Discipline for a 20-month-old

"I would like to ask the parents to comment on how they handle disciplining a 20 month old. I feel like I say `NO' all day long. He even mocks me by saying `NO' to his Teddy Bears. Thank you all!"

"I found that spanking only gave my daughter a license to do the same to us. Our solution for discipline is to have her sit on a chair in the middle of the room for a while with no toys or entertainment. During this time periodically I will talk to her about the offense and why I said `No.' After I feel a sufficient amount of time has elapsed or she realized the loss of her freedom sufficiently, I will give her permission to get down and we hug."

"If you're saying `no' because he's into things, then baby proof as much of the house as possible to minimize temptation and opportunity. If you're saying `no' because of unacceptable behavior, state simply and firmly what the problem is (e.g., `You may not climb on the table; hit the cat; or whatever.') Then set him in a time-out. Our time-out place is in the hallway - totally unexciting - and when our 23 month old tries to come out of time-out before being instructed to, we put her right back with the words, `You're still in time-out.' I've also found that `going over the plan' is helpful (particularly on outings, but at home, too). I tell my daughter where we're going, what's going to happen while we're there, what behavior I expect of her (be specific, don't just say, `Be a good girl'), and what will happen if she doesn't follow the plan. Once the plan is underway, I can refer back to our talk if she begins to stray and if need be, issue the consequences. Lastly, get a copy of THE SIX POINT PLAN FOR RAISING HAPPY, HEALTHY CHILDREN, by John Rosemond. It's inspirational!"

"First of all, are all of your `NO's' within reach to your son? Maybe you should re-arrange your house. Otherwise, try and distract him with something else instead of saying no."

"Try doing some activities that you can compliment your child on. Set up an area that is safe for him/her to play in that is they are able to touch and not have to be told `no!' I'm sure he will enjoy having his own space."

"I have a 23 month old, and I have always used positive disciplining after hearing about another mother with a similar experience. Instead of using the word `no', my husband and I both say things like, `Let's do this instead,' or `Maybe we shouldn't do .... such and such.' Things that aren't really worth saying no over that are neither life threatening or dangerous could probably just simply be removed from temptation rather than fighting over or constantly being negative about. Especially when you are a stay-at-home mom with a busy toddler. You could say `No' all day, but why be negative when it's better for everyone to be positive and yet still be in charge."

"I too sometimes feel like I am forever saying no to my 19 1/2 month old. I have found several other ways to say no or ways to follow up a `no'(although they need to hear no sometimes). Try saying something like, `If you do that again you will or you will have to go to your high chair, crib, etc. Do you want that?' - (They will usually say no.) - `Well then don't do that again.' Remember, little ones sometime need physical restraints or a little discipline, and they can learn to respond to and understand consequences such as these as long as they are simple and you follow through. Another slightly different approach is the 1 - 2 - 3 approach. Tell the child what you want done or not done and then say `Mommy is going to count to 3 and if you don't (then use a consequence appropriate for you and your child) come downstairs you will have to spend 2 minutes in your high chair.' Then count slowly giving the child a chance to do as he was told. This has worked wonders at our house but you have to be consistent and follow through. Good luck!"

"Have a `time-out' when your child does something wrong and tell him he has to sit for a while and think about what he did. Then he can try again. It really works for older kids too. Kids are smarter than what you think."

"Two things have helped me deal with this sometimes very frustrating stage. First is to remember that this a normal and even necessary stage of child development. They have to assert their independence to grow into healthy independent human beings. Second, it may help to structure your household environment so that your child can explore with more freedom and fewer No's. Move as many dangers and breakables out of reach as is possible and liveable for your family. You can't get rid of the defiant toddler, but at least in the house you won't be chasing after him quite as much."

"I try to avoid using no in almost all situations. If they do something they shouldn't like pulling the leaves off plants, I just pick up the child and put the plant where it can't be reached. When they're older and ask for things like a treat, I'll say, `Sure, after dinner.' Or, `Sure, when your room is clean,' etc."

"Give him alternatives. Try to anticipate his needs and desires when possible. Try planning activities just for him such as art projects. These tactics may help prevent you from having to say no. and when you do say no, explain why in simple terms. This will help him understand that you care even though he can't have/do what he wants to. It also helps build trust and encourages his use of language."

"The keys are distraction and redirection. The attention span of a 20 month old child is short enough that distracting him from the `unacceptable' and then redirecting his attention and energies toward an acceptable alternative toy or play thing works in a real positive way without diminishing the child's curiosity!"

"No is one of the first words children learn. It is virtually impossible to discipline without saying no. If I find I'm saying no more than 3 times for the same act I put my child in the corner. This has helped greatly. Now all I have to do is threaten to put her in the corner and she stops being naughty - usually. But everyone has their bad days. Remember to follow through with the threat. Children love to test their parents."

"Make sure you always take him away from what he's doing and give him something he can have or do. It takes more time than yelling no from across the room but it does work. Also, use alternative words for no like; stop, don't touch; etc. It take s patience, time and practice but they do get past this stage and go on to a new one."

"A 20 month old is too young to discipline. they have no reasoning ability until after 24 month (four months makes a huge difference). The best thing is to curb saying `no.' Only use it for important or dangerous situations. Make your house as child proof as possible - put everything breakable out of reach. that will limit the amount of no's. Shutting doors is also a good idea (or perhaps a baby gate). I found that it's much easier to say `no' and much harder to say `let's play with this instead,' but I saves so much frustration."

"I have 2 boys age 3 years and 1 year and I sit for twins 18 months old. What works best for me is a naughty or time-out chair. If they are doing something and will not stop, I give them to the count of three and if they don't stop they must sit in the chair. At first I start with just a minute or two. But sometimes my three year old sits for 1/2 hour (as they get older they sit longer)."

"Instead of saying no all the time, I like to present two alternatives. For example, if your child is coloring on the wall say, `You can't color on the wall but you can color on this piece of paper or in your coloring book.' My motto is two yeses for every no."

"When our 28 month old daughter was 20 months old, it seemed like we were constantly yelling `NO!'. It drives you crazy after a while. We started making her take short time-outs on a section of the floor where there were no toys within several feet. Some things just take time, but to put a 20 month old on movement restrictions is a tough thing for them to swallow. And it makes them think twice before making the same infraction twice! A good way to keep track of time is to use an egg timer or other type of timing device. Set a limit each time you set the child down, then set the timer for the amount of time. However, for time-outs to be effective, you must clear toys from reach and only allow a blanket or other favorite `comforter' to keep them company in their isolation."

"Among other things, I have baby-proofed the house so that I know that most of what my 27 month old gets into won't hurt him. Secondly, I give time-outs for most infractions after one `no' didn't work. In the beginning, my son would repeat his behavior, but after a few weeks he didn't. Now he only needs time-outs for tantrums, hitting or not cooperating. Friends and the doctor say he'll grow out of those too, as long as I'm consistent in the time-outs."

"Disciplining a child of 20 months requires a lot of patience, tolerance and willingness to get up and physically move him or her. I think it is important to talk to the child and explain why you don't want them to do whatever they are doing and at the same time find a distracting activity. For example, `I don't want you to climb on top of the stove because it can be hot but how about if we climb on top of the bed or climb up the stairs.' If you can be creative and find a similar activity a child usually can change gears easily."

"We too have limited saying `no' to our children. Instead we use words like `danger' or `off-limits' and `that's unacceptable behavior'. We also try to give a positive statement along with a negative. For example, `You may draw or color on the paper, not on the table.' when we do say no we always try to give a reason along with it. For example, `No jumping on the bed because you might fall and get hurt.' If we can't think of a reason, we question whether or not we really need to say `no'. Good luck!"

"Isn't it amazing the words children pick up the first few years of life and how it seems to stick with them and haunt us daily. The word no is on that every child seems to know because it's said 100 times a day. Try rephrasing your reprimand to a question like, `What did mom say about touching that?' Or make it a statement like, `If you touch that it will break', or `Please don't touch that because I love you and don't want you hurt.' It usually works and `no' is saved for special occasions."

"Try using `please don't' instead of no. It's more positive and using the word please a lot may give him another word to say to his Teddy Bears. Try to find out what he's telling Teddy no for and talk about why it is a no."

"Remember that children understand language very specifically, such as `put this in your room' does not imply put it in it's proper place in your room. They don't easily attach implications. Therefore, instead of using the general word `no' which the child understands as negative, but may not be able to really understand what is expected. Use specific directions like, `Don't touch' or `Leave that on the table.'"

"There is an excellent book called HOW TO TALK SO KIDS WILL LISTEN AND LISTEN SO KIDS WILL TALK, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. The book gives some alternatives to using the word `no.' For example, instead of saying `no', give information. If a child asks to go out to play, instead of saying `no', say, `We're having dinner in five minutes.' This book is full of wonderful examples of how to not say `no.' I highly recommend it to anyone who has contact with children. (It works well with husbands too!)"

"The first thing I suggest is to take a close look at your child's environment. It may be that a number of modifications could be made to eliminate problem areas. The 20 month old's job is to learn about his world by exploring and manipulating. Maybe you could put away all extraneous things that empt him until he is older. Since you don't want to give him the message that exploration is bad, make his environment safe and toddler proof. Put breakables and paper work and sewing projects up or away. If you have the room, consider putting off limits things in one closet or room, and close the door. Also, when he does get a hold of something off limits, try sitting down with him and explain it, let him try it and then put it away together. It sounds crazy, but I've even done this with scissors! At this age it does seem like they are into everything available - just to annoy you, but it's just their developmental phase - which they will pass through!"

"I try to keep a few favorite objects tucked up where I can grab them for a quick diversion. things that are `grown up' like pencil and paper or a toy of big brothers' work especially well. Also try to give your child some thing to do instead of jus a `don't' - kids don't hear the `don't', just the `play with the scissors' comes through to them. Nothing works forever, so prevention is the best energy saver."

"You can't discipline a 20 month old. All you can do is try to gently guide his behavior. Tell him what you want him to do, not what you don't want him to do. Please don't think that your son is mocking you when he says `no' to his Teddy Bears. He's not doing that to be naughty. Toddlers love to imitate what their parents do and say. It's how they learn. You wouldn't think he was mocking if he told his Teddy Bear, `I love you', or, `It's nap time.' I really understand where you are at since I have a 21 month old son who is always very determined to do what he wants. I just try to stay cool and not let it get to me."

"At approximately 16 months our daughter was beginning to hit her older brother. We would firmly say `no hitting' and place her in her crib for one minute. After 3 episodes this behavior vanished."

"Give him an environment that he free to explore. He needs an area that gives him freedom, that won't provoke continual `NO's' from you. Use creative ways to say no without saying it. Reserve no for important times when he is in danger. Instead of saying no, hold his hand firmly and look him in the eye or call his name and give him a firm look."

"First of all, I don't think he's mocking you. He's merely repeating what he hears. Toddlers in the two-year phase are very independent minded and he's just realizing he's a separate person with some control over his words and actions. You might try giving him choices of acceptable behaviors. Take advantage of their short attention spans and try distractions rather than confrontations. A `trick' I use is quickly saying `Please come here! I want to tell you a secret!' the he runs over willingly and I whisper something in his ear like, `Will you give me a hug?' or `Mommy loves you!'"

"Stop is a more positive and specific worn than jus `NO'. You can play Stop and Go games to teach him the concept. While I feel we shouldn't use the word no all the time (or even most of the time) but children do need to know what the word means."

"We set up a pare of the basement with old mattresses and a slide where there aren't any `no's.' Burning off the energy of an almost two year old is better than any discipline. It's amazing how much better they are at listening after some exercise."

"Put away the things that you are continually saying `No' about if they are breakable or dangerous, but let him play with the Tupperware, etc. He should be able to play with some `big people' things that he sees you use everyday."

"Make sure he knows the rules. Enforce your `NO' the first time you say it, and you'll end up saying it less often."

"I divert my 15 month old with something else. I use statements like, `Look at this' with excitement in my voice. It really works."

"Keep your expectations reasonable and decide what is really important to you and what you can ignore. For example - standing on the counter top, which is dangerous, requires a `NO'. But does it really matter if he runs around the house barefoot? Also try turning negative statements to positive ones. For instance, instead of saying `Don't slam the door', you could say, `Please close the door softly.' This is a frustrating time but it will pass. Work on being positive and try to keep your sense of humor!"

"I limit the things I need to say no about. I totally baby-proof the house. I close doors into rooms I don't want my baby in. I put toilet paper up on the window ledge and close the door. I put breakables up high, I plug outlets, knives are up, all chemicals are up high. I don't take my kids into stores where there are lots of temptations if I can help it. When I grocery shop I go to a store where they have bulk food that I can weigh out and price right away. They can eat it while we shop. that way they don't beg me for candy and cookies. I give them a few raisins, nuts or crackers. They get their store treat and I don't have to say not to begging."

"I too have a headstrong toddler and it's not easy! I don't think he is mocking you though, instead he is re-enforcing right and wrong in his mind and perhaps releasing frustration onto the bears and this is good! Try to eliminate as many `no's' as possible to make life easier for you both through diversionary tactics and baby-proofing. And hang in there!"

"Before you say no, ask yourself if you really care and if you're willing to consistently say no to that. On one very muddy day at the playground my then 18 month old was determined to play in a large mud puddle and I kept pulling her away. I then asked myself if I really cared, or was I jus doing what my mom would have done and what I'd seen other moms doing. I decided I didn't really care - I could strip her down before we went in the car, and wash her clothes. She had a great time!"

"I have a 17 month old son and try to minimize saying no through explanations and diversion. If he is throwing wooden blocks, I would say, `We only throw balls and we stack and play with blocks like this.' If he is banging his plastic hammer on the glass table top, I would physically take him to the toy that he could use the hammer with along with an explanation!"

"Keep up the good work! I am home all the time with a 3 year old and two 2 years old's. I know how you feel! Stay observant and grab any opportunity to say `yes' or `that's great'. Even if it seems like a silly thing to praise. For example, `I like how you put your cup down!'. I also have two 6 year old's and I feel that the very early `no's' have paid off. Remember that the more consistent you can be, the shorter this stage will be for you and your child. Be glad he can take out his frustration on his bears! You are demonstrating your love for him by accepting the hard responsibility to teach him his limits. I know...easier said than done!"

"All children need direction to learn how to play and live in real life. Include him in everything you do. For example, while you're cleaning the living room he could carry a dampened rag. With this attitude, safety must be remembered because children can't do everything adults do. Changing your behavior will change your child's, unless of course you have one of those independent rebels, then I say, Good Luck!"

"Make a strong effort not to use the word `no'. Use words like, `Do not, don't want you to, can not, should not, stop, etc.' This variety gives you child the message, without giving him one word to focus on. When answering a question our sons are encouraged to say yes or no mom!"

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