How on Earth do you Discipline an Almost Two Year Old?!

guest column
By Nanny Megan
Now that we are entering the ever so special “terrible terrific twos,” we have been faced with A’s new love for testing boundaries. No has become a word that just goes in one ear and out the other, which isn’t surprising for a 21 month old.

Over the last year, we have made sure to keep the house a safe place for A to run around and play. Every possible danger has been child proofed or placed out of reach, but that doesn’t keep A from trying to get to them. He has learned how to open doors, climb on things to reach items that are out of his reach, open up bottles/cans/containers, use remotes and telephones, unlock the car and open car doors, and the list goes on. Even though most of this stuff is child proofed, he still just cannot be stopped.

My questions is, how do you discipline a child who chooses to not listen to the word NO. We have tried lots, and obviously some methods work better than others. We have done time outs, which is the method that we are still using that has made a slight difference, but not an overly noticeable difference unless you are with A every day. His mom pulled the whole smacking the hand, which I am against unless it is truly necessary, ignoring the bad behavior, getting down to A’s level and explaining to him wrong and right, putting him in his room for 1-2 minutes, and distracting him, etc.

The question I leave you with is, what discipline method works for you? Which ones have you tried that haven’t been successful?
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Nanny who loves what she does said...

I have always used the time-out but with a twist. I give them eye-contact (down at their level), give them a warning- stop that behavior or you go in a time-out. If they continue- they sit a pre-plan time-out spot. One minute per age. You then place them in time-out and explain why. If child gets up, place him/her back again and set timer again. Yes, first couple times- child will test you. It will take consistency and patience. But dont give up. It does work as long as you show whose boss. After time-out is over- explain (get down at level again) again why child was in time-out and get child to say sorry. Kisses and hugs then move on. IT works but remember it may take a few times. Especially, the first couple times. Good Luck.

Ms.Nanny said...

I believe a firm explanation, given at the child's eye level when possible, (i.e Do not touch that, it will hurt you!) and redirection (Let's play with this toy! or Time to eat your lunch.) is the best way to discipline before age 2. Consistency about what you are saying "No!" about is important. Trying to redirect a child's non-dangerous behavior with positive words, not "No!", is a way to make "No!" more effective. Just some thoughts that have worked for me. One of my charges is 21 months old and we are working on the same stuff as you guys! Best to you!

Wow said...

I agree with redirection, but when the child is bent on doing something he's not supposed to do, I always use time out. It works every time. The key is doing it correctly, and many people do not do it correctly.

Nanny Who Loves What She Does perfectly described the correct way. The key is being consistent and persistent. If you start doing it correctly from the beginning, the child quickly learns the "drill" and cooperates better.

Some mistakes I've seen people make with time-out that make them think it doesn't work:

- Not explaining to the child why he's in time-out. There needs to be an explanation so the child knows what behavior is unacceptable. Adapt this to the age of the child. (One exception to this is if the child is in time-out for talking in a disresptful manner, but this is for an older child.)

- Constantly threatening time-out but not following through. Give only 1 warning and follow through every time if the child doesn't heed the warning.

- Expecting the child to be perfectly still or quiet while in time-out. I don't care if she's wiggling, lying down, or sitting, as long as she's not getting up. I don't care if she's crying, as long as she stays on the spot. I ignore her as long as she's on the spot until the time is up.

- Not making eye contact. You should get down to the child's level and make eye contact. This establishes a connection and makes sure the child is paying attention to what you're saying.

- Not giving positive reinforcement. Hugging the child at the end is letting him know you don't dislike him. He needs to know it's his behavior that's unacceptable, but that you still love him as a person.

- Over using. Don't use time-out for every little thing or it will lose its effectiveness. Try keeping the child occupied and redirection first.

Good luck!

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

I like to use "You can not (climb the bookshelf), but you CAN (climb the tower of pillows on the floor)" as a first line of defense.

If a child still doesn't listen after being encouraged to do a different activity, then I give a warning "You can not do XYZ. If you do it again, you will have time out."

Then they get a time out when they go for XYZ again. 1 or 2 minutes for them to collect themselves is sufficient. If he will not stay in a chair or on a step, I'd suggest using a pack'n'play in a corner.

And remember to praise him for playing safely and appropriately twice as often as you correct him. He wants attention, and if he gets more attention for being "good", that's what he'll keep doing.

Good luck - toddlers are challenging people!

MissMannah said...

I don't believe in time-outs for children this age. I usually don't start them until at least 2.5 or maybe 3 because the younger ones don't fully understand cause and effect. With this age, the best is redirection and prevention. Sounds like you have an escape artist on your hands so on doors, you might have to install chain locks high up. In the car, move his carseat to the middle so he can't access the door. Always keep the remotes and telephones hidden in a high up spot. Just little changes like that can help because if you take away the temptation, the behavior will improve. Also, make sure in his toy collection he has some old remotes or phones so he has the satisfaction of playing with them and feeling "grown up" and plenty of locking-unlocking toys so he can get the fine motor skills practice. Another thing is maybe he's getting bored, try shaking up the routine from time to time, trying a new playground or something.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

I wanted to add, making sure he gets lots of time to be physical at playgrounds may help a lot. I know you've said you get out and about a lot, but that you also run errands. On errand days, it might help him to have some running time.

meganrose said...

@Miss Mannah:
I can honestly say that A is definitely not bored. We are always introducing to activities (parks included) and toys (we rotate his toys every two months so that he can feel an element of surprise when new toys show up.) He has plenty of time to run around and be physical. We spend nearly 3 hours playing around outside, running around in the backyard, or playing at the park.

Nannybythebay said...

Redirect, redirect, redirect, its's the age that's defiant, saying no and giving time outs will get old real fast because when they are in the mood this behavior is constant. Safe real things like kitchen gadgets, remotes, phones, can be a fair tade off for a no, no. Also water play in the sink was a good distraction when my charge was this age. Near the end of hour ten when my energy and day was spent was when the toddler liked to test my limits, often we would go for a walk without stroller. Don't make the mistake of getting into power struggles they are a waste of time. Sometimes it's best to give a look that me physically remove and redirect . Playing with outlets and reaching for a hot stove need a hand slap, but that should only be needed once! It's easy to remove a child at this age from doing something that's a no, no. If your in the middle of something put child in a time out in the crib and bring them out when you've found a fun redirection.

Another nanny... said...

I also do not believe in giving children this young time outs.

For a few very dangerous things (touching outlets or the stove or when they bite or hit) I will pick them up and hold them in front of me (not in a cuddly way) and say NO a couple of times very forcefully.

Otherwise, I just believe in making as much of their environment safe and appropriate so they can have freedom and then redirecting as needed. One thing that I have noticed is that some people redirect by just handing the child a different toy or moving them to a different location and then walking away. I think that in order to redirect effectively, you have to really distract them for long enough that they forget about whatever it was they found so exciting to begin with.

As far as time outs go I do them in sort of a different way than most other people. Instead of sending a child away to their room or a set time out spot, I will say something along the lines of "That was not nice to push your brother. You can't play if you are not going to play nice." I then make the child come sit with me for a little while. I do this for two reasons. First, in the case of foster children who are at risk for attachment problems, it is not good to exile them. Secondly, the family that I babysit for thinks that it would hurt their child's self esteem to have a time out. (They don't believe in any type of discipline but since I feel like if as an adult you witness misbehavior and dont respond you are conveying to the child that you are okay with the behavior so this is our compromise).

meganrose said...

Thanks so much for responding to my column, but one thing you said I do not agree with.
"If your in the middle of something put child in a time out in the crib and bring them out when you've found a fun redirection."
I have learned over the years to NEVER put a child in timeout in their crib or bed. Especially at such a young age. If you do it enough, the child will begin to see their crib as a negative space and sleeping with be much harder over time.

meganrose said...

@Another Nanny,
I like what you say about making the child sit with you for a minute or two.

another nanny said...

Just wanted to clarify that Another nanny and I are 2 different people...I've been using the name with all lowercase for almost a year, I think?
That having been said, I pretty much agree with her comment. I favor redirection for children this age, which sometimes requires a lot of effort, to truly get them involved in something else. Sometimes I might have to take them in a different room to play so that it's "out of sight, out of mind." I will swiftly remove a child from a very dangerous situation with a firm "No" when warranted, but otherwise I try to use that word as little as possible, and instead tell/show toddlers what they CAN do.

MissMannah said...

Another nanny, I do pretty much the same for "time outs". It isn't the typical way, but more of a calm down time and I only use it when emotions are running high. Sometimes when a kiddo is getting angry, all he needs is a sit down time to collect his thoughts, not to be banished to the other room. I often will hold the child's hand too if he'll let me. But like I said in my previous post, this is only with older kids, not toddlers. For pretty much anything, I've always believed let the punishment fit the crime.

I just noticed Megan said "how do you discipline a child who chooses to not listen to the word NO." Stop saying the word NO. Start saying the word YES, just phrase it in a different way. Instead of "No, you may not get into that cabinet," have a specific cabinet full of fun grown-up stuff that is safe for him to play with (plastic bowls, etc) so you can say "Yes, you can get into this cabinet instead."

Village said...

Don't tell him no. Give him choices. 'Do you want to do this or this?' The neither 'this' is what s/he wanted to do. Ignore the behavior while moving ahead to something else. At first it will take calm, matter of fact repetition, over and over again while he is screaming. But eventually he will enjoying choosing, and look forward to being asked, as he feels in control and thinks he's getting his way.

Sorry... said...

another nanny... Sorry for using your name. I am not a creative person and tried to pick the most general thing that I could and since I posted a bunch of replies in the same day I used the same name for all of them!!!

cali mom said...

I think Village said it perfectly. And I agree that a toddler should NEVER be put into their bed or crib for a timeout, as that most obviously DOES teach them their bed is a place where they go to be punished, not a place where they go to be safe and cozy. Why would you want to teach them that?

another nanny said...

Don't worry, it's not a big deal to me, just didn't want to confuse people! (I'm not that creative either, when it comes to monikers, obviously. lol)