My son who is 2 years and 7 months old has gotten into a habit of telling everyone to "go away". A most recent example happened just this morning. I sleep in another room while he and his little sister (~4 months) co-sleep w/ my wife in another bedroom. In the morning, he called for me on the Apple Watch, and I showed up - but the first thing he said to me was "go away Papa" and he even hit me, even though he called me to come himself.

This happens when his Grandma and Grandpa come to babysit almost every weekday and happens a lot with my wife lately.

This morning, I gently took him out of the bed and told him that it's very rude to say things like that to people and eventually he apologized and said that "he won't be rude to Papa anymore", but we do this every time he says it and it doesn't seem to prevent the behavior.

A little about us: I work on weekdays and usually home at night to help put kids to bed. We spend time together all weekends long. Wife works in the afternoon, and my parents come to babysit for the time my wife is gone and I am not home from work yet.

Any idea as to what the cause might be and what is the best way to respond to this behavior?

  • Could just be a phase. My 4 y/o has done all kinds of different things over the last couple years, some of which could be construed as bad behavior, but we chalk it up to she learned something from daycare, TV, out in public, etc and she just doesn't understand what she is mimicking. Her latest thing is just being generally bossy. Without observing any other issues or behaviors, it would be hard to pinpoint or correct this other than what you are already doing. You could also try not giving in to the requests.
    – user20343
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 18:29
  • I’m struggling with this too and find it so embarrassing when out. Your answer was really helpful. Makes me feel less of a failing mother and more empowered to help him further develop his ability to empathise.
    – Cat Sarah
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


My feeling is that this is pretty normal, at least it happened with my children starting around that age (2.5) too. I saw it as one of the signs of them starting to want control of their environment.

If you look at a list of emotional/social milestones, such as this list, you'll typically see in the 2 year old category things like:

  • Shows more and more independence.
  • Shows defiance, such as doing what he/she was told not to do.

This is something analogous - he's showing independence (by telling you to go away, showing he can be by himself) and defiance (certainly seems quite defiant!).

As for how to handle it; how you handled it seems fine. I would (ideally) go a little further, and explain how it makes me feel, as the general concept "rude" can be a bit complicated and abstract. I'd also explore his feelings, why he's telling you that.

Jonathan, when you tell me to Go Away [in his tone/volume] like that it makes me sad, because it makes me feel like you're not being nice to me. Can you tell me why you're telling me to go away like that?

Assuming he doesn't know why he's telling you - as at least in my children's case, they usually didn't - then some added prompting might help him process the emotion he was feeling.

Jonathan, I wonder if you're saying that because you want some time by yourself? We can ask for that politely by saying "Please, can I have time by myself?", or "Please, can I have some privacy?"

Or, maybe:

Hmm, maybe you are trying to play a game with me, like Simon Says? We can ask for that politely by saying "Please, can I play Simon [/Jonathan] Says with you?"

  • Thanks for this answer. I will try to communicate my feelings to him next time - guess nothing to do but wait it out. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 20:11
  • I wouldn’t say nothing! This is a great opportunity for him to learn empathy and social behavior.
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 23:47
  • 8
    Just an observation: "...it makes me sad" is a feeling, but "...it makes me feel like you're not being nice to me" is not a feeling, it's a statement. Proper identification of feelings is important to teach, and should be clearly defined. There are many things the OP could be feeling: unloved, disrespected, unimportant, afraid (that they are not loved), etc. "I feel you're being childish" isn't really a feeling, it's a belief, which is different. Emotions are complicated enough without misusing the lexicon. Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 0:44

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