July 02, 2015

Q: My husband and I do not agree on how to discipline our 20-month-old. I feel that "time outs" are appropriate at this age. My husband on the other hand spanks our daughter when she misbehaves. I feel she is too young to understand why she is being spanked.

A: Spanking only serves to show your child that "might makes right". While it may seem to work in the moment, in the long-run it often serves to INCREASE the amount of aggression your child will show. I understand your hubby's frustration -- toddlers are mightily annoying at times. Instead, focus on showing her by example that her misbehavior will not be tolerated -- time outs often work, 1-2 minutes at this age -- but without a lot of anger or parental hostility. Try to imagine you're like a preschool teacher -- calmly walking her through the consequences of her misbehavior. You may have to repeat these actions a billion times before she obeys, but this is the best way for her to internalize her OWN self-discipline in the long-run. And that's our goal as parents, right? Good luck!

Answered by Dr. Heather Wittenberg


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