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My daughter is 2-years old, with what seems a good development overall. We also have a 7-month old son. My wife takes care of them at home most of the time, and they also see their cousin (also 2-years old) one day a week, and my own mother 2-3 times a week.

We are reading a lot about child development and it seems quite important to give the kids some discipline so they have some sort of frame to build upon.

We try to put ourselves in the middle about discipline, and her granny is very cool and patient with her grandaughter.

The question we keep asking ourselves at the moment is when is discipline useful, when is it too much ? And how is this going to change in the next years, i.e. what should we enforce when she is 3 or 4 ?

Some examples of situations where we wonder if insisting to have her obey is a good idea :

  • At every meal, she takes off her slippers (which she never takes off herself at another time) and puts her feet on the table
  • Since 3 weeks, she does not want anymore that I give her bath, she keeps asking (crying aloud) during 30 minutes for her mother if I take her to the bathroom
  • Sometimes, randomly, she stops to obey when asked to go to the bathroom to change her diaper, or to climb up the stairs with us, or to tidy her toys, or any simple activity she used to do willingly the past months. Instead she runs away from us in the house
  • she would roll on the floor and cry when she is forbidden to go to a game such as bouncing castle
  • she wants to jump on beds
  • she sometimes completely refuses to use her potty (baby toilets, I miss the word in english)
  • when my wife is on the phone, she climbs on the table which is quite dangerous! (no really doubts on this one)

On the other hand, here are some situations in which we found her well educated :

  • she usually repeats some sort of polite sentence when asking for something, and repeats thank you, hello, good bye and so on
  • she keeps our hand outside the house
  • she usually agrees to tidy her room and her toys
  • she gives some toys to the little brother and gives some kisses to say hello and good night
  • she sleeps well and very rarely disturbs us during the night or her nap

Note : I have seen this good one about how to enforce discipline. My question is really about which subjects are suitable to enforce at the ages of 2,3,4 ?

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Side note re: potty - My son goes through phases where he'll either fight the potty or want to use it. Sometimes it's brought on by the behavior of his classmates at daycare. If your child goes to some kind of daycare, see if there's something that's going on that might be triggering her refusal to use the potty. –  Shauna Mar 11 '13 at 15:09
    
Actually she stays at home (usually with her mom, 2-3 times a week with her granny) –  Michel Daviot Mar 11 '13 at 21:12
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There isn't a fixed list of rules that all two year-olds are going to be capable of following. Every child is different, even within the same family.

It sounds counter-intuitive to some people, but you actually base behavior expectations not on what they're currently 100% capable of achieving, but on what is just past their reach. Otherwise there's no room for growth.

So, a few weeks after you introduce a new rule, and have been consistently enforcing it, you reevaluate. If they never obey, you are probably setting expectations too high. If they never slip up, you are probably setting expectations too low. The trick is striking the right balance.

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Children go through various phases where they test boundaries and the 'terrible twos' is a well known period. In many cases it should not matter what it is the child is refusing to do, she may be just refusing in order to push the limits, so my recommendation is to treat most of them the same:

If she refuses to do something but is polite about it and has a rational reason (I know, rare at two, but an example might be that they don't want to go for a walk because they have hurt their leg) then accepting that reason can be fine.

For all other refusals, we would not give our children an option. If it was bathtime we would just put them in the bath anyway, or change the topic, for example by asking 'what toys do you want in the bath' - removing the option of 'bath' or 'no bath'.

If you let them disagree with some things you give them the understanding that they can push the boundaries further and you don't want them doing it too much at that age as when they get older they can push much harder.

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This time is practice for when your two year old is older. It is important to think about how you want them to behave and set boundaries accordingly. There are some that they will follow willingly without struggle, but some may need constant reminder and reinforcement. Toddlers are constantly testing their surroundings, it is their job. It is our job as parents to consistently show them the boundaries. I have found with my daughter that even if it takes months to gain compliance, the consistent reminders and corrections of behavior eventually leads to compliance.

Most of the research I have read agrees that a child should only spend a minute per year old they are in time out (if she is 2, 2 minutes of time out). It is important to talk to the child and explain what they did wrong, why they are in time out, and what the correct action is.

Telling your child no and correcting unwanted behavior now sets up an expectation that you have rules and you expect those rules to be followed -this will help your child navigate their world as they get older too.

In the end, you need to decide what you expect of your child and be patient, it may take many reminders to gain compliance, but rules and boundaries are important to all children at all ages.

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