When Does Discipline Begin?

Discipline at 18 to 24 Months

crying toddler

Linda Farwell

Age: 18 to 24 months

The Big Issues: Autonomy and Rebellion

Children have a real explosion of language at this age, but because they still can't articulate their feelings, they often get frustrated, says Aditee Narayan, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, North Carolina. Lend a hand. Or a mouth. If she's throwing a tantrum because she can't reach her Elmo blanket, put words to her feelings: "You must feel frustrated because you can't reach your Elmo blankie. Let's see if we can get it for you."

Hitting and biting can also crop up now -- again, as a result of frustration. If your child bites someone, remove her from the situation immediately, saying, "No biting; that hurts." To prevent future incidents, look for patterns: does your child bite at a particular time of day? Does she hit when she's frustrated?

When your child starts acting rebellious, distraction is key. My 2-year-old always wanted to buckle his own seat belt -- an exercise in frustration for me. My brilliant solution: singing! "This is the way we buckle our seat belt, buckle our seat belt, buckle our seat belt." Ethan became so enrapt by my melodic voice (ahem) that he now asks me to sing every time we get into the car -- and he lets me buckle him up. If distraction fails, capitalize on your toddler's love of pretend. When your son won't pick up his toys, use your best bear voice and say, "Oh, Tommy, will you help bear clean up the train set? He doesn't know where it goes!"

Whatever you do, keep at it. One thing is constant with kids: They're always changing.

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