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Advice for the toddler who talks back
Q: My 2½-year-old son has become aggressive and sassy. He hits us and his friends and talks back. How can I stop this? Also, he’s a little trickster. He once locked me in the basement and told me I was having a time-out. He’s a little stinker when it comes to discipline.
A: You refer to your son as a “little trickster” and a “little stinker.” This suggests to me that sometimes you find your son cute or amusing while he’s behaving poorly. If this is the case, there’s a strong possibility your son is not taking you seriously. In other words, you and your husband could be giving your son mixed messages. From now on, act serious and stern when you talk to him about misbehaving. Your little boy needs to know that his behavior is displeasing you.

The unacceptable behavior you describe is not so unusual for a 2-year-old. However, that does not mean you should accept it and not set some limits.

The next time your little boy hits you or a friend, put a serious look on your face, sharply say, “No” and instantly take his hand to walk him to his room for a five-minute time-out. When you do this, you are not to talk with your son, discuss what he did or scold him.

Your son needs to learn that you and Dad are in charge. This means that when he breaks the rules, he loses your positive attention and gets a stern look from you so he has no doubt that you’re upset with his unacceptable behavior. The consequence for breaking a rule is a boring time-out for five minutes. If he makes a joke of that, make the time-out 10 minutes. I think if you take this approach, your son will begin to behave better.

Kenneth N. Condrell Ph.D Child Psychologist