elevating child care

No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame (9 Guidelines)

A toddler acting out is not shameful, nor is it behavior that needs punishing. It’s a cry for attention, a shout-out for sleep, or a call to action for firmer, more consistent limits. It is the push-pull of our toddler testing his burgeoning independence. He has the overwhelming impulse to step out of bounds, while also desperately needing to know he is securely reined in. There is no question that children need discipline. As infant expert Magda Gerber said, “Lack of discipline is not kindness, it is neglect.” 

The key to healthy and effective discipline is our attitude. Toddlerhood is the perfect time to hone parenting skills that will provide the honest, direct, and compassionate leadership our children will depend on for years to come.

Here are some guidelines: 

1)      Begin with a predictable environment and realistic expectations.  A predictable, daily routine enables a baby to anticipate what is expected of him. That is the beginning of discipline. Home is the ideal place for infants and toddlers to spend the majority of their day. Of course, we must take them with us to do errands sometimes, but we cannot expect a toddler’s best behavior at dinner parties, long afternoons at the mall, or when his days are loaded with scheduled activities.  

2)      Don’t be afraid, or take misbehavior personally. When toddlers act out in my classes, the parents often worry that their child might be a brat, a bully, an aggressive kid.  When parents project those fears, it can cause the child to internalize the negative personas, or at least pick up on the parent’s tension, which often exacerbates the misbehavior. Instead of labeling a child’s action, learn to nip the behavior in the bud by disallowing it nonchalantly. If your child throws a ball at your face, try not to get annoyed. He doesn’t do it because he dislikes you, and he’s not a bad child. He is asking you (toddler-style) for the limits that he needs and may not be getting.

3)      Respond in the moment, calmly, like a CEO.  Finding the right tone for setting limits can take a bit of practice. Lately, I’ve been encouraging parents that struggle with this to imagine they are a successful CEO and that their toddler is a respected underling. The CEO corrects the errors of others with confident, commanding efficiency. She doesn’t use an unsure, questioning tone, get angry or emotional. Our child needs to feel that we are not nervous about his behavior, or ambivalent about establishing rules. He finds comfort when we are effortlessly in charge.

Lectures, emotional reactions, scolding and punishments do not give our toddler the clarity he needs, and can create guilt and shame.  A simple, matter-of-fact “I won’t let you do that. If you throw that again I will need to take it away” while blocking the behavior with our hands is the best response. But react immediately. Once the moment has passed, it is too late. Wait for the next one!

4)      Speak in first person. Parents often get in the habit of calling themselves “mommy” or “daddy”. Toddlerhood is the time to change over into first person for the most honest, direct communication possible. Toddlers test boundaries to clarify the rules. When I say “Mommy doesn’t want Emma to hit the dog”, I’m not giving my child the direct (‘you’ and ‘me’) interaction she needs. 

5)      No time out. I always think of infant expert Magda Gerber asking in her grandmotherly Hungarian accent, “Time out of what? Time out of life?” Magda was a believer in straightforward, honest language between a parent and child. She didn’t believe in gimmicks like ‘time-out’ , especially to control a child’s behavior or punish him. If a child misbehaves in a public situation, the child is usually indicating he’s tired, losing control and needs to leave.  Carrying a child to the car to go home, even if he kicks and screams, is the respectful way to handle the issue. Sometimes a child has a tantrum at home and needs to be taken to his room to flail and cry in our presence until he regains self-control. These are not punishments, but caring responses.

6)      Consequences. A toddler learns discipline best when he experiences natural consequences for his behavior, rather than a disconnected punishment like time-out. If a child throws food, his or her mealtime is over. If a child refuses to get dressed, we don’t go to the park today. These parental responses appeal to a child’s sense of fairness. The child may still react negatively to the consequence, but he does not feel manipulated or shamed. 

7)      Don’t discipline a child for crying. Children need rules for behavior, but their emotional responses to the limits we set (or to anything else for that matter) should be allowed, even encouraged. Toddlerhood can be a time of intense, conflicting feelings.  Children may need to express anger, frustration, confusion, exhaustion and disappointment, especially if they don’t get what they want because we’ve set a limit. A child needs the freedom to safely express his feelings without our judgment.  He may need a pillow to punch — give him one.

8)      Unconditional love. Withdrawing our affection as a form of discipline teaches a child that our love and support turns on a dime, evaporating because of his momentary misbehavior. How can that foster a sense of security? Alfie Kohn’s New York Times article, “When A Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do As I Say’,” explores the damage this kind of “conditional parenting” (recommended by experts like talk show host Phil McGraw and Jo Frost of “Supernanny”) causes, as the child grows to resent, distrust and dislike his parents, feel guilt, shame, and a lack of self-worth.

9)    Spanking – NEVER. Most damaging of all to a relationship of trust are spankings.  And spanking is a predictor of violent behavior.  Time Magazine article, “The Long-Term Effects of Spanking” , by Alice Park,  reports findings from a recent study: “the strongest evidence yet that children’s short-term response to spanking may make them act out more in the long run.  Of the nearly 2,500 youngsters in the study, those who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were much more likely to be aggressive by age 5.”

Purposely inflicting pain on a child cannot be done with love. Sadly however, the child often learns to associate the two.

Loving our child does not mean keeping him happy all the time and avoiding power struggles. Often it is doing what feels hardest for us to do…saying “No” and meaning it.

Our children deserve our direct, honest responses so they can internalize ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and develop the authentic self-discipline needed to respect and be respected by others. As Magda Gerber wrote in Dear Parent – Caring For Infants With Respect, “The goal is inner-discipline, self-confidence and joy in the act of cooperation.”

  I offer a complete guide to respectful discipline in

NO BAD KIDS: Toddler Discipline Without Shame


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646 Responses to “No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame (9 Guidelines)”

  1. avatar Kim says:

    I have a 4 yr old son and do not believe in spanking. I have been using Love and Logic discipline techniques. I like the book because it gives an understanding of why kids do some of the things they do and therefore gives a better understanding of what might work along with many proactive techniques. Example of logical consequence for a 2 year old throwing food is to make them clean it up. Now obviously they are not going to do a great job of it but the action and time spent taking responsibility for their actions is a real life lesson. For my son it’s not a punishment but just what “responsible” people do. At age 4 he has a good grasp of what responsible is.

    • avatar Janessa says:

      What does love and logic say when they throw food then next you tell them they have to clean it up… but your child tell you no? This is my problem is my daughter does something wrong I give her a response and she tells me no or she doesn’t want to. Then what?

  2. avatar Kate says:

    I’m trying really hard to discipline my 2.5 year old (wild) boy in a respectful manner. He acts out constantly (I’m aware he does it for the attention). The only thing that works lately is threatening to take away his favorite toy if he repeats the negative behavior again (I give him one warning and then follow through). I feel like a broken record though. I threaten to take away the same toy over and over and over throughout the day (but it usually works). Does this sound like the right course of action? The threats are just kind of getting on my last nerve (I annoy myself having to hear the same threat repeatedly), but will continue if it’s the right way to implement a consequence. My husband and I just purchased your book but I’d love some quick advice as I’m feeling very frustrated! (Off topic but my child also goes around telling family members he doesn’t like them and to go away, which really hurts both their feelings and mine! Is that normal toddler behavior?! He hits my father and tells him he doesn’t like him, and it’s just so sad. Not sure how to correctly handle…) Thanks SO much!

    • avatar Amy says:

      Hi Kate,

      I wouldn’t threaten to take away a toy unless that toy was being thrown at something you didn’t like (and you’d explained that he shouldn’t do that), or used to hurt someone. If he hits you and you take a random toy away, it isn’t a natural consequence.

      Perhaps you could supply an example of his behaviour?

      • avatar janet says:

        Kate – I would focus on acknowledging his feelings and desires… because these are what drive his behavior. It sounds like he doesn’t feel you are hearing his “messages”.

        So, for example, I would acknowledge, “You feel like throwing that toy!” Or, “You’re showing me you don’t feel safe with that toy.” Say this with openness, acceptance, encouragement… like you WANT him to share these feelings with you, while you also assure him… “I will keep you safe…” That might mean saying, “I’m going to need to put this away for now…” and even, “thanks for letting me know you need my help.”

        In other words, connect with your boy, rather than just trying to manage his behavior. Be on his team, acknowledge and accept him, and he will stop.

      • avatar Karen says:

        What is a natural consequence for hitting, biting, etc?

    • avatar Martha Junk says:

      Did you figure out what to do with 2.5 year who acts out constantly? I have the same issue.

  3. avatar Helen says:

    Great article. I have a 6 year old boy, do you have any article specific for discipline 6-7 year kids, especially boys?
    I have been blamed for being too soft in it…

    • avatar janet says:

      Thanks, Helen. The thoughts I share in this article and my book would still apply to a 6 year old.

  4. avatar Pamela says:

    I have a 3 year old who behaves well at home but when were outside or in someone else’s home he’s the complete opposite, he doesn’t listen ,he laughs at me trying to discipline him and it makes me feel embarrassed and angry which leads me to spank him, it works sometimes but for the most part not really because he’ll continue to do the same things that got him in trouble.. It’s so bad that I try my hardest to not go out in public with him and if I have to I’m nervous inside the whole time waitin to see what he’s gona do . I really dnt want to spank him anymore I dnt want him to get used to that and be violent in the future..I really need some great advice I jus can’t handle this anymore it makes me go crazy

    • avatar janet says:

      This is fear-driven behavior… he feels overwhelmed and out of control. This is very likely because he does not feel safe with the people he needs most to help him… his parents.

      • avatar Lauren says:

        I’m having the same problem with my almost 3yo. It happens at home too. How can his feelings be addressed? How should he be disciplined? I feel so clueless.

    • avatar My 2 Cents says:

      Whenever you feel like hurting him, take a step back from the situation for a bit, and when you’ve calmed, think about WHY you want to hurt him, and how you can deal with your anger in order to handle the situation calmly and without hurting your child.
      I recommend this article – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrea-nair/how-to-be-an-empathetic-parent-even-when-it-feels-hard_b_5608819.html

      As for the child acting out, you might use the tips in this article, as well as a technique called ’emotion coaching:’

      It would be helpful if you would provide the things he does in the stressful situations, as well.

      • avatar My 2 Cents says:

        Oh, and to add to that:

        A commenter on the second article mentioned that the emotion coaching method does not work in the immediate situation, but after giving their son a bit to calm down, they can talk, and work through the situation. Although I disagree with calling it a ‘time-out,’ this method may work better.

  5. avatar Mandy says:

    I have a 3 year old daughter who I love more than anything, but can work me up into a ball of anger. I recently had another baby, and have not been able to spend the time with my 3 year old that I have in the past. I understand that she acts out when she needs attention, and I know that I am not responding in the correct ways. Often times, she will wake the baby up when I beg her to quiet down, which will cause me to yell, and send her to bed for a nap. She then screams, which I attempt to correct by telling her if she is going to scream I will close her door. I let her know that crying is ok, but not screaming. I am at my wits end. I am trying so hard to balance a new baby, and her, and the home, and I find myself being short with her, and not wanting to spend time with her playing (because it was a long day, with the baby getting no naps, and 5-8 temper tantrums) Her dad left us, and is no longer around, and right after the baby was born. So confused. I dont want my relationship with my daughter to continue to deteriorate

    • avatar Kelly says:

      Hi Mandy. I don’t know how long ago you wrote his post, but I’m going through the same thing with my 4 year old…I miss so much the relationship I had with her before my son came, and I feel so guilty.
      I find myself either being too lenient with her, or too harsh. What did you come up with? I’ve just been trying to spend more time with her. I keep telling myself I need a schedule, and have to allot at least 30min/day of qt for just her and I. Haven’t been able to do this yet though. 🙁

      • avatar Just me says:

        Hi Kelly. I too was in the same situation. But I found a way for me to interact with my daughter and son at the same time. Let your daughter be apart of mommy and son time. Let her help you hold the bottle. Let her help you change his diaper. Let her help you shake his bottle and get him ready to feed. Include her into everything you do. And always give both the same attention.

  6. avatar James says:

    What is the natural consequence for violence? Our 19 month old thinks it’s funny to hit his infant sister. I would be grateful for suggestions about extinguishing this behavior.

  7. avatar Nat says:

    If a child refuses to get dressed, we don’t go to the park today. That’s fine.
    More often the problem is my 3yo son refusing to get dressed so i can take him to daycare & get myself to work. He loves daycare, & only goes a couple of days a week, but the consequences in your example of the park don’t work here.
    Any suggestions?

    • avatar janet says:

      How about… “I’ll be in the kitchen (or somewhere). Please say “ready” when you want me to help you get dressed.” This gives children the sense of autonomy they crave. You’ll almost always hear a bright, “ready!” Then, consider this a pleasant time to connect… Give yourself enough time so that it isn’t rushed and you aren’t annoyed.

      • avatar Becca says:

        Janet, what would you do if the child never said “ready”? At what point do you step in and say “now we really have to get dressed”?

        • avatar My 2 Cents says:

          You might ask the child something along the lines of…
          “So, which one– the blue shirt, or the red one?”

          which will give them the freedom of a choice, and involve them in getting dressed. 😉

          You could also ask them exactly why they won’t get dressed. In some cases, it may be a sensory issue, which can be solved by less irritating clothing.

          • avatar Emm says:

            I’ve tried that with my almost 2-year old, but when she’s in a mood, she’s in a mood and she’s not so easily distracted from it.

            I’m having a difficult time with these tips. They seem much to vague and much too soft. Is it really detrimental to firmly tell a child “no” when they’re misbehaving? These seem more like negotiations or distractions, but we all need to learn boundaries and consequences in life.

    • avatar Patricia says:

      I had the same problem with my 3yo. I ended up telling her “mummy will go to work and you can stay home alone if you don’t get dressed by the time I’m ready to leave”. That made her listen and get out of bed. She tested me one time and I pretended to leave the house (of course I didn’t) but it got her attention. She’s ok to deal with now.

      • avatar Monica says:

        This works for my son.

  8. avatar Heather says:

    you lost me at no spanking, excuse me if im wrong but before my great great grandparents were raised up until current generation god teaches us not to spare the rod, and correct me if im wrong but back in the day, you could walk to a friends house without getting kidnapped or murdered, you could work at a store and not get robbed, you were more safe in the world then you are now. Today so many ppl are “scared” to spank or discipline their child (i didnot say beat- i said spank)bc they believe its child abuse or their kid will be violent. I grew up and had my fair share of spankings, i am not nor have i ever been, nor has ANYONE in my extended family who has been spanked been violent. EVER. We are very kind, respectable, loving and honest people.Im a good mother, have a trying at times but great son who respects me and understands im his mother not his bff, And in my opinion the problem is ppl who dont understand why god wants us to correct our children by not sparingthe rod…sure, some moms dont wanna be the bad guy and “spank” bc god forbid their kid grows up to be violent- yet today most of society refuses to spank- and yet today we live in a world filled with so much murder,stealing, and crimes that i honestly believe if they had parents following gods word and disciplining like they did back in the day when older generations knew what they were doing we would live in a better world.
    of course im sorry if i offend anyone, not my attentions to offend, but i stand by the teachings of god.

    • avatar Michael says:

      Hi, Heather… there are informative web sites with violent crime statistics that may either make you feel better or worse about our country today. The fact is, violent crime in the US has been on a steep decline over last 25 years. Cause and effect can be very personal things, depending upon your experience and environment. but your great, great grandparents lived in very violent times compared to today. Good news, yes?

      • avatar Janet McBride says:

        Michael I am sorry to disagree with you. A steep decline over 25 yrs. What world are you living in. You can read all the statistics you want, but step outside and you will see you are wrong. As the lady said, when we were kids, we played outside without fear, we didn’t have to lock our houses like Fort Knox, we didn’t worry about being robbed, raped, shot at while sitting on our porches or driving down a highway, Of if our car breaks down worry about who is helping us, (which people helped so much more back then then they do today)we left the keys in our cars so we can find them easily. Kids left in the morning and returned home for mealtime without the parents having fears of being kidnapped, killed or molested. We went to schools that were open all day without fears of gunmen coming in and killing us all. Come on open your eyes and see the truth. We enjoyed our childhood without our parents having to hover over us. We played at the parks by ourselves and took our younger sibs with us. We were the care takers. Unless you lived it you do not know. Statistics will tell you what you want to hear. Statistics are stacked and slanted. I lived it, I know. Yes maybe compared to the old west maybe, but 25 yrs you could not be more wrong. And it was due to the fact that parents and teachers were not afraid to discipline their kids. We knew if we acted up, we were going to be punished. We got in trouble at school, we knew we would be in trouble again once we got home. We had respect, something that is becoming a lost art. We didn’t curse at our parents, teachers or anybody in authority. We had respect. We did our chores when expected. It taught us how to have good worth ethics when we reached adulthood. Now the kids are being coddled, and babied, and taught they do nothing wrong. Parents are scared to hurt their kids feelings, or that their kids won’t like them if they punish them. I was a single parent and raised my kids by myself. They are thriving successful happy adults. None of them in trouble. But they have to live their lives with their kids and grandkids in fear of the everyday violence that has gripped this country. Kids cannot be let out of sight now in fear of being molested, kidnapped or murdered. Kids are murdered while riding their bikes in broad daylight. Our teenagers are ravaged with drugs and alcohol. Schools are locked up like a prison. When is the last time you heard of a school you can just go in and walk around to check on your kids? When is the last time you slept with your house unlocked and windows open? When is the last time you left your keys in your car with windows down on purpose? When was the last time you let your kids sell school fundraisers or girlscout cookies door to door alone, or stayed out by themselves till street lights come on without worrying? If you believe them statistics you read then you are extremely misinformed and niave.

        • avatar Francine says:

          The difference may be the worry, not the times we live in.

          The truth is that we probably could let our kids live the way they did in the 50’s. Would crime then go up? Or would it remain the same?

          I have a feeling it’s the media and culture that has changed, more than the the amount of crime. (That’s obviously not true about school shootings).

    • avatar Jen Tejada says:


      You might really love to read: “The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things.” And then you might also be interested to read this: http://www.economist.com/blogs/charlemagne/2013/07/spanking-and-crime-rates

    • avatar Karen says:

      Apparently, the kids in the past (and possibly your own) have nothing to fear but their parents. Your assertion that the world is less safe now isn’t supported by statistics.

      I will also point out that hitting your child and telling them that you will hurt them if you don’t do as they say doesn’t teach them to do the right thing. It teaches them to avoid getting caught.

      Furthermore, hitting your child means they learn to hit their own kids. It makes your child fear you, instead of love you. It gives you their respect, but not their affection.

      You think that more people striking their kids will make the world better? For whom? Not for children!

      • avatar Janet McBride says:

        While some of that may be true. When we were disciplined it taught us respect that lasts a lifetime. We didn’t need articles like this or advice on how to handle our child without hurting his or her feelings. Most of this stuff is a load of crap. Your having problems with your children because your scared to discipline them and give them boundaries. We didn’t have time outs, but we were sent to our rooms. But being sent to your room these days is a treat because the kids are loaded down with toys, games, TV’s, phones etc. Who wouldn’t enjoy that. I would love to be sent to my room!! LOL Kids these days especially the upcoming generation have a sense of entitlement. They are used to getting their ways and don’t know how to handle it when they don’t. Look at the colleges. Did you ever see such bs as the stuff they are teaching college students. Look what happened when they didn’t get their way in the election. They are still crying over that. We knew what reality was. We knew what disappointment was, because when our parents said something or did something, they meant it. They didn’t have to write into or read any articles. They knew how to be strong and loving at the same time. I never ever doubt my parents love and my kids never doubted mine. You steered your kids right because you love them, not because you want them to like you. My mom was the kindest, sweetest most gentle woman ever, but we knew not to cross her. We never wanted to because we loved her and wanted her proud of us which she always was. I spanked my kids maybe a handful of times all together, but it didn’t take another time. They respected that. They knew if it got to that point, I was upset and they better listen and do what they are told. They are wonderful successful adults and raising their kids the same way. No trouble out of any of them. My parents raised 12 kids and not one person in our whole entire family has ever been in prison and that includes our cousins. You don’t need goofy articles like this, learn to trust yourself. Be consistent and stern but loving. Show them there are consequences for the actions. But always let them know you are a parent first and a friend second. The kids don’t need you to be their friends, they have plenty of them, they need you to be their parents.

    • avatar Steph says:

      Just to clarify, the Bible does not actually say that. The closest to the “spare the rod” quote (which actually comes from a poem) is a verse in Proverbs. Scholars think that the “rod” most likely refers to the rod of a shepherd, used to guide sheep, not hit them.

      • avatar My 2 Cents says:

        A good shepherd uses the rod to guide the sheep, showing them where to go (in life).
        But a bad one misuses it, and hits the sheep, thus instilling fear in the flock.
        Spanking is hitting. There is no way to get around this truth; it is, by definition, hitting.

        Personally, I think I would rather trust verified science over a misquote of the Bible. 😉

    • avatar Denise Miller says:

      I agree with you completely Heather. There is so much political correctness and parents fear they will be put in jail if the spank. My question is, is what you are doing working? (Those of you who do not spank) I believe in God’s word too. My kids are all grown now, but when I go out and about, I see so many undisciplined kids, parents letting their kids cry , scream and yell at the pool and let them do it for an hour sometimes. At the store I see parents , talking their kids through their tantrums instead of taking them into the bathroom . These kids are smart, they know that crap does not work. They are screaming for boundaries. IF one of me and my siblings acted disrespectful to our grandparents or said I hate you or something, well bottom line we would not have. Because we were trained. Trained with boundaries. It scares me for our children and grandchildren. They live in an age of entitlement, where they have to have bigger and better, more and more, no more simple pleasures and a simple ice cream, everything has to be over the top. But as a nation , people are following the world more and more, atheism on the rise, just pure Godlessness and more crime and ingratitude for anything. All I can do is pray and give my two cents to anyone who may listen. But there are not too many who want to listen to wisdom nowadays.

      • avatar Traci says:

        I have to grown daughters who are well adjusted, loving and wise people, I never once spanked either of them. Spanking is a sign to the child that you are at the end of your rope and are unable to set constructive boundaries.

        • avatar Karen says:

          I do not necissarily believe in “spanking: but i do believe in an attention getring swat to the butt on occassion. This should never be done in frustration or anger but a firm resolve. There are times.things have to happen now and obedience is actually a one of Gods laws. Sometimesnone needs.to indersrand that obediencenhas to happen now and there isnt time to negotiate. Sometimes we ans therefor our kids need ro know thes, but we just get to find out thw reasons and the lesson after we hace done what we are told.I hace come to understand that one constant in life besides change os paradox…also we dont get to inderstand it or sokve it but live on it. Why do i bring this up..one paradox is tha feelings dont matter and the otherside is that they are so important. Why because when we induldge peoples poor feelings we get Berkeley protestors and tge need for safe space…when they are ignored we get other horrors. Feelings serve us one purpose…feedback to what we need to change about ourselves. As a parent we need to listen bit also teach our kids that. Sometimes in life, how we feel really doesnt matter you just do whats right anyway. We do that consistantly and eventually our feelings will chanfe to match. In the end sometimes we gotta snap our kids out with a small attention getter.

      • avatar Teato says:

        I was spanked as a child and I still hate my parents because of it. Like any child we, my brother and I needed boundaries. However, my parents chose to spank rather than do time outs or treat us with respect. It’s sad that people can’t learn to talk to their children and instead hit them. God loves us and doesn’t want to see us hurt each other. If we want loving children, we have to treat them with love.

      • avatar My 2 Cents says:

        I agree with both previous commenters, and would like to add that communication is the most powerful tool a parent possesses. Hitting a child teaches them nothing other than that authority figures may abuse them, and hitting a child for hitting another person is plain hypocrisy…

        Communication helps both the parent and the child. A parent who communicates with their child can better understand and teach them, while their child can learn better and understand more. I would question why the above commenter thinks talking a child through an emotional episode is bad parenting, and that hitting them is not.

        Science has shown repeatedly that spanking is extremely unadvisable at best, and many incidents with parents severely injuring/traumatizing their children have occured because they believe the same as the above commenter.

        ‘My question is, is what you are doing working?’
        You can find many parents on the web verifying that yes, their kinder methods do work! I can link you to a few if you would like.

        Please seek out scientific research on spanking, and help make the world a better place.

    • avatar minerva says:

      You are wrong. ..but that’s ok

  9. avatar Lori says:

    My toddler lately has been throwing food on the floor during dinner. I’ve decided that that is the end of mealtime but sometimes I worry about sending her to bed hungry. (She is 21 months) Should I offer another thing to eat? Should I end it there? I’m not sure about the approach I take. I don’t want her to think if she fusses enough that she gets to eat what ever she wants.

    • avatar Karen says:

      I would just end the meal, after saying, “I see you are throwing food. Does that mean you are done eating?” And give her a minute to change her mind about throwing. If she doesn’t, end the meal.

      If she is really hungry, she will eat. Kids won’t let themselves starve.

  10. avatar ash says:

    After seeing the kids these days; self entitled, spoiled, and running over their parents….I think I will just keep parenting the way I was patented. These young adults have no morals, no cares about others’ feelings, and no sight of the future and how their actions now reflect on that. Parents have spared the rod and have spoiled the children. I was disciplined by an authoritative father who was very busy and very poor. We didn’t have the time together for him to sit down with me every single time I thought of doing something bad. When he noticed the behavior, when I acted out, and when I did things to push buttons, I was spanked And/or grounded from many fun things. This taught me that my actions had consequences. The New style of parenting teaches kids that the bad things they do are okay, but just don’t do it right now, and “I’m not going to properly discipline you for it in fear of inflicting pain……even though you will go through immense amounts of emotional and physical turmoil as an adult.”

  11. avatar Kelly says:

    Hi there. Thanks for the article it makes a lot of sense. The struggles i am having with my 2 1/2 year old are mainly to do with sibling rivalry. He is constantly hitting or pushing or taking toys away from his one year old sister. Lately i have been sending him to his room when ever he hurts her, but i don’t feel like this is the right solution. I’m just a bit stuck with what to do, and it’s hard not to get emotional in the heat of the moment when your baby girl is screaming in pain. I grew up as the oldest child and was always jealous of my younger sibling, I’m terrified of doing this to my son. I want him to know that i understand him and that I’m there for him always, but the truth is i just don’t understand when he’s constantly hurting her. Any advise you have would be greatly appreciated as I’m at a bit of a loss.

  12. avatar Lisa corbett says:

    I am a big fan of natural consequences. However, what happens when the natural consequence can’t happen. For example- I return to work shortly and my toddler often refuses to get dressed in the morning. I can’t skip work (like I could if we were going to the park). What is a natural consequence for this when we need to get out of the house?

    • avatar Bre says:

      I would then give the child a choice – do you want to wear this shirt or that shirt? If the child still refuses to choose, give him/her the choice of, “you can either put the shirt on yourself or I am going to help you put it on”. If the child still refuses, then you follow through and put the shirt on him or her. Yes, it may cause some friction, but you also need to get to work.

  13. avatar Lili says:

    Thank you for the article. My 3 1/2 year old daughter hits me all the time when she is worked up (usually happens when she is tired). She is very strong and she throws objects at me that are quite dangerous. I try my best to keep myself and her safe during these episodes (which happens daily). And the more I try to block the blows the worse it gets until she finally breaks down and calms down and connects with me. My question is : will this ever end? She doesn’t seem to be learning from these episodes not to hit even though we have a discussion about them afterwards. I have taught her coping skills, but she never uses them. And these tantrum hitting attacks seem to be occurring more frequently. Today for the first time I hit her back because she throw something really hard at my head, which hurt a lot. And after hitting her she stopped hitting me. Even later in the day when she was crying and throwing a tantrum and I can tell she wanted to hit me, but she didn’t. I don’t want to continue to hit her, but it seemed to be the only thing that worked in the past two years to stop her from hitting. I would appreciate your thoughts.
    Thank you,

  14. avatar Amna says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these great ideas. I have a 3 1/2 years old daughter and lately she is acting a little strange. She is always angry and doing the things she is not allowed to do. And im going to be honest with you my behavior has changed as well. Instead to talking to her ortKing her to another room to discuss the issue i now yell at her and at times give her time-out and later feel guilty and all. But after reading your blog im again encouraged to handle her with positivity i felt afterwards. And thanks a lot

  15. avatar Jackie says:

    My three year old son has almost run into a busy street twice now. I have a five month old too and when walking about town i’ve lost my grip of my toddler. He takes off running and doesn’t listen to “stop” or “stop your feet”. Ive been lucky to catch him. He is so happy and care free when he’s running, hopping, laughing. He has no idea of the danger even though i’ve told him. The first time we watched the cars go by and talked to him about them and the street. The second time was the first time i ever spanked him. I dont want to crush his high spirit but hes got to listen to me. So how do I get him to stay close to me and to listen when i say stop or come here?

    • avatar Casey Conrad says:

      I have this same problem! Once a police officer saved him from running out the door of a restaurant and into a busy street. I was humiliated. He doesn’t like holding hands or being held. I have to distract him so much with other things, I am starting to wonder if that will cause future development issues…

  16. avatar PeterS says:

    I believe some form of physical punishment is necessary, in love, at times. I am a father of 11 kids the oldest if 25, youngest 2.

    We use it only when the situation demands it and not when we are angry ourselves if at all possible. Usually not in public, and in a controlled manner, and only up to a certain age, after which other things are much more effective and appropriate.

    The main time frame to cover is when they are too young to be reasoned with and will put themselves in real physical danger.

    Usually we follow up after they have calmed down with a hug and something like “Daddy loves you but I can’t let you do naughty things”.

    I haven’t read all the science and it’s probably not suitable in a Childcare situation.

    • avatar Question says:

      That’s a messed. I feel bad for all your kids. Hitting is NEVER okay. Your kids will have damage in some sort of fashion. You taught them to associate pain with love, how will they ever learn what a healthy loving relationships look like?

      • avatar Janet McBride says:

        I am sorry but you are so wrong. I and my siblings were spanked on occasion and my children were too. None of us are damage unless you think it is damaging to be a respectable, educated successful adults. Which we all turned out to be. We are all married in wonderful loving marriages. One sib has been divorced by that was because of an abusive spouse. We all know what a loving healthy relationship is and we are enjoying it tremendously. And none of us had to read articles or look for advice from articles. We raised our kids with our hearts and a firm commitment to teach them the right way. None of this bologna about worrying if I am hurting their feelings, or they might not like me. We are parents first and friends second. You need to take advice from people that actually lived it and are living proof of what I am saying, instead of reading an article or telling this man of 11 children that you know better then him?? Did you not see how much experience he has? He nor anybody else on here is telling you to beat your kid, but a swat on the butt will hurt their feelings more then it does their behind.

  17. avatar Rhona says:

    Thanks for this article. My son turns 3 in 2 weeks and I have an nearly 5 month old. My problem is my oldest only wants me to do things for him. The worst thing is dressing him in the mornings when I really don’t have time. So his dad wants to get him ready but he screams at him ‘No Mommy!’, or when his dad wants to bath him or give him juice, the same thing. I undrestand this is also an attention thing probably…but my husband takes it personally and then it ends in a horrible scream match between the 2.
    Is there a way to handle that? To get him to allow / understand that Daddy needs to help with certain things or should I just do it?
    Mornings are so stressfull and I’m late every morning because of this.

  18. avatar Soldier says:

    I was disciplined as a kid and spankings fucking work.
    I learned respect at a very young age.
    I have no respect for what you are saying up in this article.
    Discipline is to be in a 5 step process and not many know those 5 steps.
    I know for a fact you have no idea what I am talking about.

    Also, the start of this discipline change was because of an “expert”(or should I even call him that) that said spanning warps your child’s self esteem. His son committed suicide but it wasn’t due to discpline it was due to bullying.

    And everyone that has power and authority took to it really quick because their children are “little angels”. But they aren’t they’re spoiled. I have been around for 24 years and I have seen and paid attention to the act of removing discipline from the parents hands and the huge effect that has become of it.
    Bullying has gotten worse, the victim has built a bigger shell, the teachers and parents can’t and won’t do anything.

    Since I am certain you don’t know the 5 steps here they are and they work much better than these 9 rules.

    1. Punish immediately.
    2. Tell them why they were punished.
    3. Show them love.
    4. Let them know that every wrong thing
    has a consequence.
    5. Send them on with the rest of their

    That 5 step guideline is the best working because you will give appropriate punishment (not abuse)

    I talked back to my mom and got mouthful of soap. That worked over time.
    I was stubborn and rebellious so I got spanked that stopped it.
    Disobeyed and got nose and toes to the wall and was not permitted to move.

    The list goes on, but it was all in accordance to the behavior.

    When discipline laws changed, my sister’s became very snotty and would do whatever because they couldn’t get a spanking, mouthful of soap, or any other of the punishments that worked.

    1 day the following happened and it wouldn’t have it discipline laws stayed where they should have.

    My youngest sister is always in with my mom at the adult classes at church. But she started to misbehave and they had to leave early. Her chore when she got home was to wash the dishes. She threw a fit and took my mom’s phone from the counter and his in her room at first.
    I having extremely strong legs used my mom as a brace for my shoulders pressed against the door snapping one of her crutches in half. After which she ran out of the room and up to garage roof.
    She then dialed 911.
    My mom took a walk because of that and came back.
    There were 2 police cars there. They didn’t care what I had to say about the bi me verse. But when they got back to where she was they could tell there was a problem. She wanted to be treated like a preteen but was acting 2. They told her we are not going to treat you that way because you’re acting that way.

    After about 20 mins she finally came down from the garage. And since she had been such a hassle one of the officers wanted to talk to her so he was holding her arm to talk at the side of the house but she resisted and KICKED him so he pulled out his child handcuffs and cuffed her and carried her by her arms to the car and put her in back.


    • avatar Winters says:

      I agree. My 6 month old son has just started hitting and scratching his mum. Earlier when he was beginning to teeth, he started biting mum when breastfeeding. This was quickly resolved by bringing him closer to mum’s chest to cut off air supply which resulted in safely stopping the biting. Obviously as soon as he stopped biting, he was gently put back into the position he was in to continue breast feeding. He no longer bites, and in all honesty it didn’t take him too long to figure out not to bite.

      However he has now started scratching, hitting and laughing. I’ve read a lot of blogs that seem to make excuses for their little ones, but I do think that they know what they are doing and that they are testing what they can and cannot get away with. If I do not pull him up, I noticed that he did it more, however when I grab his hand, look into his eyes and say ‘no’ very sternly, my little one would laugh, but I would continue to hold a stern look until he took it seriously.

      Once the laughing stopped, I could see that he understood exactly what he had done. He would look down and I would say ‘No, you don’t do that’ and then wait until he was ready to apologise, which he does in his own way, (currently he rolls towards me and hugs me), and I forgive everything straight away and that’s the end of it.

      I believe that they have the capacity to understand what they are doing and are exploring their parents boundaries and what they can get away with. If you don’t reel it in early, then you will have complications down the line, instead of a child that immediately understands ‘No’ and also understands that if they continue then their behaviour will incur further consequences that they do not want.

      He will not hit or scratch his dad, as dad has been very good in setting these boundaries earlier in their relationship. Mum is playing catch up and we’re fairly confident that this behaviour will soon cease, as it did with the breastfeeding biting.

      • avatar Winters says:

        I should clarify that when I say ‘cut off air supply’, what I actually mean is that the breast skin covers his nose, meaning that in order to breathe all that the little one need do is to open their mouth. (The idea is to keep the mouth area as clear as possible so that they can easily breathe when they open it – it has worked very well). It was a tip that was given to mothers who had experienced this issue.

        This is all that I do:
        1. Immediately say, ‘No’ and hold them so they cannot continue to hit or scratch, whilst holding a stern look
        2. Wait until they finish laughing and wait for them to acknowledge what they have done, (wait till he looks at me without laughing or smiling)
        3. Explain the behaviour is unacceptable and ask for an apology
        4. Receive a sincere apology and accept it

        It works for dad and the little mum has done, it works for mum too.
        I believe that this is how children learn what they can and cannot get away with. Best to get onto it as soon as you can 🙂

  19. avatar BE says:

    You are considering yourself respectful? My hope is that people treat you the way you treat them. All 24 years of experience you have and might I add that your brain isn’t fully developed either so watch what you say, if you do “grow up” to be respectful you may actually regret quite a few things. Clearly your behavior has resorted to violence i.e. breaking down doors and cursing at people you don’t even know. This is a site for people of interest, if you aren’t interested move along. Last I checked we still have freedom in this country so do what “you” want with “your” children.
    God Bless You!

  20. avatar Silvana says:

    Hi Janet,
    My 19-month old son started part-time daycare about 1 month ago and for the most part has transitioned pretty well. I just received a text from the daycare that he’s been throwing & hitting others with toys. He started biting dad as of yesterday. What should we be doing to show him this is not okay?

    • avatar Karen says:

      This is a developmental stage. Toddlers do not know how to handle having these “big feelings” and use physical gestures like biting and hitting because they don’t know any other way to express themselves.

      Look on the blog here for how to handle these issues.

  21. avatar jasmine says:

    I have a 3.5 year old who acts up in public, hits her little brother who,is 16 months old, talks back, throws stuff, takes things from her brother. I have tried the time-out it sometimes help. I do spank on the hand or bottom when right time. I don’t like to spank. It makes me feel bad. But idk how else to make her settle down and do the right consequence. I need help……

  22. avatar Gaylene Notenboom says:

    Hi Janet i am a single mother and have been ever since my girl was born. She is two and a half years old now and is hitting and pinching me when she gets frustrated. She gets frustrated a lot,so I get hit a lot. She will go out of her way to come over to me and be aggressive. I have ordered your book through my local library, it may take weeks to come in. Would you please have any advice directly so that my daughter and I can get back on track. At other times she is a lovely, kind, vibrant and fun girl. Nothing I have tried in the past has helped stop this behaviour. She also pinches another children at day care. I love her dearly and want to help her and understand what is needed or what is missing.

  23. avatar La-Rochelle says:

    I have cried my eyes out reading several of your articles and wish I could have you sit on my shoulder and guide me as to how to be a better parent. I have a very strong willed 2yr3month little boy and try so very hard to get myself through each day and be a strong, loving mother! I am unfortunately a very sensitive and emotional person and seeking assistance to make me stronger but with this it makes it very difficult to not break down in tears after he has shouted “Go Away Mommy” to me for the umpteenth time and I have no clue as to what I have done wrong. He has the most incredible tantrums where he decides whether I must dress him or his dad. Anything that needs to be done we could each be doing the task at hand quite happily by all and suddenly there is an outburst of “No Daddy do it” or vice-versa. When possible the other steps in and does what needs to be done but from time to time it cannot happen and the strength that he releases is incredible to which I simply hope and pray he doesn’t hurt himself. An example: we went shopping after picking him up from school, it was a quick stop and he happily pushed the kiddy trolley, packed and even unpacked onto the counter. We paid and happily walked to the car, as I opened the car to put him in his seat he had a meltdown of “No Daddy do it” the screams are so conservative as if in a little trance that my calm response of “daddy is still at work, let’s buckle up, safety first, so we can go home” cannot and or is no heard. It eventually boiled down to me forcefully buckling him in climbing in the car, and driving home…. I have had moments where I have smacked his bum but as I was smacked as a child I don’t want to do that. We have tried the naughty chair and he even volunteers to sit there if I threaten him with it, which in turn makes me feel HORRIBLE! I feel quite lost and really just want to be a good mom! One of my recently favorite quotes goes along the lines of “all I want in life is that my child will not have to recover from his childhood”

  24. avatar Nadia Butt says:


    I just had a 3rd baby. I have a 4 year old and 2 year old. my 4 has been driving me.nuts. I have never had any issues with her. I don’t know how to deal with her. I have tried everything. she has been throwing tantrums, yelling, screaming, crying, hitting and mot eating. I need help I tried loving her, yelled at her, but nothing seems to be working HELP. my 2 year old is acting a little but I am able to calm him but not her.HELP

  25. avatar LovedEagle says:

    Okay…You are giving a lot of scenarios here but I would like to see more solutions. For instance, what if I am in a public place that I simply CAN’T leave for a long time, and am not able to take the child home, but they start acting out and throwing tantrums there. What am I to do? I can’t just let them suffer natural consequences and I can’t just let them disrupt everyone around them, at the same time I cannot leave. Some good points were made, but I see very little solutions or alternatives given.

    • avatar janet says:

      I would move with your child to the quietest, most private place you can find and allow her to meltdown there safely.

      • avatar kelsi says:

        LovedEagle and I might be in the same boat! My 2y2m old son seems to turn into “turbo explorer mode” whenever we go to anyone else’s house or new place. It is super embarrassing. Our home is set up 95% toddler approved so we limit the times we say “no”…But now that seems to be backfiring… he just does not understand why he can’t fully explore someone else’s home. He has NO intention of playing with the toys I brought when there is a new staircase/plant/kitchen drawer/couch/porch/curtains/etc. to touch/explore/investigate. SO… we end up just not going to friends’ houses for dinner unless my husband and I can go together and then we take turns watching him play outside while the other has an adult conversation inside. The only time we end up “together” at the friend’s house is when we bring our son in for dinner… but he NEVER wants to eat and just whines/squirms/throws food until he gets to go back outside (he knows throwing food means dinner over now- which also seems like a backfire). We look like we can’t control our son. And camping or going to the beach or going to a non-fenced in park- geesh. NOT RELAXING AT ALL! He has ZERO fear of being separated from us. When I go to a new place- should I just limit his exploring to one room and make his stay there? No option for outside? And then if he melts down, find a quiet place? His nature is it NOT stay in one room for too long even at home, so I don’t even know how this would even work. He likes toys, but is not really “super” into playing with them for too long… However, we can play outsides running, picking leaves, and poking things with sticks for hours. He started walking at 8 months.. so I feel like we have been doing this for 1.5 years! At home, really he is a super happy/no-tears kid who responds to limits… but new places- “Turbo explorer boy” comes out so honestly, I’d just rather stay home. Do you recommend we go out more for “practice”?

  26. avatar Jennifer Guthrie says:

    :’-/ omgosh This makes so much sense. And so now that my eyes are opened and I understand. But please help! What can I dont to repair the damage? I’ve done everything wrong. My children are 4 & 6. And yes we have anger issues and now I can see why. But I didn’t know. I just did as my grandma and my own mom did with me. But now what? :’-(

    • avatar janet says:

      As soon as you decide to make changes, you’ll begin to notice your children becoming calmer and more comfortable. Wellll, it might also get slightly worse before it’s gets better, because your children will feel safer sharing their feelings with you, and that probably won’t be pleasant. You can DO this! Here’s a post that I hope will encourage you: http://www.janetlansbury.com/2013/06/never-too-late-for-respectful-parenting/

      You might also be interested in my book No Bad Kids (linked to at the end of this article). If you aren’t sure about purchasing it, you can ask your local library order it for you.

  27. avatar jenna says:

    Janet, I have been following your blog for a couple of years now and you have guided me and helped me become a better parent. Thanks for that!

    With that said, I am struggling to find ways to set boundaries with my 3 year old that doesnt include what feels like an ultimatum. “I see youre struggling to put your shoes on. I will help you if you need” he throws shoes outside, “if you cant get your shoes on, we cant go to the park.” this is a typical scenario that occurs around 100 times a day. When he talks back we come to the same situation (although a part of me is excited for him to be so forward/aggressive because he’s a very shy person socially). So I struggle to come up with alternatives to what feels borderline threatening. I dont want every decision of our day to include an ultimatum. Especially considering I am aware and try my best to instill routine and predictability throughout the week.

  28. avatar Carly says:

    While I agree with some of the points in this article, there are lots of points that I do not. My 3.5 year old son has been spanked and put in time out and he is an excellent little boy. Yes he does things he shouldn’t sometimes but he is a kid. The Bible says spare the rod spoil the child. The Bible is our main go to for parenting but sometimes it is hard cause it doesn’t say how to handle each individual situation…but in soanking, it’s clear. Thank you for your feedback but I’m curious….do you personally have a child? If so, how is no spanking or time out working for you?

    • avatar Steph says:

      Might want to re-read that Bible of yours. It doesn’t actually say that. The closest is a verse in Proverbs, and the “rod” is most likely a reference to a shepherd’s rod, used to direct, not hit, sheep.

      To each his/her own, but it makes me sad to see people use “the Bible” as an excuse for corporal punishment, while misquoting it.

  29. avatar Nix says:

    What is the best consequence for an almost 3 year old when they do not listen to “stop” when running and we head to a busy road ( obviously needs to be immediately effective as this is very dangerous). Also, why do toddlers kick or hit parents or other children? And what is the appropriate response?

  30. avatar fatma yakout says:

    dear janet what are the best books i can get know.my child is 5 months and i want to learn everything i should do as early as possible.
    thanks a lot

  31. avatar Deborah says:

    I have a problem with diciplining my 3 year old son. My husband brainwashes my son when I disciplin my son.My husband gives my son everything,he allows him to do anything he wants to even if it does not belong to him. When we go shopping my husband will not take care of his son and let’s him break everything in the store and when that happens my husband says that’s fine he will pay for it. I don’t have any control over this situation. I just have to stand and watch my husband ruin our son.because of this my son sees me as a bad mother and hates me because I am so desperate to just get him to be a good boy who understands and knows that I love him so much. How do I get my son to do that. My husband threatens me when I do disciplin my son.

  32. avatar Aileen Traynor says:

    Hi there Can any of your recommendations be used with our 3 and a half year old autistic son? He has poor communication, is a terrible eater and sleeper and we are still potty training. Thanks

  33. avatar Stephanie Escobar says:

    Hi I have I 2.5 year old girl she recently started the I don’t want to and throws a fit mainly for nap time or bed time or cleaning up toys tried time out didn’t work and we tried A sticker chart not working much and ideas on what to do

    • avatar Aubrie says:

      What helped my toddler when he was that age was choice.

      “Would you like to take a nap before lunch or after lunch?”
      “Would you like to clean your toys up before bath or after bath?”

      My stepson is now happy to help because he has some small choices. He picks out his own outfits, picks up after meals, helps with small cooking tasks, and washes himself in the tub. He just turned 3.

      2.5 was a nightmare age. I cried every night and didn’t know how I would make it through. Talking with them helps give them the vocabulary to let you know what they’re feeling and need.

      “Are you sad because you lost a privilege?”
      “Are you angry because I told you no?”

      Usually he would nod or shake his head.

      “Hmm. That’s tough. Well, let’s make better choices next time so that doesn’t happen again.”

      You can do this!

  34. avatar Cassandra says:

    Hello I first want to say thanks because implementing these small things (and especially trying to NOT ever respond in anger to my 3 year old) has truly changed our every day life!! It was all things I was doing wrong and once I realized that and stopped doing these things in the article it was like a 360! No more tantrums (hardly!) and hardly any talking back or fights. He listens better because I an listening to HIM.
    SPANKING just isn’t okay. It’s barbaric. Hypocritical and abusive. And causes them to think its okay to hit someone to punish them as well as just be scared of you and hurt feelings. I woukd still consider time out method but I haven’t had to since reading this article. I will be buying the book from the link at the end 🙂 thanks and thanks to the friend who tagged me

  35. avatar Frida says:

    What article or book do you recommend for 7 year old son?
    I’m having problems with discipline with my oldest son, and how he is the big brother, everything he does the other two do it too. 🙁
    What do you recommend?

  36. avatar Emily H. says:

    You bring up some very good points in this post. I like the quote “Lack of discipline is not kindness, it is neglect.” I have seen some parents that want to be liked by their children so much that they don’t discipline. This is a real mistake and leads to kids that get involved in gangs and other serious problems later in life. I like how the whole post sums up how to be a good parent on one page. Good job!

    • avatar janet says:

      Thank you for your encouragement! Glad you liked the post!

  37. avatar Momma mae says:

    Honestly 40% percent of this it bullshit, no timeouts, no spanking, no lecturing, no direct punishment? My son is the most well behaved kid in a private preschool of 40, because I do not play no shit. He is not afraid of me, he is extremely well behaved, and has the UT most respect for me for the three 1/2 year old he is. I just find that half of this is utter bullshit. The trick to a well behaved toddler is constant sleep schedule, balanced and constant meals, repercussions for inappropriate behavior, affection, no fighting in front of them, and to learn that it is either yes or no; If you tell your toddler, “no you can’t have ice cream until you eat dinner.”, then the next day you let them without dinner you’re just screwing your own damn pooch and contradicting yourselves.

  38. avatar Kat Yew says:

    Brilliant article as usual.

    I have one area where I disagree: unconditional love vs. conditional love. I believe the difference does not lie with the actions (‘symptoms’), but the motivations and willingness to manifest visions of well-being.
    Are our actions motivated by fear, avoidance, confusion, exasperation, ‘me vs them’? Or are we willing to put in the work to thrive as a community/family unit? Are we willing to be patient, mentally flexible and committed to partnership with children? Will we continually seek to co-create and re-establish the rules of our lives to better our quality of life, or will we allow anyone to continue feeling unfairness “because that’s the way it is”? Are we continually welcoming and explaining rules so that we can welcome children into our way of life/functioning, and continually evolving together, or are we beating down challenges so that we can cling to our comfort zones?

    As someone who has followed the works of Phil McGraw, Jo Frost/Supernanny, your own work, worked closely with a range of families over the past 6 years, and struggled deeply for the past 10 years to rise above being over-protected as a child, my professional/personal experience leads me to believe that Phil McGraw and Jo Frost are basically in the same camp of offering ‘unconditional love’. Extra creative and clear expressions of love are required for children who have issues with attachment and security.

    To illustrate my point I will provide two examples of contentious practice, and explain how they may be used respectfully to create close bonds and raise a family unit’s quality of life. I believe these practices are in line with your/our values, and am very keen for your feedback.

    E.g. Timer systems – it’s easy to write off the use of timers because they cause stress and are veiled attempts at control/obedience/contrived rules. They often are, but don’t have to be.

    However, I use a timer on my watch all the time for daily routines and negotiations. Children who are well-attached and children with behavioural issues have come to love it extremely quickly because it comes to represent love, safety, fairness and welcoming of everyone’s input (empowerment), and is a key component of our problem-solving toolkit.

    We play with it – I’ve set it for between 2 minutes to 7.5 hours, and paused or reset it depending on our discussions.

    It helps both myself and the children be accountable to ourselves and each other. We get everything important done.

    We can all relax, be completely present and ‘flow’ because the timer keeps the time for us.

    In combination with hand gestures, it’s great for explaining math concepts – ratio, addition, subtraction, multiplication, time.

    E.g. When you mentioned Magda’s rhetorical question, “Time out of what? Time out of life?”, I thought, “Yes! Absolutely!!”
    At times, we all need time out of negative modes of living life.

    When children argue in circles, I sportscast and ask them to notice that they’re going in circles (joyously, because I’ve already got my answers and am curious about what answers they will find) – “let’s pause for a second, I notice, I hear, what do you hear?”. Everyone is supported to tell their story, they way they want it heard, including myself as the adult. Then I ask them what they want and how we can solve the issue to be happier together.

    When I play pretend ‘I’ll eat you’ or ‘I’ll get you’ games with children and they take poor risks out of fear that I will actually get them: I tell them to pause and trust that I am just playing. ‘For real’ I will always make sure their bodies and feelings are safe. I encourage them to feel safe and take care of themselves too. They carry this ‘stepping out of themselves’ and emotional safety through distinguishing pretend/real across their lives, and create a sense of safety for the other children they play with.

    For children with serious emotional difficulties and testing behaviour, I have offered a time out space based on choice and love. I work with the children then parent(s) to brainstorm what the children love, and turn a corner of their room into a super happy place (to encourage self-control through a concentration of things motivate and calm the child). Once children have reached a calmer space (through my provision of CEO boundaries as you mention), children are given the choice of staying with me, going to their happy place alone, or inviting me to come with them to their happy place.

    We laminate the following to put in their happy place, along with a feelings chart and body parts chart:

    In My Happy Place I…

    1. Think about everything I want
    2. Find a good plan
    3. Remember I have help (and fun!)
    4. Remember I am loved
    5. Remember everything I really love
    6. Have a place to be happy!

    If I am already happy… I smile and enjoy!

    If I am too angry, sad, confused, hurt…
    I can hit a pillow or shake up my feelings bottle… then watch my feelings settle as the glitter settles.
    Then go through the happy place list.

    Listen to myself first, then others can really help listen to me.

    What are my body parts saying to me…?
    Brain, heart, lungs, bladder, skin, stomach… etc.
    I created a story that I use with children, where a scared little child finds and uses the different parts of their body to become a whole person, assesses their situation (both internal and external – kids make their own ideas up here and we draw it out), then we go through the problem-solving process together. It has had exceptional results in giving children a sense of empowerment and giving their whole family a language for problem-solving.

  39. avatar Asha says:

    Hi I have girls they are very cute and learn a lot from each other. My only concern is they make a lot of mess and does not listen,like one thing I have to atleast 5-6 times ND finally have to scream at them that’s when they will do things. What should I do?

  40. avatar David says:

    My wife and I have divorced while our daughter is two. We both agree on everything regarding discipline, and talk nightly about what has gone on in our little girl’s life. At this point, she loves when I pick her up (her dad) from preschool and does not like to talk to her mom when she is with me. We both talk about each other in the best of terms, and I feel guilty when my wife faces a tantrum when she is expecting dad to be there. I am just wondering what the best approach is when she wants one parent over the other. We both tell her what to expect, and i know she understands, but I am struggling with how to react when all she wants is one parent over the other. In the most humble of ways, she loves when I pick her up, but I hate how she pushes her mom away if I am available. It’s a one way street towards dad, and I would love to see her appreciate us both, but I know I don’t control that little soul……thank you for any input on this, i have read your book twice, and it’s been immensely helpful, but did not address this topic of separate households……..


  41. avatar Sarah says:

    Our 2 year old is very difficult to take out in public. Every week we have story hour at our local library. Some weeks she’s great but the majority of the time she will run around, hide under the tables, squeal, but mostly just try to run as fast as she can away from me. I always talk to her before we go in as to what I expect and if she misbehaves we will leave. She does this over and over usually when we are trying to check out books at the end. The last week she was playing with the blocks while I was checking out. I kept looking over to check on her, then I looked over and she was gone. She was near the back entrance and another mom told her to go back up the ramp. Last week we tried to have breakfast at a restaurant in a long time. She literally freaked and had an epic tantrum because I wouldn’t let her eat the jam out of the container. The grocery store I have her in the cart. She screams and cries. If I give her a chance she always runs and tries to hide even though I tell her if I let you down you have to hold my hand( the cart, daddy’s hand). It just constantly feels like a struggle and I don’t know what to do differently. If she freaks out at the library we leave, at the restaurant my husband took her to the car for her to scream it out and the grocery store I usually have to take her to the car while my husband finishes the shopping or we just let her scream. I also try to acknowledge her feelings when I can, I’m trying to be more conscience about that. Please help!

    • avatar janet says:

      Hi Sarah – I would need to know a lot more about your relationship dynamics with your daughter, etc., to be able to advise you. From what you describe, she sounds stressed. It is normal for toddler to have difficulty sitting still for a story hour or a meal in a restaurant, so I would not expect those situations to go smoothly, but she sounds particularly wound up and uncomfortable. Sorry I can’t be of more help based on your note. I recommend my book, No Bad Kids, which is available on audio (if it’s tough to find time to read), and/or a telephone consultation if that would interest you. Here’s my information: http://www.janetlansbury.com/call-me/

  42. avatar Craig says:

    Hey there.
    I have a 6, 3 and 1yr old boy.
    My wife and I seperated in October, and in the last month, 3yr old has been acting out like crazy.
    He is generally a really good kid, often times the “funny” one etc.
    He has been hitting, kicking and pushing both his brothers recently; throwing his toys or screaming when one of the other two borrow a toy. (The sharing bit)
    I was thinking it was a Normal thing for his age; until today.

    I put him down for a nap this afternoon as he had fallen asleep in my truck on the way home.
    I went in 15 minutes later and he had had an accident and wet himself. (Happens as he’s potty training)
    Cleaned him up and reminded him he needs to start using he bathroom and asking for help.

    Ten minutes later, my 1 yr old came out, covered in #2.
    3yr was in the middle of driving a toy truck through a pile of #2 when I came to the room. He lied and said it was his brother, who had done it.

    Well. After some recon, it was certainly his. Pretty sure he drug his rear end through itdue to the massive mess. As well as painting my dresser with it.

    WTF…… just happened? And why?

    • avatar janet says:

      Wow, I can certainly understand how upsetting that must have been for you. I sounds like he isn’t getting the impression that his feelings about the separation are being heard, so he is waving a very large red flag. “Hello!” This can be tricky for parents, because the feelings are expressed in random ways, through acting out, etc., and they ideally need to be seen and acknowledged in the moment. That doesn’t mean letting him hit or kick his brothers, but when he has those impulses, acknowledge, “Wow, you feel like hitting. I can’t let you hit (stopping him), but I see you’re really wound up and feeling unsafe with your brother.” Something like that, so he feels seen and understood… and safe to express his feelings to you. I recently recorded a podcast on this topic that might be helpful: https://soundcloud.com/janet-lansbury/peeing-on-the-floor-is-an-attention-getter

  43. avatar Christina De Silva says:

    Hi my grandkids are 3+ and 2+. Sometimes I hear my older grandchild saying to her little brother “piss off”. I was really shocked to hear it but my daughter told us to ignore it saying it is the montessori method. So I would like to know if this is true. Because if my grandchild keeps saying it to other people then that is not going to be nice at all. I would like to know how to deal with a situation like this. Thanks.

  44. avatar Ana says:

    Hi, I am a new mom and I live away from parents and friends which makes me google a lot, and I found your book at Amazon looking for orientarion on this topic. My 20 month old baby boy is very active and veryyyy smart, I think he already knows how to get what he wants from me. For example, a the grocery store when is time to pay at the cashier, lately he is making a drama (you can notice in his face, is a drama) he will complain and cry and make a lot of noise and I dont know how to make him listen to me and stop doing that. I always end giving him something for him to hold in his hand and not always work. NEED help please! Also, Which of your books would you recomend me for his age?

  45. avatar Nana says:

    Great article!
    I strongly disagree with point 6 – “Natural consequences” -“If a child refuses to get dressed, we don’t go to the park today.”
    These consequences are punishments as well as we make them up to manage unwanted behaviour. A real natural consequence would be: If you don’t dress, you get cold (but as you don’t have enough experience, of course I secretly put some clothes into my bag).
    If my 2,5y old child refuses to get dressed, I take him out (half)naked and it doesn’t take long until he asks for his clothes. Or he doesn’t. Never mind. But of course we go to the park!

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