Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/disciplining toddler


Hi. I'm hoping you can solve a dispute between me and my boyfriend regarding our 16-month daughter. I think she isn't too young to be disciplined, but he thinks she is. When I say disciplined, I don't mean spanking (I don't believe in that) I mean mild punishments like taking away her ball for an hour because she was throwing it at the wall, right near a vase. He thinks that's too much because "she's just a baby," but honestly isn't now the best time to start teaching her how to behave?

Hi Rose,
The answer to your question is: Yes and no.
As you are suggesting, discipline means something more than physical punishment. It's a number of things you do to guide and influence her. But, you also have to think of it as much more than removing a toy or object. It's also about reinforcing the behaviors you do want to happen more often.
For example, if you want to teach her to play with a ball appropriately, then you have to use praise and attention when she does use it appropriately. In addition, you may have to remove it for a short period of time when she insists on playing with it near the vase.
But, your boyfriend is not completely wrong. Toddlers between the ages of one and three (or more# have poor controls. Removing a ball or sending them to time-out usually isn't all that effective because they often can't stop themselves from doing what they feel like doing #even if they are beginning to grasp that it is wrong#. So, it is a time when you are trying to teach her the rules, but also recognizing that she can't always stop herself from breaking the rules.
In order to save the vase, sometimes it's necessary to hide the vase for a couple of years until she has enough control and follows the rules often enough so that you are fairly sure the vase is safe.
It's a difficult period of time #the toddler years#, but it takes patience, a sense of humor, repeating the rules #such as no throwing the ball in the dining room) -- and repeating the rules 500 hundred times! --, and using lots of praise and attention.
Any questions?
James Windell.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

©2017 All rights reserved.