My son is 3,5y old. Generally he's a good boy. But whenever he can he is very annoying at some time and just refuses to listen.

For example he will take my cell phone and when we ask to give it back, it goes to the floor. Then I tell him to come to me so I can tell him that's not ok. But he just won't listen.

When it's near bedtime we just put him to bed, but otherwise we put him 3 minutes in solitary in the hall.

Still all of this is just one big fun for him. I'd say he's looking for attention but he gets all the attention he needs. Often right after we have been playing and doing fun stuff he goes into this behaviour.

I hope any of you have been through the same and can offer me some advice.


  • 1
    He sounds like a champion, maybe instead of punishment need to find an alternative enticement. Having a bigger carrot to offer rather a stick. Try to channel his interest rather finding a way for punishment, figuring what and how to that is up to you.
    – jimjim
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 21:50

5 Answers 5


Personally I think you are already doing the right thing with your early bedtime / 3m solitary approach. I think its important for you to realise that every child (and adult) will play up and be very annoying at times. It is all part of growing up, and learning and establishing boundaries.

I think the important thing you need to do, is to be consistent. If the same "crime" gets the same punishment all the time, your child will soon learn that particular boundary.

They will then move on to the next one...


There's no easy solution, but a good general approach in addition to consistent consequences is validation and teaching an alternative. Kids have feelings and they want to express them, but need to be taught socially acceptable ways to do so.

So when he takes your cell phone, validation is acknowledging you understand why he took it. The alternative to be taught is he needs to ask you first, so you say something like:

I know phones are fun to play with. I like them too, but you need to ask me first if it's okay, because it belongs to me and I would be sad if it got broken. Bring it to me, please. Say, "Can I play with the phone?" Okay, later on after time out you can try again to ask the right way.

Obviously, in the heat of the moment, a conversation like that isn't always feasible, so sometimes we do it after the time out. It gives a chance for both parent and child to calm down and take a step back.

  • 1
    Combine this with constant praise for good behaviour. Every time the child does anything give some praise. Also consider that this behaviour is the child telling you they are bored - take them outside for a run or take them inside for some quiet reading activity.
    – DanBeale
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 22:13

At home we have the same kind of discipline as described in this answer : How can we discipline our toddler ?

Basically I have found that the most important thing (with my 2-years old daughter at least) is to :

  • warn first about the consequences
  • do what you said afterwards

Basically this would mean in your case (after a first, more casual request) "Son, if you don't give me back my phone right now, you will spend 3 minutes in the naughty corner. You sure you want to be punished and go the corner ?" And in the next seconds you calmly but firmly drive him to the corner.


My wife and I have had a lot luck with 1-2-3 magic when we stick to it. Even when he was two years old. This involves no screaming or trying to reason with the child just counting for each time he doesn't listen and putting the child in timeout without talking to the child while putting them in or while in timeout. Also after the time is up the issue is done.

Good Luck.

1-2-3 Magic

  • I went to a 1-2-3 Magic workshop 20 years ago. Being consistent and calm with timeouts early on resulted in teenage boys who would still go to their rooms when I said "That's 3." They are now 20 and 22, and while they certainly had moments of pushing the envelope, they were never unmanageable, and today are terrific young men.
    – MJ6
    Commented Apr 7, 2013 at 6:17
  • My son is now 6 and I can get away with "Do I need to count?" to get behavior to stop. Commented Jun 30, 2014 at 18:45

It sounds like three minutes isn't long enough. Up it to five, and make certain it's dreadfully dull. When it's over, don't hold a grudge. However, if you're anything but consistent, it won't work. Any time, any place the poor behavior occurs, the consequence must occur. You can't make exceptions for time or place or audience.

We are social creatures, and removing us from each other's company can be the most powerful incentive to choose otherwise, and being welcome back sends the message home.

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