TL;DR version: Toddler doesn't understand disciplining. Help needed.
At 22 months, our toddler is incredibly active and always has been. He's also mostly very well-behaved, especially when being babysat alone with grandma, or when dad or others are around -- even to the point of carrying his dishes to the sink and such.
But he is often misbehaving when he's only supervised by mom. I'm feeling certain that mom demonstrates more than reasonable patience, and that the relevant rules are enforced with >97% consistency, so I don't think that mom needs to change herself. I think the level of disciplining needs to go up, but how?
He is not misbehaving out of anger, merely for his own enjoyment. Although his naps are generally short, he's only slightly less prone to misbehave when he's well rested anyway. He's not spoiled and buried in toys but he has enough that he doesn't play with all of them. He very rarely plays by himself for more than 5 minutes, so it's very difficult to get anything done while he's awake (cleaning, cooking, reading, calling, mailing, working). I'm sure he gets more than enough attention, but he seems to be craving for permanent, undivided attention but that's just not possible. He does get plenty of positive attention, and plenty of praise for the many good things he does. The problem is that mom can't give him attention all of the time.
Misbehaving includes throwing things; pulling plants' leaves; climbing and jumping on furniture; ramming his ride-on car into walls and furniture; running onto the street; etc. He knows he is breaking a rule, and misbehaves anyway - repeatedly, if he can. This takes quite a toll on mom, and needs to change. After all, even the most patient of parents can only lovingly correct him so many times.
Corrections may escalate from a stern "no" and removing the toy, to removing him from the location, to sitting him down and explain in short and clear terms what's right and wrong. After enough times there's just no patience left (nor energy), especially when it's been going on all day, all week, all month.
We don't believe in physical punishment (spanking etc.). We do believe that our son clearly understands what we tell him, and when he's not alone with mom, he demonstrates that he clearly understands the rules that exist.
In answers to other questions, I've seen "time-out" and the "1-2-3 method" mentioned as effective, but I don't see my son reacting to that -- he is not the kind of kid you can sit down on a mat and say "stay!", especially not when only mom is around. When he's placed in his room, he just leaves the room (he can open all doors unless they're locked or gated). When he's placed in his cot, he cries loudly and doesn't stop.
I would (perhaps naively) expect an older child to understand and, to some degree, respect disciplining activities -- but our son, at this age, just doesn't seem to notice or care. It feels as if he's too young to grasp the concept of disciplining, but I think that's not accurate; we just haven't found the right method yet.
Mom is at her wits' end, and needs a workable solution. Help!