log onto Amazon and find one or two that seem to fit your style. Good luck! Holly


I know it's controversial - the issue of spanking - and I definitely understand the urge to spank even my own child, but there are lots of other options. I've had experience, for example, with a local Marriage and Family Therapist who does consultations with parents. These one shot consultations are great because you just tell him what's going on and he will problem solve with you in order to find the best solution to your issue. My husband and I ended up going for several sessions, but we often just go back for a little "tune up" when our son or daughter is going through a difficult developmental period. There are also lots of books to read about parenting and plenty of workshops and classes around. I really thought the consultation was helpful though and the therapist was just wonderful - funny, warm and smart. His name is Michael Simon and you can reach him at 510-433-2959. He's near the Rockridge Bart. We actually found him online at www.affordabletherapy.com He is a teacher and parent educator too, so our sense was he really knew his stuff. Best of luck! Anon in Berkeley
What a wonderful question! Many books have been written on discipline so a simple post in this forum cannot do the subject justice.

I would suggest a combination of email lists dedicated to discipline (one such is a Positive Discipline yahoo group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PositiveParenting-Discipline/?yguid=73437966) and book reading. There are also numerous online websites dedicated to parenting gently; respectfully and without violence.

Here are some books to check out

Smart love : the compassionate alternative to discipline that will make you a better parent and your child a better person / Martha Heineman Pieper and William J. Piep

Nonviolent Communication : A Language of Compassion -- Marshall B. Rosenberg

Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach -- Howard Glasser, Jennifer Easley Easy to love, difficult to discipline : the seven basic skills for turning conflict into cooperation / Becky A. Bailey.

''Siblings Without Rivalry''  by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
''How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk'' by 
Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
''Is This Your Child?'' by Doris Rapp
''The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families'' by Stephen R. Covey
''Raising Your Spirited Child'' by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
''Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles'' by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
''Kids Are Worth It'' by Barbara Coloroso
''When Anger Hurts Your Kids'' by McKay, Fanning, Paleg & Landis
''The 5 Love Languages of Children'' by Gary D. Chapman & Ross 
Campbell
''Protecting the Gift'' by Gavin de Becker
''Nighttime Parenting'' by William Sears, MD & Martha Sears, RN
''Parent Effectiveness Training'' by Dr. Thomas Gordon
''Mothering Multiples'' by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada
''Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young 
Child'' by  Katie Allison Granju.
''Baby Days: Activities, Ideas, and Games for Enjoying Daily Life 
With a 
Child Under Three'' by Barbara Rowley
''Positive Discipline'' by Jane Nelsen (with the caveot that her 
advice for 
infants and toddlers is NOT AP)
''The Explosive Child'' by Dr. Ross Greene
''Living with the Active Alert Child'' by Dr Linda S. Budd
''The Edison Trait''  by Lucy Jo Palladino
''How To Really Love Your Child'' by Ross Campbell
''Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide To A Happier 
Family'' by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
''Giving The Love That Heals: A Guide for Parents'' by Harville 
Hendrix and
Helen Hunt
''Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma'' by Nancy Samalin
Kathy
I have to say that I am a 2nd grade school teacher who in the past years have dealt with and been handed some of the worst behavior problems in the whole elementary school. So I obviously had to find other ways than spanking (even though a parent once told me I could spank their child...to which I had to remind them that that would be illegal).

I found that overall when I rewarded and paid attention to the positive that this always worked in favor of good behavior. When I only focused on what kids were doing wrong, this made the behavior stick and often worsen. I did reward for good behavior with more than positive words. When a bad behavior occured that would mean that they would lose the reward. But, they always had the chance to earn something back with good behavior. Of course I couldn't YELL at my students. My calm approach really helped in the situation. They didn't control the situation with their bad behavior because they weren't controlling me.

NOW, I am a parent and this approach is very difficult. I have a two year old who is starting to have tantrums, I am overtired and less patient. So now I have to learn to apply what I learned as a teacher. It is a challenge. But, knowing that I have a temper, I decided that spanking or anything physical would not work well because what if I let my temper get control of me and my spanking happens with my anger mixed in. I would hate myself for hitting my child. My wonderful mother used to haul off and slap us as kids. I don't want to do that to my son. I have tried in the past taking my two fingers (pointer and middle) and tap-tapping my babies hand with a sternish 'don't do that' and I noticed that you can't hurt with those two fingers. But, I still am not sure if that feels OK.

So, my main thing to remember for myself, and it is so hard sometimes, is that life is tough for these little ones.( I myself throw little tantrums even as an adult, I think we all do). So, to help these children through we point in positive direction and everything from love. A calm voice - never raising (even though once I yelled at my boy and I could see it was the absolutely wrong thing to do, but I'm not perfect, I am learning too) ALways praise the good stuff they're doing. Point out what good stuff other kids are doing when they do it. Not saying ''I wish you'd do it like that'' but, just showing them the other way of doing stuff. I swear all kids want to do the good stuff. I also always told my students that te behavior they were exhibiitng was a bad behavior, but that nothing about them was bad. For some kids this was a real revelation. good luck
in the trenches


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