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Jennifer
Jennifer, School Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 397
Experience:  Collaborative parent consultation on everything from modifying behavior to child development.
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What is the most effective method to discipline/coach a misbehaving

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What is the most effective method to discipline/coach a misbehaving a 2 1/2 yeah old?
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2 1/2 if a tough age... You've encountered a stage where the name of the game is independence. Toddlers want to show they can do everything by themselves and this often means hearing, "No!" more times than you ever thought possible.

First and foremost, I'd recommend giving your toddler choices. For example, instead of asking, "Will you put on your coat, please?" which may inevitably be met with, "No!" and a frustrating power struggle, try instead asking him to choose between two acceptable choices. Perhaps you'd ask, "Are you going to wear your red coat or your green one?" or "Do you want to put your coat on now or when we get to the car?"

When it comes to misbehavior, try a logical consequence. For example, if he/she throws a toy, it's time to take the toy away. If your toddler hits you, calmly put them down and walk away. You may choose to use a specific phrase each time such as "Uh-oh" or "Oh, how sad..." to cue the fact that something is wrong. No need to explain why -- children this age aren't ready for logic and the moment parents engage in long-winded explanations for why a behavior is wrong, their attention is long gone. I'd highly recommend the book Love & Logic for the Early Years for more examples of logical consequences and how to deal with common issues such as whining and refusing to pick up toys among other issues.

If you choose to use time-outs, an easy rule of thumb is one minute per year of age. Children this young won't remember why they are in trouble for longer than a few minutes. An ideal time-out setting is someplace removed from entertainment and attention (e.g., a empty playyard within supervision). It's not a fun two minutes, but it gets the point across that something went wrong. Again, no need to explain why. A simple, "Uh-oh" immediately following the misbehavior and removal to a time-out area is sufficient. It may even be sufficient to simply remove the toy that was thrown or the item that was handled improperly. As long as you're consistent by using an immediate, logical consequence you should start seeing a change in behavior.

Toddlers absorb everything... Be sure to model normal feelings and safe ways to deal with them. It's very normal (and healthy!) for toddlers to tantrum. When they see us occasionally say, "Wow... I'm really frustrated and I think I need to take a break," it's wonderful example of how to handle tough emotions. Having a toddler myself, I'm well aware of the need to occasionally take a break! Best of luck dealing with this exciting (albeit sometimes exhausting) stage of development!
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