Your toddler has thus far been pretty easy to read. When he goes after the glass vase, you've simply moved it to a higher shelf. But there is something different about him now: There's a twinkle in his eye. He seems to take some joy in being a bit difficult. What do you do?
What's the Issue?
All toddlers become a bit oppositional during their second year. That is part of their job. Where distraction and redirection may have worked in the past, now it seems a new approach is warranted. Your toddler, at 17 months, will test limits and choose behaviors which challenge you purposely. A 13 month old may shove part of his grilled cheese into the DVD player with the motive of experimenting. A 17 month old will march toward the entertainment center with food in hand and look back to your reaction. After a gentle verbal challenge by you, he may smile and edge his way closer to trouble.
Consider the Numbers
On a daily basis, I'm asked by parents of children as young as one year old how to start using time-outs for behaviors. And while I don't recommend this discipline tactic for children under 17 months of age (they're too young to understand complicated discipline concepts), I do see it as an important way to shape inappropriate or dangerous behaviors and to set the groundwork for a discipline technique that will be effective for years to come.
And a January 2007 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)-sponsored survey supports what I experience in my practice: Of parents of kids ages two to 11:
- 45 percent used time-outs as a discipline tool
- 13 percent used yelling as their go-to technique
- 8.5 percent of parents often or always spanked their child. (Yelling and spanking are notoriously underreported by parents.)
And every year more than 2.3 million children are reported to child welfare agencies for suspected neglect and abuse, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.