Q: When I ask him to do something, my 2-year-old screams “No!” and then swings at me. When he hits me, I firmly reprimand him and put him in time-out, but that only makes matters worse. I’ve tried ignoring his screaming. What should I do?
It’s behavior of this sort – illogical, irrational, violent – that has given this age child such a bad reputation.
Stories of this sort also belie the romantic notion that human nature is fundamentally good. I’ll just bet your son has never seen anyone haul off and hit someone. Nonetheless, he tries to hit you. That’s because the tendency toward violence when he doesn’t get his way is in his DNA.
I could have told you that time-out wasn’t going to work. As for ignoring this sort of behavior, I don’t know anyone who has that sort of fortitude. Besides, a “terrible two” won’t tolerate being ignored.
But I have the solution. At least, it’s worked for numerous other parents. Cut his bedroom door in half. Re-hang the lower half, creating a “Dutch” door. And turn the lock around. When your son screams, attempts to hit, or begins to show any other symptoms, pick him up, put him in his room, close the half-door and lock it. Then walk away. Let him vent for as long as he needs in order to realize his bedroom is now his venting place – his only venting place. When he is calm, go back, unlock the door, pull it open and walk away. Don’t say things like “Are you ready to be good?” Act as if nothing has happened between picking him up and opening his door.
The key to the success of this method is to get him to his room as quickly as possible after an episode begins. Do this for two weeks.
Two more things: When giving instructions to your son, don’t ask; tell. There’s a world of difference between “It’s time for you to pick up your toys” and “How about being a good boy and picking these toys up for Mommy, okay?” Toddlers respond more cooperatively to declarations. Second, don’t give a toddler more than two toys to play with. That simplifies the job of picking them up.