Toddler Discipline: Candy’s Guide to Ineffective and Desperate Tactics

It’s all fun and games in parenting until your child develops an opinion — at which point, all hell breaks loose.

For example, my 21-month-old daughter can go from love bug to angry bird, her arms violently flapping about, in one second flat simply because I think it would be prudent to change her crap-filled diaper immediately, while she believes dumping out the Legos I just cleaned up would be a better use of her time.  There is no negotiating with the Angry Bird, whose sole communication technique is throwing herself on the floor in a heap of tears, often followed by swatting her mother in defiance.

The drama queen act I can handle.  Hey, if she wants to look like a fool and roll around in her smelly crap for another five minutes, that’s her business.  I can wait.  It’s not like my short cervix and I have anything better to do, anyway.  But the hitting…?  Mama don’t like that.  I raise an eyebrow to demonstrate I mean business.

“That’s not nice,” I admonish.

Skye looks up at me from the floor, understanding registering on her tear-stained face.  By golly, I’ve gotten through to her! I think, mentally patting myself on the back, when she reaches out and angrily swats my leg again.  Oh no, she di-in’t.

“Skylar.  NO.  We do NOT hit people.  Do you understand me?”

As I move out of her reach and marvel at the motherly tone that’s unexpectedly invaded my voice, that child inches toward me to swat me again.  Not hard.  Just a test to determine who’s in control here.  Which you and I know is the 21-month-old, but damned if I’m going to let HER know that.  This is a make-or-break moment, one that will set the tone for disciplinary measures for years to come.  But as I sit there, eyebrow still raised — albeit more shakily — my only thought is, Hmmm.  Now what?

Disciplining a toddler is not easy.  Especially when the smell of her fermenting poop is clouding your brain.

Ideally, I’d like to find a way to establish my authority and teach my daughter right from wrong.  Realistically, I’ll settle for getting the crap out of her diaper without a fight.  A crossroads, or as my mom likes to call it, “karma.”  You see, I was a bit of a, um, handful when I was a toddler — a claim I’m certain has been exaggerated over the years, but nevertheless, I called my mom for some advice.

“What did you do when I threw tantrums?”

“You were SO bad.”

“I know, Mom.  But what did you do about it?”

“I got angry and yelled.”

“Did that work?”

“No,” Mom sighed.


“I started ignoring you.  Would step right over your body while you screamed on the floor.  You were SO bad.”

“I know, Mom.  But did that work?”

“Yeah.  Pretty much.  Well, then there was that one time at Sears I had to bite you on the cheek to get you to wear your coat…because you were SO bad.  But it worked!”

My husband, on the other hand, was apparently such an angel that he would give himself time-outs in the corner.  Or so my mother-in-law likes to rave.  He probably pooped glitter and diamonds, too.  If only that were still the case.

Ignoring the defiant swatting isn’t an option, nor is waiting for Skye to grow a halo and discipline herself (which would coincide with looking out the window and seeing pigs fly).  So Mr. Candy and I have settled on giving Skye a time-out when she swats multiple times.  I was actually dubious about this course of action; when I was a child, I loved spending time by myself, as I still do, so instead of time-outs or sending me to my room, my parents would force me to spend time in the same room with them (the horror!).  But whaddya know…?  THE TIME-OUT WORKS.  For now.  After thirty seconds in another room (under her father’s supervision), Skye emerges with a smile and apologetic hug for me.

There you have it:  Thirty reflective seconds in the bathroom corner and voila!  All is well.  A disciplinary technique that will surely last us through the teenage years.  Right?  …RIGHT?!

Because sharing is caring, as I tell my kids. (Except my wine. Never my wine.)
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Candy Kirby

Candy Kirby is the founder of The Laughing Stork and a professional fun-maker who will never stop chasing her lifelong dream: to find the Pomeranian or porn star after whom her parents must have named her. A humor columnist for Disney, Nickelodeon, Scary Mommy, Reductress and Redbook, she also used to be a staff writer for the soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful, where she penned many scripts featuring prolonged heated stares and countless “Who’s the Daddy?” story lines. Candy lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two young kids and three rescue Persian cats, the latter of whom are the real brains behind this operation (so send all complaints to them).

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Your conversation with your Mom makes me laugh. I remember when I was young my Mom said to me, on more than one occasion, “I hope you have SIX girls and they’re all JUST LIKE YOU!” I have one daughter and about the time she was Skye’s age I realized how much she was like me. I proptly had my tubes tied! My daughter is 15 now and though I occasionally want to give her a pop in the mouth for her attitude, I have to gently remind myself that she IS just like me. Also, I never wanted to raise a child who would never question authority on occasion. Wish granted, I guess!

  • Ahhh the almost terrible twos! Im getting into this with my son who just turned 22 months yesterday. We do the time out and walk away too. Figure if that fails then Ill be on the look out for a Mr. Sad:

  • It gets a little easier to negotiate when they can understand you better. I can sorta negotiate with my 3 year old but honestly, I think the threes are even worse than the terrible twos!

  • I think the 3rd year was (is) way worse than year 2! We did the time out thing for a while and it worked okay, but then came the power struggle to STAY in time out and then that was just another battle.

    If you have a chance, check out Positive Discipline for Preschoolers –you might find the concepts a little ‘soft’ compared to traditional disciplining methods, but honestly, I can say this has changed our lives.
    [we have a 3 year old and an 8-month old]

    Also, has free resources and an online course that is right in line with the positive discipline principles if you want more or your info in a different format.

    Love your blog! Hope you’re doing well 😀