Medical Questions > Parenting > Toddlers Forum

Push those limits, kiddo.

My son is 20 months old and is pretty much your average little man. He can be a real sweetheart and is mostly a good kid, but he does do his part to maintain the rambunctious personality of a toddler.

His punishments used to be a slap on the hand, which still work depending on what the infraction is (like, grabbing at or touching things he knows he shouldn't have repeatedly). But I've kinda had to move on to bum taps. We also have always utilized time outs - these started as "you can come out when you stop fussing" and moved on to one minute per year (we use two) since he usually will stop crying right away. If not, he gets two minutes plus however long it takes him to calm down after that time has passed.

Anyway, the problem isn't so much the punishments as it is he doesn't seem to care that he's not supposed to do certain things. For example, he knows he's not supposed to play with our cell phones. Today, he got mine without me noticing. As soon as I looked at him (I didn't say anything, I didn't move, I just looked at him), he jumped up off the floor and hauled butt out of the room. I followed him into the dining room, where he climbed up into a chair, and as soon as I got close to him, he started screaming like a banshee. I took the phone, and he screamed louder. The thing is, all I was going to say to him is "No, you don't play with mommy's phone" or something along those lines. But he freaks out over little things and ends up getting himself in a time out.

Even when he's not even getting in trouble, he has a fit. Like one day he was getting up into a chair and I said "be careful, please" - not even in a harsh tone or anything - and he started crying and threw himself onto the floor.

I know he understands things. I know he knows what "no" means and understands the things we have made offlimits are things he's not supposed to touch. But it's like he just can't help himself. He climbs up onto the couch on almost a daily basis and removes two pictures off the wall despite the fact that he always gets in trouble for it.

I know he's just a kid and is "testing his limits" or whatever, but holy moly... I'm still waiting for the point where he stops testing the same ones. I just keep thinking of the saying "The definition of insanity is performing the same action over and over, expecting different results." But it's funny, he keeps taking the pictures off the wall, expecting to get away with it - and I keep punishing him for it, expecting him to stop doing it. So which one of us is insane? At this point, I'm thinking me moreso than him.
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replied April 28th, 2008
My daughter is exactly like this... I will tell her NO touch, and she will move her hands away real quick but stare me down while she is slowly reaching her hand back out to touch whatever I said not to.

Then she likes to slap my face.. which is a BIG no no. She has backed this behavior off for the most part, but it will still happen occasionally.

She likes to pull her dresser drawers out like steps and climb on up. We had to ruin the dresser by putting cabinet locks on them (which is more of a pain for me) plus she can still climb up somehow.

Just ignore unwanted behavior.
It has been my experience that when I ignore, she stops. Kids thrive on attention-whether it is negative or positive attention doesn't matter.
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replied April 30th, 2008
It's been my experience with my daughter that distracting her made all the difference in this behavior. For example, the cell phone thing. Instead of getting mad at her taking it for the um-teenth time, I would hand her a banana, or something silly, and tell her to talk into that instead. It made her laugh and started her on the a happy path instead of screaming because I took the cell. And now, when she sees my cell, she pretends to talk on anything silly that is in her reach, like her hairbrush or her shoe. That is just one example, and obviously it doesn't work in all cases, but maybe it will help with your son. One thing I do know, is that they will do their best to make it feel like you ARE insane!
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