My daughter is 2 years and 4 months old. Yesterday, she asked me to give her my phone and I told her, "No this is mine." She started crying and hitting me and then she bit me. I got shocked, then I told her, "Stop this is naughty. I will put you in the naughty area." She cried more and more. Recently, I noticed that when she wants anything and we don't give her she will start crying until we give her what she asks for.

What is the best action that I should take with her?

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    What really worked for us was to keep calmly explaining to our son why. Takes a lot of patience, but in the long run this is the most effective in my opinion. If they are throwing a tantrum, you would have to wait till they calm down before trying to reason with them. Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 21:25
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    "she will start cry till we give her what she asks" - it sounds like she's learned that if she cries then you give her what she asks. If that's true then you're rewarding her for crying. Why are you rewarding her for crying? Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 5:47
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    Don't forget that the child has limited life experience. If you lost your house, you would be sad. This is because we know the value of the house and have emotional attachment to the house. The child life experience is limited, not having the "phone" is very emotional for them. Until they can properly problem solve, find alternative to their needs or have higher emotional needs, they will cry.
    – the_lotus
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 15:00
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    Sounds like a perfectly normal case of the Terrible Twos. Just hang in there, it'll be better in a year or so... Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 15:09
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    As Mason Wheeler says - this sounds like a typical case of the "Terrible Twos" - they are wakening from an essentially unreasoned non-logic driven wonderland where they look around them and understand, if not fully, that they have power, desires, satisfaction, frustrations, ... . They are reaching out to see how the world works. Your job is to show them, in a manner that conveys foundation and foundational values to their lives. Opinions vary on how this SHOULD be done ranging from "spare the rod and spoil the child" to extreme but opposite permissiveness. Somewhere between is optimum. Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 12:55

4 Answers 4


This is a difficult problem for parents because we hate making our children cry, but it seems to me that you use 'the naughty place' / timeout and that can be effective. I don't call it 'the naughty place'.

As difficult as it is when your child cries, sometimes it is your job to be firm. At two, she is trying to assert herself. This is a normal part of development and is a good sign.

Timeout: Timeout is not a punishment. It is a stop action, relax and get-over-it place. It is quiet. Some parents have to sit with their children. In my opinion, it is only effective some of the time as the child has to cooperate.

Redirection: Redirection is also not punishment. It means (more or less) changing the subject. In this example, you remove the phone, and say firmly, "No," Then you put on some music, sing or dance, or pull out a game or activity. If you get good at redirection, it is magic because the child hardly notices they don't have the 'phone'.

Working for tokens: The token system (stickers, check marks) can be as formal or as casual as you like. Every time period (you select the amount of time) she earns a token for good behaviour. The tokens 'buy' her something she likes at the end of the day. Perhaps it is a walk before bedtime, some time on the playground, painting with mum or dad, 5 minutes of TV for every token up to the amount of time you allow TV. Everytime she is naughty, you give her a firm, "No." and remove a token. She will soon understand that she wants tokens.

I also think she has arrived at the time when she must be given choices. Choices help her to feel like she has some control and also teaches her to make decisions. You offer her the red or the blue cup. "Your choice, do you want red or blue?" She selects and you say, "You chose the red cup." It isn't more than two items and you have pre-selected the choices, so that whatever she decides is fine with you. This happens all day every time it is possible. Cookie/pudding. Red/blue shirt. This/that game. Swing/slide. Use the choosing language and it will help. When it is your choice, you say, "This time it is my choice. I choose that you cannot play with my phone. It is not your toy." By the way, don't let her play with your phone some of the time if it is a problem most of the time. They are expensive and not toys!

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    Superb balanced answer, Willow. A good steer away from punishment towards constructive approaches.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 19:09
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    I think Dan had a point that an explanation should be given. So not that you won't share, but rather "No. The phone is expensive and not a play toy." At age 2 you can't expect a child to accept a rational explanation. 2 year old children want what they want and they want it NOW. // When the child starts crying you have to be very very careful not to reinforce the pattern that crying gives the child control. (On a plane you might give in for example since you're over a barrel because of your consideration for other passengers.)
    – MaxW
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 22:06
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    @MaxW My 'explanation' was "you cannot play with my phone. It is not your toy." YMMV... :Wink: I'll assume Hamad will temper his reason for his child.
    – WRX
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 22:12
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    Good post. However, I personally strongly dislike the token system. I am of the opinion that it will foster a person to only be good for the sake of getting a reward and avoid being bad to avoid being punished; they won't do good things for the sake of being good. One can always argue that for a two year old it's a first step and that the system can change later, but I prefer to never use it as it is better to learn good behaviour from base. Redirection is always the best choice. In the rare cases a redirection does not work, then a time out with a talk always do (at least for our family).
    – Mrkvička
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 11:12
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    Good answer. One thing you don't call out explicitly is that one of the biggest factors here is that as the parent, you need to remain calm and in control. Your child wants you to be on control of the situation. If he or she perceives that you are not, it will create a lot of distress. Far more than not getting what he or she wants at the moment. Low voices, calming explanations go a long way with a 2 year old.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 18:13

It sounds like what you have is a breakdown in communication. It's especially difficult around this age since she is trying to make use of her newly acquired language skills.

Look at it from her point of view.

— "I want your phone."

— "No, this is mine!"

That response eliminates all common ground. What other recourse does she have but to throw a fit?

The first thing that would be helpful in a dialogue would be to acknowledge her request. At least you would be giving her feedback that what she said was indeed understood, and encouraging her to use her words instead of acting out. Ask, "Why do you want it?" Maybe she just wants to imitate you. Maybe she wants your attention. Maybe she wants to see some photos.

Instead, you never bothered to find out. Her request was denied without a good explanation. (You aren't sharing, nor are you offering an alternative such as a toy phone.) How do you feel when people tell you "No" with an angry tone? You'd get angry too.

Then, what she got was "You're being naughty!" You probably didn't explain exactly what constituted "naughty" behaviour. For all she knows, wanting to have a pretend phone conversation was, for some reason, bad and worthy of punishment. What a predicament!

If you want your daughter to stay calm and use her words, you'll have to do the same too! It's hard, because her vocabulary is limited, and she doesn't necessarily know the limits of rational behaviour, but you need to show that you understand her. If you don't, then she will resort to the only other tool that she knows: throwing a tantrum.


My feeling is that this is not directly about the phone. The outburst is symptomatic of an unmet need, and it's not the need for your phone.

Your child is two. You are on your phone.

The message to a two year old is that your phone is more important than they are. This is frustrating even as an adult, imagine how much worse it is when your parent, who is a huge part of the world you understand is choosing something other than you.

Two year olds thrive on your attention and interaction. They are at a crucial age of learning how to interact with the world and people around them, and they NEED your guidance.

The solution here is to put your phone away, and give your child the attention that they need at this age.

Take them out for a walk, look for birds, take a container and catch insects etc.

This is the time to be exposing them to all that life has to offer so they can begin to understand their place in all the confusion, and so YOU can begin to understand what interests and stimulates them.

Make the most of these years - they are gone much too quickly.

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    Good answer, but the OP hasn't actually said that they were on the phone when the child asked for it. It could easily have been somewhere in sight without the OP using it. Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 12:23
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    @AmyBarrett I do agree with you, but Grokling may still have a point. On the playgrounds we go to, a vast majority of the parents spend more attention to their phones than their kids, so even if OP was not on the phone at that moment, the outburst may still be caused by a desire for attention (which get connected to the phone as she has seen OP using it when she desired contact at other occations). I am, of course, not claiming that this is what actually happened as I wasn't there and don't know how they interact, but it could be an explanation for the event.
    – Mrkvička
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 20:06
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    Two year olds have a tendency to want what other people have. Amy - you are right in that the OP didn't specify, however the expressed desire for the phone indicates to me that OP does spend enough time using the phone in the presence of the child for it to become a desirable object. The obvious two year old solution is that "if I have something you want, I'll also have your attention" (which is what I actually wanted in the first place)
    – Grokling
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 20:12

My wife has a super effective way of dealing with this negative, attention seeking behavior, by allowing the child to choose what they want to do. The reality is there is not much choice, but it helps by making it feel like the child is in control yet also establishes necessary boundaries:

So in this case:
Wow, you are really upset. If you want to keep crying, you will have to do so in your room. If you want to cry loudly, you will have to do it into your pillow. Or you can stay out here with me and we can color if you like (or something else fun). What do you want to do? It is important to say this with zero emotion in your voice.

It is truly remarkable how giving the child a choice and say in the matter takes the fury out of acting out. Keep in mind they may choose to scream into their pillow sometimes. That is okay, go about your day as if it does not effect you at all. Eventually they will almost always choose to "color".

This also works with minor choices. One of our nieces has out of control hair, but not being the parents we have no control over that. So when she stays with us, the rule is she needs to have a hair clip in place in order to leave her room. She can take it out, while she plays in her room, but in order to be in the common areas of our home (or in public) she needs to have one in place. Of course she can have help anytime she needs it. Sometime she chooses to play in her room without one, sometime she chooses to have one in and be with us. There is no drama over it, and the desired outcome is achieved.

The reality is that this specific instance might not be about the phone at all. She is just testing her boundaries. Establishing firm, but loving boundaries will increase the security of a child and will help them to be happy and healthy.

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