Thank you for visiting our site and for sending these important
questions. I can understand that you're feeling overwhelmed, especially
with an obviously bright two-year-old and a baby who is just becoming more
active as well. I commend you for wanting alternatives to time-out.
A two-year-old is a very curious person, always experimenting, always
exploring. He is in fact, a scientist! And if you look at his activities
in that way, it can change your perspective and allow creative ideas to
emerge, making life easier for you and for him.
I'd like to suggest an exercise to try. For one day, picture him not as
a small child, but rather as a visiting scientist. Pretend this scientist
is staying at your home for a day. This person needs materials to use,
needs time to do his research, and will need your assistance from time to
time. If we had a visiting scientist at our house, wouldn't we feel
curious ourselves as to what he is doing, and wouldn't we feel honored to
be helping when we can? That's exactly the right attitude to take with a
Unfortunately, our society doesn't take that attitude, and we're led to
believe that a two-year-old should behave like an adult at all times.
That's absurd and unrealistic, of course, but nevertheless, it's what many
in our society expect. So we hear from relatives, friends, strangers, and
so-called "experts" that our two-year-old is
"misbehaving" when he/she is simply "acting like a
If a 30-year-old "refuses to follow a simple direction"
something is wrong in the relationship that needs to be explored. But a
two-year-old is not an adult! If a two year-old "refuses to follow a
simple direction", it's because he's tired, hungry, wet, distracted,
busy, uninterested, resentful of the approach being used, confused by the
directions that have been given, remembering a painful experience related
to what is being asked of him, sad because of recent disappointments,
overwhelmed by loud noises in the house or neighborhood, reacting to
tensions in the family or bad feelings between siblings or parents,
understandably jealous of attention his sibling is getting, or frustrated
because he's had to wait too long for attention, and on and on. There is a
very good reason for each and every bit of behavior he presents to us!!
Punishing him for doing the very best he can given his age, the present
circumstances, his recent experiences, and the limited time he's been on
this planet is not only obviously unfair, it's completely ineffective.
It's really very simple - "Children behave as well as they are
treated" and as well as they are feeling at the time.
For all of these reasons, you are very wise to recognize that
punishment doesn't work, and to look for more effective and positive
alternatives. Sometimes it just takes a little imagination and a good
knowledge of our child's personality. When my son was two, he loved going
to playgrounds, but he never wanted to leave. This became a real problem
for me, as it seemed impossible to prevent the tears and frustration at
the end of an otherwise happy day. When I took a little time to think
about what might make this easier, I remembered that he loved racing with
me. The next time we had to leave the playground, I told him it was time
to leave, and asked if he wanted to race me to the car. He was very happy
with this solution.
The most important advice I've ever had is to use humor whenever
possible - not mean humor, of course, but silly humor. Once when my son at
age 7 didn't feel like helping me with cooking, but I could have used some
help, I put up a sign: "Help wanted - banana masher for cake
project". He came several times to interview for the job, pretending
to be too dumb, too weird, too mean, etc., and finally he appeared as the
perfect kitchen helper. Yes, it took time and imagination, but his
delighted helpfulness was worth it. Whenever I would get too busy to take
an understanding approach, and we would both get upset, that would take
even more time to undo the damage. Children do take our time. They take
our energy. They take our love. But the more time and energy we give, the
less they need in the future. And the more love they can give back.
Please see these advice replies and articles: