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 challenging behavior 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 behavior. 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




Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. avatar This Other Kid... says:

    Then my question to you is: even when I was spanked as a child, why do I still have an open, loving, trusting relationship with my parents & have not gone down the road of drug addictions, violence, & beating others when I don’t get my way? Every article I’ve read on anti-spanking says that I should be riddled with mental illnesses & prone to violence & chaos because my parents swatted me as a child.

    1. What the research says is that the risk for aggression and depression is high when one is physically punished. So, again I ask, why would you do this to your child if you didn’t need to? And listen to your own words… “swatting” is something I might do to a fly, but not another person.

      1. My mum hit my siblings and myself when we were younger as a form of disipline. I am very close to my mother but I have issues from this. Sometimes I can understand my mother hitting me (her own frustrations at being a busy and young mum) but I can recall being hit and not understanding why. I think she didn’t know how to handle certain situations that weren’t ‘socially acceptable’. I belive this has left me with issues of anxiety and shame. I totally understand why hitting is not the solution.

    2. avatar Was a child once... says:

      My mom once said about spanking: “once is for the child, twice is for the parent, three times is abuse”. I felt shame when I was spanked as a child… which taught me not to do the things I would be spanked for doing. It gave me boundaries. Now, spanking may not be right for every child (I think the child has to show some degree of reasoning capabilities.. they have to be able to understand that spanking is a consequence of bad behaviour), and if they don’t, another form of discipline is needed, or yes – they could face difficulties with it down the road. I was spanked. I reasoned it out. I’m fine now, and my mother is my best friend.

      1. But wouldn’t have been better for your mother to teach you not to do things because of the reasons that they shouldn’t be done, and not because of the shame inflicted upon you after? There is no doubt that spanking “works” to correct the behavior, that is simple extinction behavior modification. But better is to instill in your a child an understanding of why things should not be done as much as they are able to understand, I think. There ARE consequences to bad behavior without bringing in spanking.

      2. you cannot be best fiends with an adult who abuses children. that is denial

        1. Wow Linda that is very judgemental of you. You clearly have no idea what true child abuse is and I am sick of people identifying a tap on the bum or hand in the same category as bruising, broken bones and hospitalisation / neglect.
          I have seen many people who have matured to adulthood and as what is normal their relationships evolve to a friendship. this is not denial – this is NORMAL!! I envy people who have that with their parents. good on you Anon!

          1. I would challenge you to pose this question : would you be comfortable with your boss “tapping” you on the bun to train you for work? Or perhaps your co-workers? Or would you be horrified and furious?

            Pain and humiliation are not appropriate tools to teach anyone – a child is a person. Just like you.

    3. avatar Charlespippi says:

      All children know that there parents have the best intentions YET oftentimes do more harm than good (see Thinking allowed by Joseph Chilton Pearce on youtube to really understand this complex issue)Parents do these things because they believe that it works in the short term- YET at a great expense for building a trusting long term relationship with their children.

    4. Exactly.
      The statement “Purposely inflicting pain on a child cannot be done with love” is ridiculous hyperbole. Are you seriously suggesting no parent who spanks their child loves them?

      1. Issac Asimov said “violence is the last response of the incompetent”. Maybe you should get your own act sorted out before beating your kids. Parents who beat may love their kids, but not in a healthy, caring sort of way, more in a violent, beating sort of way

        1. avatar no spoiling says:

          just because “your inflicting pain on them, does not mean you are beating them. i used to have to drink hot sauce for lying, that was painful.. was i being beaten? no.

        2. I love Isaac Asimov – as a Sci Fi writer. As an authority for child rearing? Sometimes, valid guidance can come from unexpected places, but often, ignorance is ignorance. I am raising 5 wonderful, well-adjusted children, ages newborn to (soon to be) 18. Perhaps, if you are parenting only one child, and this child happens to be of a very biddable temperament, you MIGHT manage to teach them to be truly responsible members of society without ‘inflicting pain’. More realistically, you are raising self-centered people who have a lot of learning to do once they leave your home.

        3. I think it is a little telling that you are being so sarcastic in your comment. I have a friend that is giving his child chemotherapy. By your logic this is not a loving parent, since chemo is, by all accounts, pretty painful. Clearly you aren’t suggesting the parents are incompetent because they are allowing one painful treatment to avert something that could be more painful if not treated right away.

          What if your child’s arm was caught under a giant rock? Would you cause pain and pull it out? Or if your child was in the path of a truck. Would you yank their arm to keep them from getting run over?

          How do you measure pain? My four year old finds it very painful when I don’t read him a story before he goes to bed. Is that violent? Is it impossible to do so without love?

          The author would suggest sending a child to bed without dinner is a natural consequence, and therefore is acceptable parenting. Does she not realize she is inflicting hunger pains? If you take her statement as true then this can’t be done in a loving way either.

          She’s managed to set up a moral law that she can’t possibly live up to in a real world situation. It works well for an article, but is impossible to live out.

          What if spanking is inflicting a small pain to help avert a bigger pain somewhere in the future? The same as a parent allowing a child to experience hunger to help enforce the idea that they cannot throw their food? In the moment, ALL forms of discipline are painful, but the end result is (hopefully) that the person is saved from their foolishness.

          1. I hope that you never do anything foolish, and if you do, I hope your child (or maybe someone bigger and stronger than you) smacks you right back to ‘save you from your foolishness’.

            And to make it clear, not ALL forms of discipline are painful, but ALL forms of punishment are. There is a difference. You should look that up.

            P.S. your comparisons of pain are comparing oranges to apples. They completely miss the point.

          2. Jim:
            I don’t know how far your idea of “a little pain” goes.
            But if it really is a little, then I applaud your concise analysis here.
            The extremist thinking that is now permeating our pop psychology child rearing punditry is simply unworkable and just wrong on many levels.
            There is a quality of communication that is unsubstitutable in the expression of physical discipline for children.
            In simpler terms, a mild unharmful wack on the butt of child conveys heaps of information to the child about the situation that nothing else will.
            When the child is able to talk and understand language, this kind of discipline becomes unnecessary.
            But to eschew it entirely for ideological reasons that have little basis in fact, is in itself a bit of long term, low level abuse – because the consequences are actually rather dire.

    5. avatar Katharine says:

      And we used to drive without seat belts, have lead in our paint and our parents smoked around us. Doesn’t mean we can’t do better for our kids.

      What relationship benefits from swatting?

      Do you feel closer to your spouse when they swat you for doing something wrong? No, that’s called spousal abuse.

      Does your dog trust you more or less when you swat her for doing something wrong? Most can agree hitting a dog is abuse, or at least wrong, but is a child not more valuable?

      A child doesn’t benefit from being swatted, they suffer. Whether you personally can remember it or not. It hurt you. It broke your trust in your parent and replaced it with fear. The moment your caregiver struck you, they became unsafe.

      “Spanking damages the brain. It literally reduces grey matter and therefore intelligence, learning, sensory perception, speech, muscular control, emotions and memory.”

      “Spanking interferes with proper development of the brain’s regulatory equipment, which develops in the first five years of life..”

    6. avatar Roberta Simmons says:

      . . . because your mother probably didn’t use spanking very often, and because she used it in the larger context that was marked with genuine love and respect. You most likely had the type of communication and openness that put it all in the best perspective That seems to make the difference, especially when spanking is used sparingly, if at all.

      (sign me: Mom Who Learned a Lot)

    7. I completely agree with The Other Kid. Obviously no one should beat or want to cause harm to a child, but I think putting all spanking in such a manner is excessive. I was spanked as a child, and quite frankly that was the best discipline for me. All kids are different and respond differently to different disciplines. Spanking was the only think that really got through to my personality. Other types of discipline didn’t phase me in the least. However, before I was ever spanked, my parents always explained exactly what I was being punished for, and expressed their love for me..and I was never, not once spanked in anger. I never felt any fear or anxiety towards my parents. As with all things, there needs to be a balance, but to say spanking is something that should never be done is narrow minded.

      1. And to say that being spanked as a child and turning out ‘fine’ is narrow minded. How do you measure ‘fine’? You, an adult, are of the opinion that spanking a small, innocent human being is ok, that does NOT equate to ‘fine’ thinking or mentality.

        1. avatar Too much tree huggin says:

          There are lots of ways to discipline a child and psychological abuse can be far more damaging than physical. There is no one discipline nor one situation. Your kid goes for a hot stove. What do you do tell him/her not to touch it, let them get burned, or smack their hand away. Children test boundaries to know where they are. I am sorry to say, I would rather not have a child who is not of reasonable age to be severely burned or mistake that that is a boundary to test later on. However, if my child is misbehaving at school a spanking will not do it is far removed from the act. So they lose luxury and they cry. The best thing is to not be frustrated. You can damage a child psychologically without lifting a finger. Starvation is used to torture yet it is clearly stated to remove dinner if the child acts up. Then you have a child with an eating disorder. I’m not a doctor but it seems there is a purpose for both a swat and psychological consequences. Children need to understand boundaries, the boundaries of safety and the boundaries of people. Talking it out may work for a weak willed child and not for a strong minded child. Fear is a great motivator and so is reward. Parents seem to think that a reward should be given always unless there is bad behavior. Let a child earn a reward. Do not just give it. Kids will cry, scream, kick, punch, bite, hit themselves…they are master manipulators especially when they are going to be punished. I find that immediately correcting behavior is the best but sometimes it just isn’t close enough. The point being these children need to know how to make choices and reap the rewards or suffer the consequences. The real world is much less “lovey dovey” than mommy or daddy. When these children grow up they will act out and have to learn for themselves about all the hot stoves and bad situations without us. You are setting the ground rules and so you should set a consequence that meets the crime. The less you discipline the less independent your child will be. No one is going to coddle little Jimmy if he steals from his job. No one is going to tell Sarah that the football guy is narcissist. These lessons come from what they learn as a child. The best advice I can give is remain calm, unwavering, understanding and caring.

  2. avatar Andrijana says:

    Please my mom unleashed can of whoopass every so often, I still adore my mom, never was depressed i stand up for my self and have an MBA . Looking back yup i deserved it LOL–

    1. The point of this is not that it causes EVERY single child to feel shame and be depressed. but you do not know if it will cause YOUR child to feel this way just because you yourself never experienced it. I personally love my mother and father but I am very insecure and scared of discipling my son how they chose to discipline me (physically) I still have troubles coping with the things they did to me, even though I have forgiven them. If this article did not touch you as a parent or make any one of you rethink how you are raising your children, then maybe you are not doing it right. I also fear that some people start out as just a “spanking”, which is what my mother did, and then it grows into something much worse because the child learns to be used to spankings so the parents push it further to “get the point across”

      1. Thanks for sharing your important points, Vallerie.

        1. avatar Someone in America says:

          The problem with spanking/swatting is not the mere act of it rather how the deliverer uses it. I think there are 3 types of people; people who spank too much and carelessly (unhealthy to the child), those that don’t spank at all (again, unhealthy to the child unless other methods actually work) and then those that use it when it’s necessary and done in a healthy way (not with your hands but maybe a ruler). Statistics prove the first 2 type of people create disturbing kids in the future. You read a lot about kids that weren’t corrected “negatively” (as you call it) become violent uncontrolled adults just as those who spanked them carelessly as first resort. I firmly believe we live in a world driven by both positive and negative, you can’t have one without the other. There are statistics to back just about any agenda you have. However, basic principles in life (positive & negative) teach us. There is a right and a wrong way of handling negative; it’s wrong to say “remove all negative” and replace with all “positive” you create an equally unhealthy environment for your child as with the parent that uses spanking as first resort. In short, I believe there is a healthy balance in using positive reinforcement with your child as well as a healthy swat/spanking (as you call it.) Last but not least, swatting a child on the hand with a small wooden ruler is not beating that child. Beating is when you have left an unhealthy mark, blood or using it out of context and unhealthily in anger. But to dismiss swatting/spanking altogether as “beating/hurting” your child is utterly wrong. Again, if other methods work, I say use them, but there are times when they don’t/won’t work and the child doesn’t improve.

      2. So, you are saying because *some* children may react badly to physical discipline, then *all* children must never be treated this way.
        Typical socialist mindset.

    2. Hello Andrijana,

      I am glad that you were never depressed, you stand up for yourself and congratulations on your MBA!

      Research does show that hitting children increases their chance to have mental health issues, and I think as parents we should always try to do better than what was done for her.

      And to give another perspective, I have a terrible relationship with my mom, am a people pleaser, and worst of all find myself unable to control my anger towards my child. To me it is imperative that I make changes now, so my toddler sees how to handle stress.

  3. I was just wondering what the ‘natural’ consequences would be for not wanting to get dressed for school? Not to have to go to school?

    1. I believe the natural consequence for not getting dressed for school is going to school in pajamas. Depending on the child and their age, that could backfire though. I figure while some kids would be embarrassed, others might think, “Cool! School in my pajamas!”

      1. Pajamas to school is against most dress codes.

    2. What Becca says. =) As a teacher, it wouldn’t faze me in the least if I had a parent shoot me an email saying “It was a rough morning…” a student in my class wearing their PJ’s.

    3. In my house it would be losing the right to dress yourself in the clothes you wanted to wear. If the child’s goal were to have someone dress him, I might do it safely but very uncomfortably (ie, so that he would not be quite as comfortable as if he had dressed himself once done – the actual help with dressing would still be gentle)but this hasn’t happened

    4. Going to school in pajamas, would be the last resort. In the case of not wanting to get dressed for school that situation calls for

      “Do you want to get dressed or shall I help you?”

    5. The natural consequence for not wanting to get dressed for school is you go in your pyjamas.
      As a preschool teacher we had this happen a few times. I always greeted the pyjama-dressed child with connection, empathy and with a smile on my face. The child felt safe in experiencing this consequence but I also know it never happened twice.

  4. I’m also wondering, what is a natural consequence for hurting another person? When my toddler hits a sibling, I think it’s appropriate to go to their room. What’s a natural, EFFECTIVE consequence?

    1. Toddlers are learners. Do you expect consequences when you are learning a new skill or do you expect more information to help you get better? Showing empathy for the hurt child, explaining to the toddler that this is not what we do in this house (no hitting in our house – which means no spanking by adults too), looking for the triggers, inquiring as to the problem and teaching some conflict resolutions skills. Children can’t learn any of this if they are sent away. Helping children learn conflict resolution is a big subject, particularly since we are often not so good at it ourselves.

    2. well, a natural consequence for not getting dressed fast enough here is that our children don’t have time to eat and before lunch, they feel dizzy, or hungry because they did not have time to eat in the morning because they chose to not get dressed fast enough

      1. I think this is a clear example of why this natural consequences have more negative effects than positive ones. As parents, we’re to make sure our kids are able to learn in school. Sending your kids to school knowing they’ll be dizzy and hungry doesn’t show any more love than someone who’s giving their kids other kinds of consequences in order for them to hurry up and eat.

    3. I think in this case the consequence is that they don’t get to play for a little while. It doesn’t mean that they have to be alone, but they don’t get to keep on playing. Maybe go sit with them in their room, make them sit quietly on their bed until they are ready to really say sorry to the sibling.

    4. I have a ‘making it right’ consequence. Hurting someone physically or emotionally entails the responsibility of making the person happy again-making it right with them. I have a formula- child first asks ‘are you ok?’ and has to hear the others anger and upset. Then ‘what can I do to make you feel better?” If the hurt child is to upset to say something or isn’t sure, the child who hit has to think of something (bring a toy, make the child laugh by being silly, give a privilege, etc.) I start this from toddlerhood and I will go through it with them every time until they are the age where when I say, ‘make it right,’ they know what they have to do. This way children learn to take responsibility for their behaviour and accept the anger, hurt and general emotions they caused in someone else, but don’t feel too defensive to do something about it. An easy ‘sorry’ is unacceptable. I only allow ‘I’m sorry,’ if it’s an accident or the child says it because they truly feel it-but still goes through the ‘making it right’ process.

  5. Hi Janet, I always enjoy reading what you have to say and I refer so many of my parents to your blog.

    I primarily work with infants in group care, but in the evenings the toddlers combine in my room with the infants. There are a couple toddlers with some attention seeking aggressive behaviors. I try to give them as much wants something time as I am able before attending to an infant need, but often as soon as I begin feeding a bottle, the children will start hitting or pushing either the child I am holding or other children in the room. I even verbalize various situations “we read a book together and you want to read another, but now Thomas needs me to help him drink his milk. We can read again after Thomas has finished.” I try sitting on the floor even while feeding just to remain as present as i can, but the aggression still happens. The children know that I will come stop them (while carrying the feeding baby) and they get the attention they are seeking. Do you have any tips or suggestions? For one particular child, this is an all day long behavior. No matter how much 1 on 1 he gets, he is immediately aggressive when he is not getting attention.

    another question, one child will start hitting another child to get me to come and stop her, as soon as i get there, she immediately seeks a hug from me, I feel like if I hug her, I am rewarding the behavior, but if I don’t, I am denying her love. I try to give her lots of affection throughout the day, but she still persists with hitting for hugs. I also try to articulate “you are telling me that you want a hug, but when you hit, you are hurting so-and-so. you can come to me when you want a hug.” should I hug her when she hits anyway? what else should I do?

    1. I was hoping you’d get an answer, as this sort of behavior is similar to a child I sometimes take care of.

    2. What if you waited for the hug until after a natural time out and away from the other kids? You can say “I’d like to hug you, and I will, but first I need you to calm down your body and move away from the other kids and their toys”. That way you aren’t denying that affection but you are teaching that first they need to calm down. OR, after the hug, pull them away from the other kids until they can calm down.

    3. Curious of any responses or anything else you have tried to solve the situations.

  6. Oh how I wish this information was available to my mother while I was growing up. Especially the bits about it being okay to cry. When I was 6 years old I fell on my knees while learning to ice skate. They hurt so much I had a hard time getting up and I started crying (and not a screaming cry, just tears and quite sobs because I knew full well what was coming). Mom’s response? “You have NOTHING to cry about” soon followed by “If you don’t stop RIGHT NOW I’ll GIVE you something to cry about”, soon followed by spanking, leaving the ice rink and being yelled at to be quite if I so much as sniffed. “Crying Kid = Bad Kid = Kid Must Be Punished” was a theme though my entire childhood and has lifelong repercussions that I’m still struggling with.

    Now that I’m an adult, I know there is nothing wrong with showing emotions, but I simply don’t know what to do when encountering someone who is emotional. I also have a very difficult time expressing how I actually feel. When I’m really upset and unable to communicate that, it often comes out as anger. Ditto for things like pain, shock, and fear. Someone who doesn’t know me *really* well would believe I have only three emotions – Mildly Pleased, Neutral and Angry. One thing I haven’t been able to understand is, I can’t laugh. I can sort of chuckle, but it feels weird and sounds forced. When I am happy or think something is really funny, all I can do is smile. I guess being unable to express the pain side of the emotional scale means I don’t get to properly express joy either.

    This article, and your entire blog, are priceless to me. I’m not a Mom yet, but my husband and I are planning on starting a family soon. I have a fair bit of work to do before I’m comfortable being responsible for the developmental, and especially emotional, well being of another person. Your blog is helping me recognized why I am the way I am and how my upbringing contributed to it. You are giving me the tools to follow a different path than my parents, without swinging to a different extreme. So, Thank You for sharing your wisdom.

    1. Nova, thank you so much for sharing your story…sounds deeply painful. I hope all of this recognition you have (you are insightful!) will help you on your way to healing. Choosing a healthier route for your children will be healing, too, you’ll see. You are going to be such an incredible mom. I hope you’ll stay in touch!

  7. I have to constantly tell my 2 1/2 y/o daughter to put her shoes on every morning. The article said to teach the consequences of their behavior. “If she doesn’t put her shoes on we wont go to the park” but, this happens on my way out to work. I need her to put her shoes on so we can leave the house to drop her off at daycare and to get to work on time. How do you handle situation like this? where they are acting up, refusing to complete a task just because they don’t want to?



    1. Get her up a little earlier so she can have some free time before you go out the door. In order to earn the free time she must be all ready to go out the door and come when called.

    2. I would probably just put her shoes on for her until she is a little older. Mornings are tough when you are trying to get a toddler out the door and it is not always their fault (they are tired, they just woke up, etc.). So I agree about waking up earlier or just lower the expectation.

  8. I know this is a little late (3 years later), but there is a difference between natural and logical consequences. Natural consequences happen on their own, and a parent does not need to step in, while logical consequences requires a parent to make a decision about what will happen next. I feel I am being a little nit picky, but true natural consequences are much more effective.

  9. None of this works I’m not going to stop spanking my kid because of a study. I tried all this and now I’m regretting because his not scared of me. Need tp put fear and respect in a kid. This is why we have the kids we do now. The bible says the butt was made for it. My son is 6 yrs old and is a very violent boy NOTbecause I spamk him, he gets time outs he got grounded from stuff. This peaceful way of trying to teach a child is going to cause more serial killers.

    1. How is hitting a child peaceful? As a teacher treating your .child this way at home will make them to act out at school because teachers will not treat your child the same way. Two things can happen, your child will be horrendous in school and never respect his teachers and won’t learn or your child will loose respect in you, love their teachers and not want to listen to you anymore and hopefully make something out of themselves.

      Also how do you know that you hitting your child isn’t making them violent? What device do you have to prove that? I bet psychologists and psychatrists would love it!

      Good luck!

    2. Ugh thank goodness my parents did not have that mentality. Why should one need to instill fear to maintain control? The bible says a lot of things (slavery being ok, as one example.) Does not mean it’s culturally relevant today. I respect my parents a lot, am now a PhD and quite happy, and my parents never raised a hand to me.

      1. Extremism goes both ways.
        Too much physical discipline is abuse.
        Too little never conveys the message.
        You do not need to make your children fear you to respect you.

        1. What “message” is that, Gary? The message that we inflict pain when people make immature choices?

          The choice not to hit children is hardly “extremism”. It’s humane parenting.

          1. No, I made no such message. Extremist thinking would lead one to believe I did though.
            The message is that people in our care make immature “choices”, we effectively convey to them in that the “choice” is unacceptable.
            That message to them can take on many forms, but the most important element is that they understand it transactionally.
            You call it a choice, and that already presumes too much.
            A choice presumes competent agency, which usually those in our care do not have.

            1. “A choice presumes competent agency, which usually those in our care do not have…” I agree that our children’s behavior is often impulsive and irrational, which is all the more reason our messages shouldn’t be delivered violently or painfully. Remember, the ultimate message children receive about human behavior is what we model. If parents demonstrate that it’s okay to hit, that is what their children learn. It’s common sense.

              1. Janet,
                Yes, in some instances it is okay to hit.
                Emphasis on “some instances”.
                Again, I am not one who wants to or encourages it, but in some instances it can be appropriate.
                And, believe it or not, hitting does not actually have to hurt.
                At this point you/we really have to parse out what exactly you are meaning when you say “hit”. A game of patty-cake is almost all hitting, but you probably would not view it that way.

                1. But what is the point of hitting or spanking if it does not hurt at all? Why not just talk to the child or tap her on the shoulder? Do you hit animals as well?

    3. If you want respect from your child you must first be respectful of your child and model the behavior. Respect is earned not demanded. Fear does not equal respect. I can see how people get the two confused. Both respect and fear are capable of causing desirable behavior.

  10. The fact is children should be allowed to be kids. At the same time they need to learn respect, kindness, and love. They learn from what they see more parents need to parent and be available for their children rather than into themselves. Every child is different if the discipline is not working for that child don’t do it. Simple try something else. Be available for your child physically, mentally, and emotionally.

  11. avatar Liza Matias says:

    Hi Janet,

    My daughter is 3 years old she will be turning 4 soon. My issue with my daughter is that she isn’t understanding who mommy is. She doesn’t listen to me. I feel like I am a joke. I used to be very firm a spank on the butt or hand but that doesn’t work. I talk to her. No screaming. Every time I discipline her she calls for her grandmother or her uncle. She constantly screams out that she doesn’t like me and that she wants her grandmother. She even said im not her mother. Im a survivor of domestic violence. So I live with my mother which is her grandmother. I work 5 days a week and save so I can get an apartment. By the way it is very hard because housing in NYC is unbelievably expensive. I’m going to school soon for medical assisting. Im trying my very best so she an have the best. But I don’t this. Time-out doesn’t work. I take her out the room and tell her to calm down so the tv can go back on or she can play with her toys and that doesn’t work. I am trying to tell her to stop and just listen but that’s not working. My mom says she looks for her because she watches her the majority of the days. I mean she’s In early pre-k until I get out of work. Then I pick her up and go home. When im home im exhausted but I do pay attention to her but she goes to grandma for everything. My mom tells her to come to me and even with that she doesn’t listen. I’m at the end to just give her to her father. But the more I think about it he isn’t a good person to be around. He would just hit her. I cry at times because I don’t know what to do. My husband gets through to her but its like it goes through one ear and out the other. I ask about her behavior in school and at home when im not around and for the most part she listens and theres no complaints. I know her father has a anger issue but I dont know if she does. My brain is fried. I don’t know what to do. So confused and hurt. I feel like im not a good parent at times. What can I do? Is there any advice for me?

    Thanks for your time.

  12. Hi Liza,
    Please do not let your daughter go with someone that would hurt her. Parenting can be extremely hard, but keep trying you can do it.

  13. What about pinching your 2 yr old when he pulls your hair to the point he has a wad of hair in his hand. *sigh* I dont spank but ive caught myself pinching him a few times. Dont know of any other way to make him let go of me. Any tips for hair pulling?

    1. To release anyone’s grip on an object, take hold of the pinky and bend it back. A person can not maintain a grip when the pinky is pulled back. Just do it gently. Works like a charm.

  14. I completely agree with you on all but one of these. The only one I disagree with is the spanking. Just hear me out. Some parents go overboard with spanking, aka spanking their kids when anything wrong is done. But I think the way I was brought up was fantastic. I was only spanked twice as a kid, and when I say spanked I really mean just enough to get my attention. My parents popped my bottom and I realized not to ever do that again. Then in the future , I straightened up whenever my parents said “do you want a spankin’ ?” It is not the most effective tool, but it does help. I am 23 so I am old enough to realize how I was parented

    Otherwise , great article 🙂

  15. avatar Erin Rogers says:

    I find anti-spanking comments pathetic and patronizing. Sure, hitting your child excessively is going to cause damage. However, talking to your child using demeaning language can hurt them just as much. Therefore we should not talk to our children, right? I know this is an absurd argument… and that is my point.

    All children are different. Our first child did not require any “punishment.” He responded fantastically to discussions about his behavior. Our youngest child does not. He will push and push, ignoring requests, and eventually requires some sort of punishment… Time out or a spanking if he refuses. After the punishment, he almost always apologizes and listens to our explanation for the punishment. He does not appear to be violent or sad. In fact, he’s a more “happy” kid than the older, more even-keeled son. We try and avoid spanking, but it is a tool that helps set boundaries. It can be very effective if used reasonably when all else fails.

    IMO children have become more and more disrespectful. Our educational system is faltering, because our children do not behave in school. While we give our children the freedom to raise themselves, they proceed to lose the ability to keep up. They are treated like adults without any of the same responsibilities. We’ve created generations of adults with a sense of entitlement they did not earn. Meanwhile, the country crumples under our delusion of self importance.

    Can spanking be wrong? Of course it can! However, it is most assuredly not inherently evil either. When I see studies on spanking, the psychologists admit it is next to impossible to get real data, because spanking occurs in the home, and no one is going to admit to spanking in the current “anti-spanking” climate they’ve created. So, they are reduced to studying small sample sizes in an office, or by interviewing adults desperate to blame there parents for their own mistakes and unhappiness. I’m sure the psychologists have their prescription books handy.

    Before you start condemning parents for the act of “spanking, ” maybe stop and really think about how you treat your own children. Do you treat them all equally? Are they all responding with the same positive outcomes? Do they treat all the adults around them with the same respect they give you? Are you just plain lucky to have children who do not grossly misbehave?

    I do not condone excessive hitting of children, but I do belive that children need to have a sense that there are repercussions to bad behavior. I am very tired of your children misbehaving in the classroom where my child is trying to learn. I’m tired of your child talking during the movie I paid $10 to see. I’m tired of your child dipping his hand into the granola at the supermarket or manhandling the apples. You are very patient with your child, but I shouldn’t have to be. So, please, keep your non- spanked kid at home.

    1. I love how you complain about “patronizing” language and then engage in your own patronizing and pathetic rhetoric. It’s cute in an obliviously ironic sort of way.

      “Therefore we should not talk to our children, right? I know this is an absurd argument… and that is my point.”

      Yeah, I’m sad that you don’t really know how this whole “analogy” thing works.

      Language is used for many things, both good and bad. Hitting (and, make no mistake about it, spanking IS hitting), many would contend, is very rarely a productive activity for civilized adults.

      “IMO children have become more and more disrespectful.”

      And now it’s up to you to show that this alleged decrease in respectfulness is the result of a decline in spanking. Remember – correlation does not prove causation.

      “When I see studies on spanking, the psychologists admit it is next to impossible to get real data, because spanking occurs in the home, and no one is going to admit to spanking in the current “anti-spanking” climate they’ve created.”

      Except… Many of the initial studies came out before there was a stigma against spanking.

      Except… Several of the studies do actually have large, statistically significant sample sizes. If you had bothered to do your research, rather than relying on the propaganda of pro-spanking advocates, you would know that. As it is, your statements about what “psychologists admit” in the studies on spanking that you’ve seen is not very convincing.

      Except… Even in this day and age, there are many parents who proudly proclaim their belief in corporal punishment, as if they’re under the impression that they’re doing something brave and courageous. In fact, you yourself just admitted to it.

      So, uh, I’m not entirely buying the “no one will admit to spanking” and “they couldn’t possibly have had large enough sample sizes” bits. It’s certainly true that some research studies are better than others – and some of the studies on the effects of spanking have been very good and very well designed by people much smarter than you.

      “So, they are reduced to studying small sample sizes in an office, or by interviewing adults desperate to blame there parents for their own mistakes and unhappiness.”

      Yeah… You don’t really understand how these studies work. There may be some studies like that, but there have been quite a few studies that used rather extensive sample sizes. And your last bit about the “desperate adults” is an unfounded bit of speculation. Unfortunately for you, your baseless accusations about how the studies were “really” conducted aren’t particularly convincing to someone who has some experience in creating and analyzing the reliability of research studies and who has actually bothered to look at how many of the various studies on the effects of spanking were designed and conducted.

      “I’m tired of your child talking during the movie I paid $10 to see.”

      Maybe it’s just the movies I attend (I generally avoid the multiplexes and stick to the classic revivals and the art house), but the “treating the movie theater like it’s your living room” problem seems to be pretty universal across all age groups. There have been multiple occasions when I’ve sat behind elderly couples who chat with each other about things not related to the film throughout the entire screening.

      “So, please, keep your non- spanked kid at home.”

      A bit presumptuous – you start out with the assumption that spanking must be the most effective way to curb bad behavior, and therefore any child who misbehaves in public must not have been spanked.

      No discipline solution is going to be effective for EVERY child – and the same goes for spanking. I can guarantee you that at least some of the kids that annoy you so much have been swatted on occasion. I can also guarantee that many of the more well-behaved children have never been spanked – and not because their parents were “lucky” enough to have kids who were instinctively obedient and well-mannered, but because they found other effective means of discipline.

      You think that spanking is always a good solution for the “problem” children – but that’s not the case. In some cases, spanking – even moderated spanking – can simply exacerbate the problem.

      On a final note, one thing I’ve noticed among the pro-spanking crowd: They’re bad thinkers, without exception. They don’t understand how science works, or how research works. They don’t understand that anecdotal evidence doesn’t really cut it (no, “I was spanked and I turned out great” is not a convincing argument.) They don’t understand how to read studies, and they certainly don’t understand notions like statistical significance (no, a study showing a strong correlation between spanking and aggressive behavior does NOT mean that every child who is spanked will turn out to be violent. No, your assertions about the flaws of the studies don’t mean much when you have no scientific training and when we can look at those studies ourselves and see that you’re wrong.)

      For the record, I don’t condemn all parents who spank – it is absurd to suggest that spanking someone will inevitably turn them into a violent felon. Fortunately, no one’s suggesting that. The research studies that pro-spanking advocates love to rant and rave about certainly don’t suggest that.

      I don’t think a few swats on the bottom to a toddler or adolescent will be that harmful to most children – but I do think (know, in fact) that there are better solutions. It’s not just that hitting can easily turn into abuse, no matter how “in control” and “calm” you feel – it’s that spanking teaches the wrong lessons and doesn’t prepare children for adult life.

      1. Thank you so much for that, it was fantastic to read such a great well thought out response. Bless you for sharing those truths.

      2. Erica J. I salute you. You have a great way with words but I still think that discussion was painstakingly thought out and worded to great effect. There simply is no argument beyond a discussion like that! Thanks so much for your great perspective and depth!

    2. As a teacher, I can agree with you. I see this kind of behavior EVERY single year. I would never condone a parent or anyone else for that matter, excessively hitting or harming a child, but this “natural consequences” kind of parenting has made many kids believe they can do as they please, knowing adults will just have to accommodate. I constantly deal with kids who don’t listen in class and do as they please, their parents tell me they practice this kind of parenting, and usually remove the child from that situation for them to understand that if they misbehave, then they won’t participate. Where am I suppose to “remove” their child to in class? (Since the parents don’t want their kid to sit in a corner for “time out”). Same thing with putting coats on to go outside. Most of the parents that push this kind of teaching, are also the parents that throw a fit when their kid has to stay inside while everyone else goes outside to play (because that makes their child feel excluded from the group, and fosters low self-esteem and a “bad kid stigma”, etc.,etc.). I agree with being compassionate, loving and understanding but I do wish parents taught their kids to respect authorities and behave in public or in a class environment. I love fostering creativity and self expression, but I definitely don’t condone this kind of parenting where children seem to make the rules.

      1. Anush, you sound contradictory – creativity is about making your own rules, and you say you foster creativity but “don’t condone this kind of parenting where children seem to make the rules.” Please get clarity on this, you touch childrens lives as a teacher, your impact goes years beyond the time you spend with children…if you truly believe in fostering creativity and self expression, stand up for it and do what it takes!

      2. avatar Catherine says:

        The natural consequence of refusing to wear your coat outside is that you will be cold. Forcing those kids to stay inside is counterproductive and not a natural or logical consequence. So, if that’s what those parents expect, I think the problem is not really understanding what a natural consequence is.

        Certainly, inside the classroom, there are plenty of things you could have misbehaving students do besides sitting in a corner or leaving the room.

  16. avatar chantell mugrage says:

    I need help with my four year old daughter I’ve tryed every thing in the book I don’t know what more to do

  17. avatar Erica J not says:

    Erica J you are the arrogant, close minded one. You present yourself as a level headed, thoughtful tolerant person, yet you demean and insult previous posters and pro-spankers with your patronizing rethoric. Obviously you see yourself as more intelligent and cultured than others, at least it seems that way judging by your post, condemning them while promoting your arthouse attending self. Your high horse must be so high that you lack an understanding of the real world so far below, and see others as insignificant dots. How arrogant, and narasistic of you. I am not going to waste my time posting a point by point example. Its not worth my time, and really your whole post is an example of what I stated above any way. I will say this. You can’t guarantee any of the statements you made. You do not know ho this person is exposed to anymore than they. Scientificly speaking that is quite obvious, well to most anyway, though apparently not to you. Also the violence claims are indeed made by those referenced studies. I know. I have studied and done papers on them. One final note (as you put it) to say that pro-spankers are without exception poor thinkers who do not understand science, get over yourself. Despite what you think you know the truth is far from it. I come from a family of scientist that work for Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos National Labs, and on top-secret government projects. People who are paid to think. We are talking about people who, for expamle, for fun, played games of chess…blindfolded. Oh, and we are a family of spankers, limited spanker, but yes, spankers. I CAN guarantee that.

    1. In support of what you just said EJN, I am an electrical engineer (BSEE), with a minor in physics.
      Erica J makes the sweeping statement that if a person is not as extremist as she is in regard to non-physical discipline, then by definition they are knuckle dragging ignoramuses. That alone puts Erica J’s whole position into suspicion.
      Another thing I am not, is religious, so my position on these matters is not dictated by any bible.
      As was said, every child is different, some need physical discipline, some none at all. I have seen first hand what happens when you eschew it as a principle irrespective of the need, and it is not a pretty sight.
      Such children are effectively taught that if they are enough trouble, if they act out enough and create a scene, they will get their way, no matter how bad it becomes for other people. Under such circumstance their bad behavior is not their fault at all, as they have literally been taught that this is the way you get what you want.
      When it is not abuse, I would not presume to tell others how to raise their children, and I would expect the same presumptive courtesy from others, without being insulted as to my intellect or competency.

  18. Almost every adult I know needs work on his or her conflict skills, and this three-year conversation supports my occasional feeling, “Who are we adults to go on about how to teach children how to behave?” If a five-year-old heard this conversation while playing with dolls on the floor in the next room, she might very likely say, “Wow, adults can be really mean.”
    A child knows when the Emperor has not clothes.

  19. Spanking a child should never be done out of anger. I grew up in a Christian home with loving parents who I am EXTREMELY close to know. When I was younger, my parents “spanked” me. I say “spanked” because it was a tap on thing or something; I would cry because I felt horrible because I had something wrong. They never spanked me because they were angry at me, and I did learn from it. I was a very well behaved toddler throughout elementary school too. Everyday that I was spanked my parents told me they love me. I am not angry towards them and love them to death. So if “spanking” is done out of pure violence, it IS wrong. Don’t assume everyone who “spanks” is a ruthless person.

  20. avatar Sue Martin says:

    Thanks. I appreciate your work and I am also have great respect of Magda Gerber’s work . I don’t agree with everything you say but the centrality of the idea of respect leads me to respect your viewpoint!
    My work is in this field and I have some work published, although my text books relate to working with very young children in cold care contexts.
    Well done!
    Thanks again
    sue martin

  21. avatar Lynn Smith says:

    Thanks, as always, for your posts Janet. As far as spanking goes, I wanted to let you know that I’m a reformed “I was spanked and I’m OK” person. I thought I’d “tap” or “spank” my child (whenever I had them). I even talked about this to my husband (who had never been spanked and was against it) when we were dating. I told him as long as it’s “under control” there’s nothing wrong with it. It even feels strange to remember thinking that way. I feel so very different now. When I became pregnant, it all changed. Not only did I not want to do that to my child but I could also see how counter-intuitive it is. You “spank” a child to teach them?? Teach them what? How can we raise confident, caring adults who are trusting of others and who won’t go on to solve their problems through hitting, yelling, etc if that’s how we “teach them? Is it possible for people who were spanked to be amazing, wonderful people – well, of course (I’m one ha ha!) But, we’re trying to give our children the best chance and spanking doesn’t offer that. So, keep the faith because there are some of us out there who are “reformed”! ha ha! And, for those who still think spanking/tapping/etc is OK. I say, it’s OK to change your feelings on this matter! It’s OK to acknowledge that your parents may not have handled things as best as they could have and to still love them/forgive them for it. For me, it’s been very “liberating” to break this cycle and heal old wounds.

    1. Wow, Lynn, I applaud you…and am touched by your story. I hope everyone reads it.

  22. avatar lori brogan says:

    there is a healing solution, keep looking for ways other than spanking and other “punishment”…as a mom of 3 boys, I might have cried, felt that I was at the end of my rope, reached out to people who could help me with my anxiety, frustrations, some dark days, lots of MOmmy time outs, doing my best to use humor when things were just about to go over the edge….structure, patience, play…keeping to a routine, planning ahead, just know in my heart that if chaos is going on, we just missed a turn somewhere, my kids were out of control, but I didn’t see myself as a failure, I knew things were going on and most often I had not reinforced our structure, one child needed more “planning head”, they started participating more in the choices, they started seeing when I was at the end…we worked on it together…keep trying …. in my world, I was spanked, I was hit with shoes, etc, yes and my mouth was washed out with soap….that never worked, I saw it as desperation, an act of a person at the brink….it’s not a tradition I passed onto my kids….thank you for sharing….

  23. Thank you for posting this. I would live to read your book.

  24. Is there a good parenting book you would recommend regarding children around preschool age?
    Thank you!

  25. This is a good article, but it’s the non-spankers comments that really get me. “Pinch them, starve them, bend their finger back” instead of spanking. I find it disgusting that this debate is so strong when non-spankers have admitted to other forms of physical punishment or even a form of neglect (yes CPS or the ministry of child and family services in Canada considers not feeding a child Nutritional Neglect). Why is this subject so prevalent when clearly there are other forms of punishment that can be equally detrimental? I have spanked my daughter. Maybe a total of 3 times when she was about 2 1/2. Before she was able to understand that her actions were either unacceptable or dangerous. Now at 6 we have privileges taken away and there isn’t a need for spanking. At 2 1/2 she doesn’t have a single memory of every being spanked. She is a happy, wonderful, polite, and respectable kid involved in a million activities. We have received compliments about her behavior from her dance teachers, soccer coaches, and her school principal. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but I am saying it seems to be a two sided coin. You can’t condemn me for spanking a diapered padded bum one minute and pinch your own child who knows where the next.

  26. I disagree about spanking. I was spanked as a child- I am very very close with my dad and was with my mom before she passed away. I believe that children need a good swat on the butt every once in a while. I don’t understand where people come off saying spanking makes for violent adults and violent children- I disagree. I have spanked my son- he is 2, I get compliments all the time of how sweet and well behaved he is. It all comes back to discipline.

  27. As a mother of three kiddos I find this list very helpful! It’s always good to step back and look at parenting from a different point of view. As parents we need to support each other and lift each other up! Thanks you sharing your thoughts!

  28. avatar Thomas Freck says:

    Spanking is a shallow attempt at control.

  29. I am trying to use more positive discipline vs. time-outs (which no longer work) with my three year old. Every morning it is a struggle to get him dressed. He would rather stay in his pjs, so I don’t see how letting him is setting a limit. I’ve tried a routine chart too. It only works if I “bribe” him with Tv (No TV until you get dressed) and even then, sometimes he doesn’t care. Suggestions? He will run away from me as well.

  30. I forgot to also mention I’ve tried letting him pick out clothes too. This sometimes works but he is VERY strong willed….. How do I approach this situation that’s been going on for almost a year? I sometimes get really frustrated and I know I have to work on regulating my emotions. Sometimes I say we are not leaving your room until we are dressed.

  31. avatar Kind, Pure, Gentle, Patient, Meek Love says:

    I must say that though there are many good ideas presented here, I highly disagree that spanking, when done correctly, is unloving or wrong. There are so many popular examples of very emotional, unloving spankings, hittings, beatings, etc. However, there is a way to spank lovingly. You must respond, as it says here, matter-of-factly instead of out of anger or emotion, and you must ensure that the child knows what they did and that their action requires discipline. Not all infractions require a spank, as is popularly heard. There are plenty of studies that have been done which disagree with the one given here. Look into it!

  32. My question is….when no of you suggestions work and your child is aggressive and “mean” to other children and doesn’t respond to any type if correction he has been given what do you do then? We have tried everything from rewarding him for good behavior to time out to him being sent home from daycare ect. He is almost perfect at school but at home and daycare he is THAT child that is mean to all the kids no matter the age and continues no matter the punishment or the reasoning. So now what???????????

  33. avatar Brittany Pickett says:

    Spare the rod, spoil the child. I’ll take Gods advice:)

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      The line “spoil the child” doesn’t actually appear in the Bible… although the section you’re referring to does suggest that anyone who doesn’t use corporal punishment hates their child. (Proverbs 13:24)

    2. Ah this old chestnut that Christians use to justify their spankings. I’d rather ‘hate’ my child then!

      Oh, and (it seems) welcome to the 1950s.

  34. Even though many of the points you made in this article are right on, my biggest issue with this kind of parenting is that it puts your toddler in control when YOU are the parent. Ending mealtime when your toddler throws food, leaving a store because he’s having a tantrum, not going out because he doesn’t want to get dressed, all this “methods of consequence” reinforce the idea that the toddler ends up deciding what goes on that day, and not the adult (all done, according to the article, so the toddler doesn’t feel shamed). I believe in compassionate parenting, but I think kids need to learn that sometimes, they have to do things they may not necessarily want to do. Getting dressed when you don’t want to is part of life and learning to listen and follow your parents advice is, I believe, more important that a sense of fairness (which if we are honest adults, we’ll agree, doesn’t exist in the real world).

    1. perfectly agree. So they need some time-out, but that should be perceived like a time to calm down not as punishment. It is something that the toddler ask for is not the parent who punishes.

  35. I think what a lot of people forget is that all children are different. Some punishments will work for some children that won’t work for others. Get to know your children and you will find what works for best for them. This may or may not including spanking.

  36. Hi Janet- I’m an avid reader of your blog and I was interested to read this article. My daughter is 26 months and a new big sister, and she is acting out with hitting. biting, shoving and the like. She acted out this way before her language developed and I followed the RIE techniques pretty closely: I created a regular environment, watched her cues for prevention, used “I won’t let you” language, tried not to get emotional myself when disciplining. It never really worked but I kept at it. But this time, the aggression is worse — the hitting and biting are more forceful. We are trying a time out technique (based on 1,2,3 magic– on the third “count” they get a time out) and it’s kind of working, but I do worry about shaming and leaving her in a time of need. I prefer a gentler method but nothing seems to be working short of this.

    I see all of this as normal limit testing, but I obviously can’t allow this behavior. When the RIE techniques aren’t working, is there a way to use consequences and time outs — provided they are short and the child is given warnings and understands exactly the reason for the time out — that is RIE-friendly?

  37. avatar ohiograndma says:

    I was spanked once as a child. My husband spanked our son once. I spanked one of my daughters once. I do not consider this “discipline,” but I do think hitting a child one time shows that even adults can lose control. Not a good thing, but it happens.

  38. avatar Christine says:

    What is the “natural consequence” for hitting a younger sibling? I believe in follow-through 100%. Won’t get dressed for playground? Fine, no playground. And I will follow that. But I think there is a place for a time-out. “I won’t let you” does NOT work for a 2.5 year old with a 11 month old sister that he’s pushing and kicking. That limit needs to be enforced for her safety.

  39. I appreciate this post but I have one major problem I can’t see a way past–if you have more than one child, you can’t not go on an outing because one child doesn’t get dressed, and you can’t sit with a child who is screaming, calling names, and throwing things when you have uou her children to care for and protect. I have four children, and short of having a full-time nanny, the no time-out rule is just not practical. I would honestly love to hear a solution or suggestion for dealing with this.

  40. My father came to visit me a few weeks ago and he mentioned briefly about how he could count on both hands the amount of times he had spanked my siblings and I. He said that it had only taken a few times for us to listen and he always got so many compliments on how well behaved we were. He spoke about it with such pride and confidence. He knows that this was the reason we were so well behaved. What he doesn’t know was that as he was speaking of this, almost as if in passing, I was cringing and resenting him for having done this. What he doesn’t know is that I don’t so much remember the actual spankings but have vivid, vivid memories of the anxiety, fear, and shame I felt afterwards because of the threats or the anticipation of possibly receiving another spanking. What he doesn’t know is that I hadn’t started ‘behaving’ out of respect for him but rather out of fear for what he might do to me. What he doesn’t know is that that was the beginning of the end of the trusting relationship we could have had. What he doesn’t know is that while I may have behaved and acted obedient in front of him or while I was younger, as soon as I was on my own or into my teens, I did things that I’m sure he could never have imagined possible, I just did them in a way that I knew he would never find out about them. What he doesn’t know is that some of my earliest and most prominent memories are those in which I felt ashamed and insecure. What he doesn’t know is that not allowing me to express my feelings or he will ‘give me something to cry about’ has very much effected every relationship I’ve had in my life as it has become such a struggle to voice my opinions and feelings. What he doesn’t know is that by ‘teaching’ me not to ‘talk back’ or speak up for myself he has taught me to allow myself to be walked all over. What he doesn’t know is that his behaviour is a big reason behind the anxiety disorder that I have been dealing with for the majority of my life. What he doesn’t know is that I am so envious of other people’s trusting, positive relationship with their father to the point where I am saddened by seeing other people posting their pictures with their fathers for Father’s Day while I sit here convincing myself that I should probably call and wish him a shallow happy Father’s Day before the day is over. What he doesn’t know is that I have turned out to be a kind and caring person and parent despite of what he ‘taught’ me not as a result of it. I assume I would have been kind and caring regardless but perhaps I could have been kind, caring, confident and secure had we had a relationship built on trust and respect rather than fear…

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Elle. Peace and blessings to you!

  41. “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?” ”

    Time -out should not be seen as punishment time out is the time needed by the toddler to calm down. is the time out from the environment or situation that caused him/her to have the tantrum…

  42. And of course you don’t give him time out for everything just for serve brake of rules that requires immediate action. Like he will run in front of a car….

  43. “If a child throws food, mealtime is over”
    unbelievably wrong
    He/she will do that every time…

  44. I think it’s much better for the child when you can use positive reinforcement and show them lots of love, so they don’t seek your love and attention through bad behavior, but I do feel that spankings on the bottom have their place and time for use. You have to set boundries somewhere, or kids will walk all over you. You just have to find that happy balance. I wouldn’t resort to spankings all the time, but when you have warned them several times that they will get a spanking, you must follow through, or they will never take you serious. just letting my daughter know that I will spank her, perks up her ears and suddenly she is doing as I ask. Plus, a spank once on a bare bottom is not teaching children to necessarily hit because of the location. If you hit their hand, face or elsewhere it’s bad because they will learn to do the exact same thing to other kids. But never do I see a child spank another kid on the bottom. Now that my daughter is older, talking to her one on one is much easier because she understands consequences.

  45. Hi-

    Thanks for the great advice! I think I can do more to predict my daughter’s tired/hungry/lonely moments to prevent some of these problems, like you recommended. But I feel like I need another concrete example for #3. My 1.5 year old daughter is funny and smart and sweet. Most of the time we get along great because she mostly enjoys what we do and communicates her needs pretty well. However, when I do something she doesn’t like (take away something that is unsafe, hold her hand in the street when she wants to run, etc) she has such violent temper tantrums and hits and bites and pulls my hair. It’s hard not to react to the physical pain (especially the hair pulling) but I try to be calm and not yell out or anything. A friend recommended saying “No, we don’t hurt people, please give me a nice touch” and for awhile it worked great, but lately she seems to have taken a turn for the worse with this behavior. I’ve given timeouts in her play-pen which she seems to enjoy actually- so maybe she just needs alone time…. but I can’t allow her to communicate that need through violence. So I’m stuck. Should I keep up the “nice touch” thing and hope it starts working again? I don’t know what a “natural consequence” would be of her beating me up all the time. Any advice is appreciated! Thanks!

    1. The consequence of her beating you up all the time, without a comparable response, is that she will continue to beat you up, and learn that it is okay to do so. That lesson will become part of her mindset as she grows up and she will not have a visceral sense of unacceptable boundaries.
      Intellect will moderate that behavior and expectation, but it will always be the default mode.

  46. We are all in search of how to , why to, when to,& why to… I am a mom of two and I have one temperament and one non temperament child… the first one need lots and lots of structure and is very selfish with me… the second one will not want all my attention and listens the first time … the first one is me as a child the second is my sister… I try so hard to think back what I wanted from my parents when I was being extremely difficult … I needed attention, long talks, reasons of why those behaviors werent ok,& I needed hugs … I was also very jealous and selfish but with everything . I dont know why though… still as an adult I had that problem… I dont know why … I guess I felt nothing was ever mine. Can anybody help me with this

  47. I think we can agree that a lot fewer parents are whipping their kids than used to. Now look at the state of our youth. Killing each other, raping, beating, stealing … and on and on. Tell me, do you think that the lack of punishment for doing wrong has led to this? I certainly do. If these kids had gotten whippings when they needed it, instead of a useless time out, don’t you think the difference between right and wrong may have been driven home a little better. I still whip my kids when they need it. My parents whipped me when I needed it and I thank them for it. Not for beating me, but for caring enough to show me there are consequences for my actions and teaching me right from wrong. If parents instituted corporal punishment again, I guarantee there would be a decrease in youth violence.

    1. Science has proven the exact opposite, Brett. Might be time to put down the whip and do some reading.

      1. avatar spanishgirl182006 says:

        Janet, science can be proven wrong and many studies can be biased. I’m not saying that all of the studies which show spanking leads to violence are biased, but many might be. whenever I hear about those studies, my first thought, is were the participants physically abused?
        I do agree that physical abuse can cause severe low self esteem and anxiety, just based on personal experience. When I was a little girl about 9, my mom asked me to mow the lawn for her because she was stressed out and had to work. She was a single mom and we had a very hard time financially. Well, I didn’t understand how to mow the lawn and where the property line ended and so I came back in to ask my Mom for some help. She snapped at me before I even had a chance to explain and she grabbed me by my hair and started shaking me and slapping me across the face until she busted my lip. She was so angry and out of control. My glasses fell in the floor and I was sobbing so hard that I couldn’t see anything. I don’t remember what exactly she was saying to me, but I know she was yelling at me and I felt so stupid for asking for help. I felt like an idiot and like I deserved to be hit. I was very scared too because I didn’t know she was going to come unglued like that. Suddenly, my mom realized what she was doing and she cried and helped me get my glasses up off the floor. She told me she was sorry and hugged me and we made up, but for years after that, I felt stupid and like I would get slapped if I asked questions. I was too young at that time to realize that my mom was like a little girl that day inside a grown woman’s body. That doesn’t excuse it, but when she lost her temper. It wasn’t about me. It was stress of not having an education to be able get a job or provide for her kids. I had no dad in the picture either. We were about to lose our trailer, which she had worked so hard to get us and was so proud of. As an adult, I’ve forgiven her completely and I love her so much, but that incident is still etched in my mind. So, yes, physical abuse, in my case, can cause lowered self esteem and fear to try new things or make a mistake. I’m 26 years old now and I’m a mom myself, so I’m over it and my mom and I talk everyday.
        However, when my mom spanked me ,that was nothing to me. I never remember feeling resentful about it or having anxiety afterword. My mom would use the fly swatter or a belt. She only did it a few times and that never bothered me. For me, personally, physical abuse and being spanked were completely opposite experiences. One left me feeling loved and tender with a secure feeling(spanking)and the other left me feeling humiliated, scared, anxious, and with a bloody lip and broken glasses.
        The reason that spanking, in particular left me feeling more loved and confident was that when Mom did that, she was in control of herself and her temper. It didn’t feel like a personal attack on me like when the time when she slapped me repeatedly and shook me when I was nine. That was an attack by an adult not in control of herself and really, I didn’t know if she would kill me. When someone loses their temper, it’s like they’re not themselves. They are out of their mind. They’re huge and vicious and out of their mind and they’re coming at you full force. An parent out of control doesn’t realize how scary they are to the child. I didn’t deserve that from my mom. First of all, after learning something about child development, I realized that expecting a nine year old to mow the yard might be a little bit much, especially for a little girl who doesn’t understand how to prime it. In a perfect world, she would have been patient and loving and supervised my helping her, but I came to know that Mom was viciously abused as a little girl too. She was kicked, stomped on, beaten, sexually abused and not loved or wanted. That really hurt her and she had a lot of anger inside that sometimes she expressed at my siblings and I. As an adult, I talked to her and told her that what she did wasn’t right and you don’t teach your child by hitting them in the face.
        I think that a lot of adults don’t ever confront their parent’s in a loving way and also learn to love them, even for their mistakes. I feel like, maybe that haven’t learned to try and see things from their parent’s point of view by seeing their parent as an oversized child in an adult’s body. That’s how I think of my mom back when I was little and my heart just feels sad for her. To the woman who wrote about her dad spanking her and how it made her feel scared and resentful, maybe you could talk to him about it. Maybe, he didn’t realize how he was acting or know any other way. Just try to talk to him about it and he might open up with you. I don’t know, it just feels good to share my feelings.

  48. I have some questions on this advise. My 3 year old has many times misbehaved at meal times such as throwing food, dropping his fork or spilling his drinks on purpose. I have ended meal time and usually he is fine with it. The problem comes hour or so later when he is crying begging to eat his dinner. By then I have cleaned up the kitchen and tell him that he had a chance to eat but he decided not to and so there is noore. He will whine and cry that he is hungry so I feel guilty and end upaking him something to eat again. I feel like he won and learns nothing from it. What should I do when this situation happens?

  49. I am horrified. I cannot believe how many people think spanking is acceptable.. And some are teachers!!
    I don’t want to live in fear but I’m seriously worried about finding a school or letting anyone else care for my child when I read all these comments. I can have compassion and see why those people are saying those things, but still, it makes me sick to my stomach. Children treated with respect grow to teach others with respect. The end.

  50. There has to be a happy medium here
    Its common sense.
    Yes spanking is harsh and can be over done,which ends up as abuse so spankings is not the answer.In my household it was the very last result
    And usually I didnt have to use that.
    Not sure what the answer is but its true kids today are spoiled more than kids 50’s 60’s era. Maybe because of the economy where both parents have to work now so they get more now.

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