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When you tell your toddler not to do something and she looks at you with a gleam in her eye and does it anyway, she's actually in the early stages of moral development. She's testing to see what your reaction will be to her defiance. It's as if she's saying to herself, "I was right! She told me not to do it. That's the rule!" It's quite normal. Because she doesn't seem to care about getting a time out, consider the opposite move -- use the least amount of discipline you can. The next time your daughter tosses food on the floor, take her out of the high chair immediately and don't give her anything else to eat for an hour. Do this without any emotion: "Oh well, I guess you're finished." If she wants to get back in the high chair (and she may throw a tantrum over it), don't let her. Soon she'll learn that if she wants to eat, she shouldn't throw food. Save time-outs for aggressive behavior such as hitting, kicking, and biting. If you use them for every little transgression, the technique will lose its power. --Pam Kruger
Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission from the November 2003 issue of Child magazine. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.