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Dr. Captain
Dr. Captain, Board Certified Pediatrician
Category: Pediatrics
Satisfied Customers: 752
Experience:  A family doctor, with medical and residency training in Boston, MA, patients of all ages and wide range of illnesses.
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How can I discipline my toddler to stop being so demanding

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How can I discipline my toddler to stop being so demanding and hitting us? I've tried time out but he's stubborn. How can I tell what is normal behavior or if I should see a therapist. He is very aggressive.


Welcome to the question/answer interface.

I am a Family Medicine doctor, board certified with active licenses and certification in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, as well as Integrative Medicine & Naturopathy, with advanced training in Neurology, Cardiovascular Medicine, Gastroenterology, Endocrinology, and Psychiatry. I am also well-trained in Functional Medicine. For your review, here is my direct link with my current ratings:

I have read your post and observations. I will first provide a summary answer to your question, AND, if you would prefer some additional back-and-forth, with additional questions and more details clarified, I'm more than happy to stay around with you, free of any additional cost to you. You can continue to ask questions and receive answers without additional charges.

Our goal here is for your satisfaction, and I’ll do my best to take the appropriate time to help you.

How old is your toddler?

has physical development, and bloodwork testing at the Pediatricians been normal, as far as you're aware?

just to be clear -

You are free to click "reply" to continue our dialog until we have covered your question completely. You are not charged any additional fees, and the website should email you a notification when I reply as well, so you don't have to worry about staying by your computer to wait for an answer.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
3 and he's completely healthy and normal he just has a really short temper

Excellent- thank you for the info

First of all, you deserve credit - handling a difficult 3 year old is a tough battle for even the most competent and capable parents - they can be very very tough! If you haven't already seen a therapist, that is a HUGE first step that will not only help your son follow a much more simple and healthy path, but will help give you guidance for the process which may be difficult for some more time to come.

Any self inflicting behaviors? Does he show remorse when hits?

any head banging or self-injury?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
No but some days he will say gentle touch only and other days he will say no I want to hit
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
When he was younger head banging but not a lot

I see.. You should certainly be following with a therapist. This is a complicated path to improvement and you should have close guidance from a specialist.

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Why should I be concerned of self inflicting behavior? Is that a sign of something?
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
I mean a symptom?
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
But at school he is perfectly fine so some blame me for spoiling him

In some cases, medications help, in some cases simple behavioral exercises and treatments can help. The self-inflicting behavior can mean many different things - it can be a sign of unmet needs, it can be normal and exploratory... and it can be evidence of concerning neuropsychiatric troubles.

I'm not sure blame, any way it comes, serves much good. Everyone's goal is (or should be) in light of your son's best interest. And every child like this (and parent) deserves to have a therapist guiding the way.

If you're curious for concrete options for the time being, I typically recommend a formal location in the house that is a place for discipline (can be a blue box outlined by tape, a certain seat or couch etc), and some system of timing, where there is a place and time for calm and collection and understanding. 3 years old is still pretty young and impressionable, so the goal of "discipline" is not the same as punishment.. He will learn a lot by modeling you and your reactions to him. so, an approach which is calm, clear, explanatory is much more helpful than you reacting to any provocation he might throw at you. at 3 years old, he is very much testing limits and exploring boundaries.

I have seen some do-it-yourself timer options ( a plastic bottle filled with glitter) which can be used as a kind of sand-glass timer for help with timing the discipline sessions (calming down sessions), if you're curious

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
It's tough to distinguish normal
Child tantrums from abnormal

Very tough, agreed! Even for well-trained experts. It is exactly for this reason why therapists are so instrumental in helping these difficult situations

Customer: replied 4 months ago.

Have I missed any part of your posted question? Was I able to address the question you provided to your satisfaction? Can I clarify, or address any other related questions for you today?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
thank I
Customer: replied 4 months ago.

If you would, please click on EXCELLENT with 5 stars. My goal is to have only the best, ***** ***** patients, and believe it or not, we doctors don't get compensated at all if the responses are not rated with outstanding scores by our patients like you. Any rating other than 5 stars suggests that something was wrong or missing, and the doctor has not tried to offer you a chance for improvements, and from my observation, not many put the same time and personal focus that I do into answers.

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Thank you, again! Hopefully, I'll get to connect with you again and I hope things will be going well!

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