Affective Punishment for Handling the Terrible Twos

“The Terrible Twos”. Usually people hear this phrase with a hint of humor in it, as a way to describe and somewhat condone the bad behaviour that babies start picking up as they mature into toddlers. But any parent can attest to the fact, that up until disciplining a child becomes a necessity, life is relatively easy.

Sure it was rough the past few years, caring for a newborn, and helping them learn to eat, walk, and talk, but when it comes time to start teaching right from wrong is where the real obstacles start.

The toddler years is where true personality, characters, and life long morals begin to be established. This is the critical time in development that parents have to chose the methods they would like to use in disciplining and shaping their child to grow up and reach their full potential.

It most usually starts out with the toddler learning to say “No”, and using the phrase at the right time. Such as, when a parent asks a child to pick up their toys, and is then immediately told “No”. This is a word, and action that has been picked up by example from the parents. The baby is so used to hearing “No, don’t touch that”, or “No, you can’t have that”, it eventually leads to the first act of behavior problems. Though small a gesture of disobedience it is, what this does is sets the ground for later issues.

Being such a personal decision, it is a choice every parent has to make individually on disciplining their toddler. The biggest debate in correcting behavior problems in toddlers seems to be the issue of spanking the child. Some say don’t spank them, others believe that was the way their parents raised them, so they spank their children because they believe it will correct the behavior.

In reality, just like the example of learning the use of the word “No”, the same happens with spanking a child. It may not cause the long term psychological damage that some psychologist rant about, but what it does do in almost every single case, is teaches the toddler that it is okay to strike a person when they do something that is unfavorable to them.

So, what is the best way to correct unwanted behavior from a toddler? After many experiences, studying, and self experimenting with different techniques, the best found so far has been called, “The Naughty Rug”.

Similar to standing in the corner, this technique involves turning an ordinary mat or rug, into a specific and consistent time out punishment. The best position for this mat is an area where you can still see the child, but not be giving full attention to them. Also, the rug should be placed out of sight of the television and even toys of interest to the child.

After the area is established, it is time to start the routine. Give a brief explanation of what the new punishment will be to the toddler, making sure to get down to eye level and have a brief talk about the new consequences of doing wrong.

The first time that the behavior problem comes up, give a verbal warning such as, “If you throw another toy I will put you on the naughty mat”. After that one, and only warning, if another toy is thrown, simply pick up the child, sit them on the mat, get down to eye level, and tell them briefly and to the point that they disobeyed and this is their punishment.

It may take a while for the toddler to actually sit on the mat instead of running off the minute the parent turns their back. In such case, calmly pick up the child and sit them right back on the mat.

The time to leave the child on the mat depends on the age. One minute for every year. For instance, a two year old, gets exactly two minutes of time out on the mat. After the two minutes are up, the parent then tells the child to stand up, gets down at eye level and explains AGAIN to the toddler why they were in time out, and then ask for an apology, or if they can’t say “I’m Sorry” yet, a kiss will do just fine also. This method has been proven to work wonders, and it may be attributed to the fact that the toddler feels more involved in their own consequences. Instead of spanking them or yelling, by getting down to eye level and explaining in a calm manner what is expected from the child and what will not be tolerated, may end up making all the difference in handling future behavior problems.