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Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/How do I discipline my 2 year old girl so that she can understand?


I have a very bright and cuddly two year old girl, Vivianna.  She is kind to animals and people, and beams with pride when she has done something "good" or mastered a new skill.  She demonstrates great compassion and caring.  However, there are a few behaviors that I just don't understand how to handle, and nothing I have tried seems to work.  These behaviors are repeated continuously throughout each day and I am growing increasingly frustrated. Firstly, Vivi will not stop touching/grabbing items she knows are off limits. She will not stop reaching to get things off of the counter or shelf.  Vivi will grab an item and "tuck and run" as if it is a game, even though I am very consistant with discipline.  I make her give the item back if it isn't dangerous or take it from her if it is (such as a cleaning supply).  I do swat her bottom as I have tried time outs but am not able to make her comply. We are staying with my mom and step day temporarily, so removing the items isn't possible.  She will not sit in her time out spot.  If I close the door as was recommended she screams she has to go potty, and if I don't let her out to use the bathroom she will wet her pants.  I tried to allow her access to the computer with my help so she didn't feel so much interest in the laptop, but when I try to go to a site such as sprout tv online, she will not follow instruction and will press the keys quickly and randomly, locking it up. This is the way it is with many fun things I try to do with her.  If I try to sit and color with her, she eats the markers/crayons/paint.  I bought side walk chalk for her but she only colored for a couple of minites then started to eat the chalk.  She loves bubbles, but after a couple of minites dumps out the bubble liquid.  Even when I tried only allowing her one small containter a day, with the thought that she would learn that once the bubble liquid was gone she couldn't blow bubbles anymore, she would stop dumping it out, but she didn't stop.  We live in Henderson, NV where it is very dry.  Whenever I give her juice/water she might take a sip, but rapidly dumps the rest out onto a table, floor, her plate.  She has a sippy cup, but won't drink water out of it, only milk.  Why does she do this? She also throws her food on the floor or takes it off her plate and puts it on the table.  It tell her no and have her clean up the mess, but she continues to do it. Her car seat has a built in cup holder and anytime she is offered juice or water she immediately pours it into the cup holder.  One major issue is nap and bedtime.  She will get out of bed 10 times or more until I finally swat her bottom and she goes to sleep crying.  This makes me very sad.  I do not allow her to watch tv before or during sleep times and have started playing soft intrumental music, but she still gets up several times.  When I try to read her a story to help her sleep she will not stay in bed.  She gets up, jumps around, picks a different book, ect.  What should I be doing to help her sleep? Additionally, she will tell me no sometimes when asked to comply with a request. Finally, she will not stop jumping on the furniture.  I reprimand her for this all day  long.  Yesterday, she was jumping on the couch, fell and hit her face on the coffee table leaving a nasty bruise, and today, she was right back to jumping on the couch again. And, when we go shopping, she runs from me, so I have started using a child harness.  I know she is a nice girl and likes the positive attention she receives.  How can I work with her on these specific issues? Thannk you very much for your imput.


Hi Savannah, The discipline needs to match the behaviour.  

So for instance time outs probably won't work for this situation that is the grabbing of items.  Your daughter is at a curious age and it may just be that she is wanting to 'play' with the sprayer or bottle that the item is in without being able to understand that they are poisonous. So perhaps having a section of empty or refilled water or safe spray bottles etc that she knows she can play with.  Maybe put it a totally different location or clearly marked with her name or other sign (that she can identify or make labels with her) so she has ownership of 'her' bottles.  That way when you say no touching mom's stuff she knows there will be consequences if it is a dangerous item a tap on the hand or bottom may be sufficient or a telling her it is dangerous etc if you think she will understand.  

Other tuck and run behaviour may be due to her making a game out of it or seeing if you will give her attention when she has it. I would probably try to ignore her the next two or three times and "say to her if you don't bring it back I won't talk to you. Bring it back and we can play". Don't chase her as most kids love that which is where the game playing starts.

I have only ever recommended time outs in a bedroom if the child is out of control, mostly in a temper tantrum where their behaviour is affecting others in the family ie. they are throwing things etc. and they need a safe space to calm themselves down. Time outs are great for certain personality types.

She may be too young to use a computer or once again be able to understand that things cost money and some of these items are easily broken.  If it causes you more stress don't do it with her and wait until closer to three to try again. Also her attention span is going to be 10 minutes at the most for two years old, so it may be the activities are too advanced for her or maybe even too easy for her so she gets bored or her concentration limit is reached.
I think she likes water and water containers the pouring and seeing how much will overflow etc, perhaps it isn't naughty just curious and probably not on purpose either.  Is it possible to let her eat outside on a little table so the mess doesn't bother you.  I think the sippy cup has just become a conditioned response if that is how milk has come. However, she copies you by seeing you drink juice or water from a cup. One major issue is nap and bedtime.

Your daughter's behaviour sounds normal for a two year old, the saying no, the jumping on furniture and the sleep issues.  I don't give sleep advice although from what I have read she is probably conditioned to crying herself to sleep now as she realises after the swat that you mean business and going to bed etc will improve with age on it's own.  You could use a reward system, so offer her a sticker or something small if she stays in bed she will get it in the morning.  

It is a tough age but it sounds like you are very aware of what your daughter does and you are involved with her by playing and spending time with her which is great but can be tiring.  Try to work on one behaviour at a time.  ie. if it is the sleeping concentrate on that for up to seven days.  If it is the jumping on furniture, focus on that behaviour and let the 'tuck and run' behaviour go for now. If you are on at her about everything all the time it is not going to be pleasant for you or her, so narrow down the behaviours like you have done on the message and then deal with one at a time. I hope this helps and happy to try to answer more as they come up for you.  
Kind Regards, Eleanor.  


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Eleanor Formaggio


I can answer questions where practical advice is sought in relation to behaviour issues of 2-10 year olds. I specifically look at the influence of personality in a child's behaviour and tailor advice to suit the individual child and parent. This is useful since not all children are the same. I can suggest techniques for tantrums, child aggression and sibling rivalry and adapting to change.


I am a counsellor and child behaviour consultant based in Sydney, Australia and mum to three boys ages 12,10 and 6. I have been involved in setting up and facilitating community support groups for new mothers and run parenting workshops so parents can better understand their children's behaviour. I have spent alot of time observing personality differences in children and understanding how these differences can be used to make parenting easier. I developed the Early Childhood Personality Rating Scale for identifying child personality types in children as young as two. I am the founder of Parent with Potential and developed the Prechooler Personality Kit and READ personality system for primary aged children. More info can be found at

Book: In this Present Moment: Quality Time Ideas for busy parents.

I have a Bachelors Degree in Applied Social Science (Counselling).

Past/Present Clients
Parents of 2-8 year olds. Mothers with Postnatal Depression or anxiety attending a support group or seeking individual counselling or advice in relation to their child's behaviour.

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