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. 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.

    1. 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?

      1. This is exactly my problem too! The only way around it is if I say “do you want me to help you clean up your mess?”. More often than not though I end up frustrated that he won’t accept consequences for his actions or even things that he is accustomed to being expected to do (washing hands before eating, brushing teeth etc…).

      2. Parenting is hard. I am understanding my role more fully by really really really studying what Janet writes and speaks about here. “No Bad Kids,” because their “testing” is their learning, not their being bad to bother us. How would they know what the boundaries were if they never tested them?

        #2 is key … all of them are, but this has brought a lot of peace to our home because I do not take my daughter personally. I work to understand what it means to be the CEO. I had a very different childhood, so I am learning to undo what I witnessed and experienced and practice what I see as getting the most beautiful loving results: my daughter is so much more calm, happy, cheerful, playing independently. Loving toward me.

        Parenting is still hard, though. It’s a worthy hard because I adore her. Good luck!

        1. But! I just yelled today, after an amazing evening of keeping myself in the state of mind necessary ….. I am triggered by things being thrown around: she got into the nuts and spread them all over to feed the dog and I heard the giggling from upstairs and knew it was something: I SHOULD HAVE BREATHED BEFORE ENTERING ROOM. I flipped: go to your room and sit on your bed! I called her back down and had her pick up the mess and the mess in the playroom and said stuff like, We are not raising you this way! dopey useless stuff.

          It all lasted under a minute and I went to porch to breathe. And then I held compassion for me, so I could back track and see where I forgot to get enough help and I saw the busy morning and how I was the only one here: I am alone the majority of the time. People didn’t use to raise their kids alone. I also tried to do too much this morning. I am committed to my daughter not having this example: the same one I had of my mother—she didn’t have any help … so, I will move forward and drink a glass of water and start over. And see where I can get some help.

          1. I also sat with my daughter and went over what I could have done differently. I apologized for scaring her. We are connected, again.

      3. When mine won’t pick up toys or something I help by holding his hands and doing it with him, he normally ends up laughing and it turns out ok. Be close to your child and help show them what you want to them to do without being angry.

  2. 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!

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

        1. Seriously!?!? “Thanks for letting me know you need my help” !?!?! Get a grip!!

          1. I agree….seems like thanking a kid for unkind, unsafe, and non-gentle behavior is not right

            1. Try and think of it a different way… you aren’t thanking the child for an unkind/unsafe behaviour but acknowledging their need for support in a respectful way. Thus you are preventing the negative behaviour (by stopping them from throwing for example) without shaming them.

    2. avatar Martha Junk says:

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

      1. 1-2-3 Magic has worked really well for us. It’s simple, effective, and I feel I’m able to provide love and support that the article suggests while maintaining structure. The above article doesn’t really give the structure needed to make It successful.

      2. avatar Catherine Carter says:

        Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. A child acting out like this doesn’t feel safe and secure. Rhythm is the answer. Their schedule needs to be consistent- prepare food and eat at the same exact times every day, nap and bedtime at the same time everyday, playtime, walk time, bath time, all of it at the same predictable time every day. Also, doing a weekly activity on the same day each week – like the old poem. These rhythms CALM children. These rhythms help them feel secure in their day. Steady, consistent rhythm in their daily activities is the first answer to any “discipline” question. An occasional necessary change to the rhythm can be taken in stride by most children, especially when all the other rhythmic activities of their day are in place.
        But if your child is acting out, they’re too stressed by the unpredictability of their day. Some children can handle less rhythm, but most children cannot.
        When your child acts out, look at your daily rhythms first. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes.

  3. 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…

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

  4. 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

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. Children need our help in these situations: guiding them, stopping them physically, but calmly and kindly. I share many more details in my book, No Bad Kids, and in my many posts on discipline. Punishing creates fear and distance between us and, therefore, more uncomfortable behavior. Staying on your child’s side and helping (which I explain in detail in other posts and my book), creates a sense of safety and connection and much less challenging behavior. If you can be more specific about the behavior and how you are responding to it, I can advise in more detail.

    2. 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 –

      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.

      1. 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.

    3. Spanking just relieves your frustration and does nothing to help your child other than teaching him that people who are bigger and stronger can inflict physical pain. You are modeling that behavior for him. Do you want him hitting people when he gets frustrated and angry?

  5. 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

    1. 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. 🙁

  6. 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.

      1. I do not want to yell anymore, so I’ve been really intent on following the guidance here. WOW. Last night during dinner I was literally saying loudly in my head: are you sure this works, Janet???! Because my daughter took scissors to a plant, was wild in other areas (jumping and just not calm), and I saw so many causes for me to be punitive: “No, out of the room, you may not blah blah blah—or, if you don’t come in this house this minute, or that’s it! Get in here now!

        Instead, even with a neighbor there who probably thinks I am too lenient, I said, Looks like you need help coming inside, here I come .. and she came. I kept my voice calm and matter of fact: I did everything you say here.

        Each time I did, I kept thinking how I need to connect with her, since a war didn’t break out between us, since I had kept our emotional (shame/guilt) relationship respectful. I asked matter-of-fact, would you like to color together? She barely paused and said yes.

        Yes, I was making dinner, but I took the few minutes for us to quietly connect, and then was able to slip away to my work (lots of it with animals, etc. during dinner hour [I am the only adult here]). I kept thinking about how difficult bath and bed would be if I flipped out.

        At one point during bedtime, I just wanted to RAGE, but I was committed to your guidance here and I took a breath and mindfully pulled up a calm voice and kept casually asking questions, but calmly assertive that she had to stay in bed and lie down: did you get sad at the park? Was someone mean? I had to find out why she was wild after book reading … an hour later: Are you worried about your friend coming over tomorrow and touching your toys?


        She needed to know I would be there to help with the negotiations, etc. and putting up special toys into the closet. She fell asleep a few minutes after this question.

        Such. A. Hard. Four. Hours. It was so hard I wasn’t even proud of myself because I was shell-shocked/numb. No euphoria after running a marathon, just acknowledging I got over the finish line.

        This morning, I think I am more awestruck. I have been working on this Respectful Parenting for over two years and I am witnessing and experiencing the actual rewiring of my brain: my old beliefs, which is all they are, are falling by the wayside for this more empowering approach.

        I am getting more centered in my boundaries, so I have more energy to allow my daughter to work on what she needs. I am learning it all here, with some scaffolding from AhaParenting. … my daughter is in her book nook/coloring corner and talking, singing …. and I am calm: I stayed here to write, even though she wanted me for multiple things, but I was sweet about my No’s. We are good. I can’t thank you enough for the time and energy and commitment to this site.

        Thank you. Thank you thank you : )

    1. My mother–who raised six children–once told me to never, never, never leave a toddler alone with an infant, even for a split second. Your 19-month old is confused by the new family member and could be looking for validation, even though his method is unacceptable. My guess is that hitting his sister gets your attention which is exactly what he wants.

  7. 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?

    1. 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.

      1. 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”?

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

            1. When time is an issue I give my 2.5 yo son two options. One option is for himself (with me there) to go up stairs/get in the car seat/ get into his high chair. The other is for me to to put him in the chair/bed room etc. ether option I try to make fun or add a challenge to peak his interest. Ether way I’m there with him. If the doing it himself does not work then I go with me doing it for him. More often than not he then wants to do it himself. If he acts out (mad sad cry hit) I try to ask him abou what he is feeling and why we need to do XYZ. I’m still learning the ropes and taking a lifespan psychology class is very helpful (or just picking up a book to learn about these years)

            2. We had so many issues with my daughter (3) getting dressed in the morning. She needs to get ready for daycare and us for work. There’s a time limit for all of us or we would all be late.

              I started to realise that there was more to it than not wanting to get dressed. I reflected on her day from beginning to end and found that she was becoming too over stimulated. There were too many demands for her. She would come home and have big meltdowns.Everything seemed like a battle. So I reevaluated our positions and came up with the following changes:

              – No more pjs. She goes to bed after bath wearing a clean t-shirt & shorts and she goes to daycare with them in the morning. This takes out the pressure of undressing, choosing new clothes, dressing again.

              – Goes to daycare part time. Now I know this isn’t an option for everyone but with us I noticed that bringing her home after nap time had helped her reset and then the rest of the day is no pressure to do anything structured. She has troubles with transitioning from things and having such a long day with too many things to do can actually cause her distress.

              – No means No. This goes for everything. I don’t want the word NO associated just with things I don’t want her to do but also for her personal space and others. So it goes both ways. Knowing that it’s ok for her to say NO as well, help her understand why it’s being said.

              – Natural consequences only work when we have a plan. If I want her to get dressed because it’s what you do in the beginning of the day, and we have no specific plans then she has no motivation. Sometimes though even the motivation isn’t enough and she needs a breakdown of the ‘chore’ she’s doing and take it in steps rather than as a whole. Getting up and Going can seem like a big transition with so many undefined steps in between. Taking it apart and splitting it into ‘take ingredients out for breakfast. make breakfast. eat. clean up. brush teeth. choose clothes. change clothes. etc…’ is like giving a kid step by step, clear and easy instructions of how to get from A to Z. Make demands attainable for where they are at developmentally.

    2. 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.

      1. This works for my son.

  8. 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.

    1. 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?

    2. 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!

    3. 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.

      1. 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. 😉

    4. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. avatar MS ALICE WILDE says:

          Yes exactly this.

      3. 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.

    5. You are wrong. ..but that’s ok

    6. There is no god. Grow up.

      You are talking about hitting a vulnerable child who looks to you for protection, just because you read it in a nonsense book filled with fairy tales.

    7. Please re-read your Bible. The “rod” you reference is actually a tall staff used by shepherds to “guide” their sheep. This Bible passage has been co-opted by Christians who want to biblically justify hitting their children.

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. The issue I find with this is that my son will say he’s done in this case, and get all the way to nearly asleep after brushing teeth and reading before informing me he is hungry. Or he won’t say a thing but will wake up starving in the middle of the night. It just doesn’t seem practical. What am I mean to do there, ok throw bed time out the window and get him a new dinner?! Now he isnt eating it and is playing and being crazy because he’s exhausted… then he can’t get calm and go back to bed because he’s STILL hungry and now over tired…. or I’m expected to give him snacks a midnight? If I don’t make him something different, he will continue to refuse the meal, but if I give him a snack like fruit or granola bar or milk etc isn’t he learning “if I don’t eat my dinner, I get to stay up late and eat snacks!” How is that helpful?

  10. 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. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. Bring him to daycare in his pajamas (along with a change of clothes).

  13. Hi,
    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. 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. 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?

    1. 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. 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.

    1. avatar Mary Leinberger says:

      How sad. Child learning to connect abuse and love together before they have even learnt to think. Will be ingrained in their understanding of life. The very worst stage at which to use violence against the weakest and most vulnerable in our care 🙁

  17. Hi,
    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. 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.


    1. 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.

      1. 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 🙂

        1. I feel like you’ve somehow missed the point. No one is saying discipline shouldn’t exist in any form. But how is the behavior of a 6 month old biting while breastfeeding or hitting in anyway relatable to a preteen kicking a policeman? Every breastfeeding mom has gotten chewed. I yelped a few times, stuck my finger in his mouth and stopped the feeding. After three times, he figured it out. And yes- firmly holding their hands and looking them in their eyes while saying “No” is completely reasonable in preventing a 6 month old from hitting. But you wouldn’t spank or hit a 6 month old, would you?

    2. If your sister had been taught respect and empathy without violence from a young age she would’ve had better coping mechanisms. The lack of violent discipline didn’t cause her behavior. If the “laws” had been in place prior to her birth and your mother had been fortunate enough to benefit from the advice in the above article the situation would’ve been avoidable.

    3. If you the only way for you to get a child to mind you is through threat of soap in the mouth, your family has bigger issues than discipline laws changing.

  19. Soldier:
    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. 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?

    1. 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. 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.

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

  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? :’-(

    1. 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:

      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. 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. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. If we are to interpret “the rod” as a tool for corporal punishment, then we should use exactly that, a rod. I doubt many christians trying to properly discipline their children use a rod. Ouch. Think of when the bible was written. It was common to have sheep, and many references to shepherds were used. I’m the context of raising sheep, the rod is used to guide the sheep back after wandering, not whack them. Another verse to consider is Ephesians 6:4 fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

  29. 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 child is 5 months and i want to learn everything i should do as early as possible.
    thanks a lot

  31. HiKate.
    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

    1. 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. 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. 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!

    1. 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. 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. 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 Anon Nanny says:

    LOL, to all this and the comments. I agree with most the bloggers advice but …

    All these children running away from parents into traffic need either a tighter hold on them or a spanking. As a nanny of 15 yrs with my own child I rarely spank (my own kiddo is 9 and has been spanked 3 times in her life), it can be a valuable tool when used sparingly and appropriately. 2 of my kiddos spankings had to do with running off into traffic and it only took verbal reminders of her spanking and how dangerous cars are afterwards to get her to mind. One swat for every year they have, open handed on a bare bum (3 swats for 3yrs old for ex).

    People act like the word spanking means a repetitive mindless beating from abusive parents when it can actually mean a calm thought out part of a discipline strategy. I’ve raised many children and most do not need to be spanked to be honest, gentle discipline is enough but not always. In 15 yrs and over 50 children I’ve actively raised as a nanny only 5 ‘needed’ spankings and most only got one and then they minded.

    But hey, raise your kids how you want to internet! Opinion of one just screaming into the void with all the rest 😉 Have a nice day!

  41. My daughter wrote on my part of the dry erase board (I had been too lenient regarding my space in all areas of the house and now share space that she will test the boundaries: I am grateful for that because it is strengthening me and my daughter). I casually commented and said, please erase my area, thanks. She asked, Am I bad?

    I could tell she was asking for more help in understanding how she should view her behavior. As you mentioned somewhere here, and I remember vividly, children will blame themselves and believe themselves bad. I have been saying, Oh, you made a mistake there; yeah, that’s human. I make them, too. Or, oops, I made a mistake there, let me do that over, etc.

    I have been careful about this, because I, sadly, learned she was feeling great guilt and shame … I now see great healing going on, hence, her question. I casually said, Nope, you are four and you are learning. I am here to help you.

    You have no idea how I cannot thank you enough for your posts and podcasts. I read and reread them and I take full note of what you listed here as Number One. Thank you. Have a great day.

  42. That’s dumb, no offense, but spanking is in the bible, it’s just a firm discipline, it says in the bible spare the rod spoil the child, if you’re christian, if you dont spank your kids you’re just allowing them to have a foot in hell. And that’s not love.

  43. avatar Michelle Hidalgo says:

    Hello. I believe in spanking. This is crazy to say a child who is spanked will be more aggressive by 5. I was spanked as a child and I was not aggressive by 5 as well as my 5 siblings. The reason that children are aggressive is because parents reason with their children and argue with their children. Spanking and not all the time lets them realize who the boss is, which is the parent. Not spanking has created a generation of children who think they are entitled.

  44. Hello, I am a mother of a 1year old daughter and a 4 years old son. So my daughter hits, pinches and eats his brother’s meals even if she has her own food she wants to bully her brother, but he also doesn’t back down he holds his sister’s hands so tight and hits her as well, what should I do?

    My daughter doesn’t want to stop breastfeeding,my breastplate empty and so tiny but she still wants to suckle them. I have tried applying raw chillies on my breast but it’s then start to get hot inside, now applied a chilli Sauce but she wiped it away with her chin and she’s continued suckling, Please help.

  45. I’m confused about time-out because the linked article on spanking does suggest it as an alternative. Is it really so bad?

  46. I’m not sure how to deal with my 3 1/2 year old, Lou, when he doesn’t listen to me. I have a 9 month old also, and obviously a lot of this behavior began upon her arrival. He ignores me when I ask him to stop doing things that he’s not supposed to do, often when I’m incapacitated in some way, and can’t physically restrain him. Then I get frustrated and basically yell ‘Stop’ over and over again, which he still doesn’t listen to. I don’t know what to do. I know he’s supposed to be like this at this stage, but I still can’t let him throw sand in the house or tackle his sister while I’m using the toilet. I feel like ignoring the behavior does nothing but add to his already strong feeling of being invisible with the arrival of His little sister. It’s not that I don’t know where this behavior is coming from, it’s that I don’t know how to handle it. If you have any advice, I’d love some, because It feels like I’m just becoming an angry parent and that sucks.

  47. My 4yo and 7yo constantly fight. It starts from the time they wake up (8am) off and on all day long until (8pm). It’s completely and utterly frustrating and exhausting.
    Our 7yo is a sensory seeker and has multiple diagnosis. Our 4yo is showing signs of a sensory averter and the same diagnosis as his sibling. (He is being followed by the Developmental Pediatrician)
    If the 4yo sits down at the table to eat breakfast, the 7yo may be clearing his throat, humming, making noise etc and the 4yo will immediately start screaming at the top of his lungs at him. I’ve stopped them, tried to redirect, moved seats, offered headphones etc. It just keeps on.
    It actually escalates to pushing and hitting. My 7yo has asked if his 4yo brother could go to a different family.
    It’s almost like the 4yo goes out of his way to annoy his sibling and visa versa.
    We remove them both and split them up. I’ve taken the 4yo to his room when he is screaming and let him finish his temper tantrum there. We’ve discussed his behavior and what he can do instead. I’ve done the same with my 7yo.

    Nothing gets them to stop.

  48. Dear Janet, thank you very much for helping in our parenting journey,
    Your podcasts make me thing over and over about my son’s behavior and how I am reacting on them. On some of my sudden reactions i am working on and I believe they are giving results. But there is still a lot to work on. For instance, recently I struggle on nap times of my son. He is 12 month old, and he still has 2 naps a day. Most of the time in the afternoon, he refuses sleep ( he is quite tired by that time) even I try to put him to sleep for 10-15 min. Then, I tell him “Ok dear, I understand you don’t want to sleep. Looks you want to play? go ahead and play as you want while I will do some housework”. And I may stay at the same room but do some other staff while he playing and trying to through things, or make a loud noises and eventually start to shout. Even if I am looking on him and kind of expressing that I am not angry on him, he behaves like willing to attract my attention, and push my patience. But I don’t give up and keep being gentle with him.
    As this nap time example, he constantly try to check our patience by doing things what we may react on. Another case, when I am in the kitchen and preparing his food, he may put some tiny thing from the floor on his mouth, and come to me and start behaving like “mummy I have something on my mouth but I don’t give it to you”. He looks that he understand that we don’t allow him to do it. Such situation continues over and over recently. I am staying at home mom, so whole day my full attention given to him.
    Please give an idea what kind of phase is that and what I am doing wrong, or what I would better to do?
    Any advices would be big help.
    Thank you !

  49. avatar Charlotte says:


    What would be the best reply/logical response? My just turned 2yo will let a little scream out, or five, when he isn’t happy with a situation.

    I calmly say “we don’t scream in this house” and “I can’t let you do that”…. but what should I do when he carries on anyway?

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