My Toddler is running the show! NOW WHAT?

I need help with my Toddler!

She's out of control!

Now What?


The Holy Grail of Discipline for Toddlers is not what you think.  It’s not learning the meaning of No.  It’s not consistency.  It’s not meeting them half way.  It’s not even Time Out (thank goodness.) 

It’s "Sit on the Step!!" 

Yep, pretty simple.  Four words. 

No lecture.  No yelling, No pleading.  No hitting or smacking.  And pretty readily available wherever you are.  Similar to Jo of the popular TV series “Nanny to the Rescue” technique, whereas she takes a misbehaving or fit throwing child and places them in a specific spot.  When my kids were little that spot was the STEP. 

Think about it.  Almost everywhere you go there is a step.  Your house has steps.  Grandma’s house has steps. Other people’s houses have steps.  Decks have steps.  Every front porch has steps to get in and out.  Every yard usually has a curbed area somewhere that resembles a step.  Even the beach usually has steps to get over to it.  "Sit on the Step" is readily available, easy to understand, doesn’t involve any corporal punishment and others around you catch on pretty fast and can hardly criticize you for it. It's a good discipline technique to use in public or with kids you are watching.  Check out my daughter's experiences being a nanny in our sister blog 'I am my mother's daughter, NOW WHAT?'  I'm sure both nannies and nanny moms will appreciate the "non-hands-on" aspect. 

Every parenting book, show and expert uses Time Out and I tried that.  The problem is, Time out is a concept and we are dealing with 2 and 3 year olds. 

You can’t see a time out.  You can’t feel a time out.  You can’t even explain a time out.  Too much for an emergency situation.  'Go to your Room' might work, but it’s not as good as a Step.  There’s too much room in a room.  There are too many things in a room.  You can play in your room. You can have a fit and tear up things in your room.  Too chancy. 

For me, I wanted to keep an eye on this kid I was disciplining.  And I didn’t want it to be fun.

Now, the technique of using “Sit on the Step” must be used judiciously.  And must be saved for the right time.  I mean, kids will be kids.  Kids will be loud, they will bicker.  They will try to get away with.  The step should be used for those times when the child is being disrespectful to the parent (and I mean really mean and disrespectful), such that you are not going to tolerate that for forevermore.  Or when the child is losing hold of his or her emotions and can't get them back in check.

We’ve all seen this- when they don’t get something they want, when they don’t want to eat something so they decide its time to throw a fit at the table, when their brother has picked on them and they can’t take it anymore.  They just lose it.  Another time to put them on the step is when they are just being bad.  They hit their brother.  They threw a toy; they’re looking for your reaction.  The whining is not going to stop.
Sitting on the step is not a punitive punishment. 

It is truly a chance for a toddler to get themselves calmed down, back together and/or realize their behavior is not going to be tolerated in that setting. 

Unlike Jo’s technique, no words need to be spoken.  No contrition needs to be made by the child.  Once the technique is regularly used, the child will pretty much figure out on his own why he’s there, what he’s done wrong, or what he’s done that some parental figure will not tolerate.  The stay on the step needn’t be long; 5 to 10 minutes will suffice.  After the child has calmed down, has a chance to think for himself, you might say something to him like,”are you ready to come back and eat with us?” Or, “Now, do you think you can play on your own and leave your sister alone?”  And the most dreaded, “Do not talk to Mommy that way again.”  Be succinct.  No lecture.  They’re smart.  They got it figured out.  Trust me.  They won’t do this a lot. 

If, YOU don’t get lazy.  If, YOU don’t just think they’re going to outgrow bad behavior.  If, YOU don’t make excuses for their bad behavior thinking it’s going to stop.

One little piece of advice for use of Sit on the Step:  don’t let the situation escalate before you use it.  You know how you have a newborn and it starts to fuss? And you jostle it, and work with it, and change positions, try to burp it, whatever to find out if its just uncomfortable or needs to be fed. And then there is that moment of no return, when the baby turns blood red in the face, holds its breath, goes into total panic mode?  You cannot hardly get him or her to acknowledge a bottle in their mouth?  You don’t want to get to this stage with a toddler either.  You must be ever vigilant, and of course, you do know your children well. 

The best time to use the Sit on the Step discipline is when you are in control, the toddler still has consciousness and the situation can be gotten through quickly.

Any other great ideas, please share.  We'd love to hear what works for you.