Mommy SOS: Taking the Fun Out of “No!”

Jasper demonstrating bad behavior!

We’ve spoken about discipline before, but Jasper was a bit younger and less able to understand consequences.  Redirection is fine, but what if he repeats the behavior over and over again?

Every morning when I go into the bathroom to put on my makeup Jasper runs to this ledge infront of the bath and climbs on it. I wouldn’t mind so much if he just sat there like is doing in these pictures, but most of the time he’s crawling around, leaning over the bath, turning on the hot water etc.  The tile is hard and would not be a very forgiving place to fall, not to mention that he shouldn’t be turning on hot water faucets!

No matter how many times I tell him sternly “NO!” or even forcibly remove him from the bathroom and close the door (leaving him crying on the other side) as soon as I open the door again he runs right back up.

He is also in the habit of constantly turning the burners up or down on the stove when something is cooking on the stove top.. my “No” elicits fits of laughter, even though I carry him away and sit him down somewhere else.  Clearly he thinks it is some sort of game.   Redirecting him works in the moment, but it isn’t teaching him not to repeat the behavior.

Even worse, he very recently started biting me! Clearly this is a behavior that he must learn is completely unacceptable, but I’m at a loss on how to instill this in him.

I am anti corporal punishment, if only because I know that even my mild “roughness” with him when I pick him up and move him away elicits a sort of aggressive response in him – he starts to hit in the air, etc. I don’t want him learning agressive behavior from his parents.

Please share what, if anything, has worked for you to end undesirable behaviors (or at least curb them!)..

And on a completely unrelated note, I have to post this because it’s too cute not to share: I present to you “Jasper Potter!”

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You’re more than welcome I just hope some of the ideas work for you as well as they do for us. Things do change and I have to keep re-inventing ideas but it’s fun to see what works. Just last night my son didn’t want a bath, he loves it normally but he knew it meant bed time, so I had to play a game telling him that I didn’t think he was big enough to undress himself and with every layer he peeled off we gave great praise and lots of “wows” and the giggling was tremendous. He loved proving us wrong. The next step was getting him in the bath so we played sink or float. He had to guess which toys would sink or float before he dropped them in the water…the last item to test was him. It may take more energy to think of these things but I’m finding it easier each time to think of things in a split second. My husband thinks I’m a genius, who am I to tell him any different?! Because I spend the most time with our son I know him very well and tend to know how he ticks. My husband is great and supports my ideas…even my slightly bizarre ones!

Let me know how you get on and please share anything you have picked up…I’m always on the lookout for new techniques.

I’m just going through your archives on home and will then start on mom. Really nice to have found someone has done renovation as we currently are and also sharing so much about pregnancy, babies and being a mom. Two very important things to me. I’m also a photographer who lusts after natural light! (Although it’s on a back burner professionally whilst I study an interior & 3D design course).

And I totally know what you mean by lack of funds & energy. Am I totally mad for wanting a 2nd child on top of all the work in the house, plus college & working? Probably :-)

ariana says:

Flutterbymama, such great advice – thank you!!!

We haven’t done much to the house in a long time, not because it doesn’t need it but because we ran out of money and energy :) Having kids sucks both right out of you :)

Just one more thing I find useful…always discipline on a one to one, never do it in front of other people. I certainly wouldn’t like someone to tell me off in front of friends, partner, colleagues, clients…children are just the same. I even ask my husband to leave and respectively if my husband needs to discipline him I remove myself.

That’s all from me now…I promise!
Take care :-)

I think most of the previous answers you’ve had make sense. I started disciplining at around age 2 and he’s now 3. I don’t think, at this stage, whether it matters if he understands or not but the sooner you start the quicker he’ll get it. We use time out and it came about so quickly that my husband & I didn’t get the chance to discuss where this would actually be. I was so angry one particular day that I just picked him up and put him in the hall and closed the door. Luckily he’s never really questioned it and I’m amazed he still stays put (whilst screaming his little head off!) As soon as he was able to walk if he dropped something or threw something I would make him stop what he was doing and go pick it up and place it down. I always asked if he knew why mummy put him in the hall and early on he just looked at me but now he tries to explain. There is always a sorry and cuddle & kiss and forgiveness straight away. The book that really helped me was ‘How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk’. It’s been brilliant and my life guard! Saying ‘no’ is definitely not the way to go as ‘no’ can be used for so many things. Explanations, time out and praise are the way forward. When you remove a favourite item due to bad behaviour you need to tell them how long it will be for, then there is no going back. On recent occasions my son has said sorry for something before I’ve even realised what he’s done!
My son went through a biting & hitting stage and I would place him down, if he was sat with me or being held, and I would say that hurts and put on a sad face and asked how he might feel if I was to bite him. I think they can empathise because if I pretend to cry or be upset he always comes and says it’s alright mummy and gives me a hug & kiss. Consistency and although stern keep your voice calm as they are more willing to listen & take in what you tell them.
The biggest issue I now have is when I need him to come to me or get ready to go out. I have the 1,2,3 technique. I ask him to come and get dressed and he’s running around like children often do. So I say I’m going to count to 3 and if I get to 3 and you are not here them mummy will take away…(favourite toy or thing he is playing with) and put it away until tomorrow. Usually before I’ve even started counting he’s over like a shot. Seems to work for me just not sure how long it will last.

I have so many little techniques that work for my child and he’s generally well behaved and does as I ask. If he’s having a tantrum in a public place then I tend to pick him up and remove him to a quieter area, stand him in front of me and get down to his level and ask him if he knows why mummy has taken him to one side and we have a brief discussion about unacceptable behaviour and I get a sorry and cuddle and off we go again. This is the most difficult situation to be in as you just want to bury your head and get out of there. People are judgmental and you hear comments from passers by but just carry on as you would at home and ignore everyone around you. They should be grateful that you are dealing with it and they don’t have to listen to a screaming child.

Ok well I think I’ve rambled enough now and hopefully some of it make sense.

Good luck with it and remember…eye contact, get down to same level and stay calm and in control. That I find is the key to a healthy, happy relationship with you and your children.

PS Found your home blog first and then you mom blog…both are fab, are you still renovating or are you finished with all that?

Melody says:

I just started reading Becky Bailey’s book “Easy to love Hard to Discipline” and it’s amazing! I highly highly recommend it. I have a 13 month old and I am integrating her concepts into my daily life (such as turning fear based discipline to love based discipline and that its actually more effective) Love your blog! :)

AmandaG says:

At 15 months old my son is already getting in to things he shouldn’t and doing things that we don’t want him to get in the habit of doing (such as throwing his cup and expecting us to keep picking it up.) Doing the redirecting and I’d also already tried a couple of times with the ‘yes’ thing that Nanny Amy mentioned. I tell him ‘you can’t bite the remote, but you can bite this toy’ or whatever. Usually, he doesn’t want the toy, but what can you do? I don’t think he’s old enough to understand time outs, plus I’m not sure how I feel about them either.

Raquel says:

hi Ariana! reading your recent posts reminds me of my 20month Anabella. so so many things in common here! :)

she recently started biting (after stopping months ago) because shes teething again. and now the hair pulling has
returned as well. now i can see that its when shes tired and her teeth/gums hurt. i remind her not to bite — that hurts! and make a sad face like crying and she comes over and kisses me. yesterday i sat in the backseat with her and she hit me in the face. i asked my partner to pull over and i got out and sat in the front. when we started driving again i told her that hitting hurts and i cant sit with her if shes going to hit me and hurt me. she looked
shocked but got it. i dont believe in time outs — they NEVER worked with our son so were trying a new method.

good luck and looking forward to hearing how it all works out for you!

Judy N says:


Ah, the joys of toddler-hood. I always say the toddler years are JUST like the teenage years, just stuck in a cute little baby body.

It is about consistency. I am totally not trying to pick at you, but when you mentioned above that you take away his toothbrush as a punishment and he freaks out and if you return it, he acts good, well, I think that’s a little inconsistent (and I only know because I have done this and slowly come to this realization!). I think if you do a punishment, you stick to it, no matter the tantrum or begging or promises that he won’t do it again.

Jasper’s definitely at the age where time outs are appropriate. Find a spot and put him in it…the initial few times will probably be hard and take A LOT of time making sure you put him back in it and put him back in it until he stays for the full 1.5 minutes. Or you can try a play pen or something where he can’t get out of…but you don’t want to use something that he SHOULD enjoy (his crib). The key after a time out is that the slate is wiped completely clean…no grudges. If he does it again right away, you can’t hold the previous actions against him.

For us, our DS gets 2 warnings before a timeout. There are certain ‘wrongs’ that don’t get a warning…these are our SERIOUS-YOU-NEVER-NEVER-DO-THIS stuff: biting, hitting, things that could seriously hurt him. The serious actions get a “THAT IS A NO!” and an automatic time out. That way, our typical “no” is different from out super-serious, you-did-way-wrong no.

After his time out, we get him, tell him in a calm voice, you were in time out because you “bit mommy” or “you threw your food even though mommy said no,” and I say, “Are you sorry?” And he usually doesn’t respond (he doesn’t talk much yet), and I hug him, tell him I love him, and we go off and play.

Lucy says:

I agree with Fiona that a timeout chair with a restraint is a bad idea. In addition to the reasons she already gave, eventually that chair won’t restrain him. If he’s only staying there because of the restraints, what are you going to do when he grows out of it?

I don’t always agree with Supernanny, but here I think she has it right–keep your voice firm (and calm!) so he knows it’s not a game and keep putting him back until he stays.

Nanny Amy says:

I read your post yesterday and was thinking about it all day…and only skimmed the other comments so if I repeat anyone, sorry!!!

I read an article in Parents magazine a few days ago that was from a mom that tried using “Yes” instead of “no” and she gave examples, one of which was “if you’d like to kick, come over here and kick this pillow” instead of saying “no kicking your sister” and it worked for her.

I’ve used similar tactics and they seem to work really well and being super consistent is important with whatever you decide.

Oh and one more thing, P went through this phase of hitting and it didn’t last very long with me…I’ve dealt with it before and used my “walk away” technique and after a few days she stopped hitting me. It lasted a bit longer with mom and dad and after we all talked about it I suggested mom try the same and she also got advice from others. So when P hit her one day Mom put her down and removed herself from the area leaving P just standing there in shock. She got the point very quickly and has never hit anyone since. I don’t know what you’ve already tried, so this may help…

chantal says:

RE: the stove… my mom ran a daycare out of her home for a while, and a trick she always used was to put the oven light on whenever she was cooking or baking. All us kids learned very quickly that if the light was on we had to either stay far far away from the stove or, better yet, stay out of the kitchen altogether. She’d put the light on as soon as she started mixing ingredients and left it on well after everything had cooled down. My husband does most of the cooking in our house and I’m trying to get him to do the same thing since it was so effective, although it’ll be a while before Jasper or Annora really understands that oven light on means stay away. Once it clicks though, it’ll make life easier for both of us.

Fiona says:

Hi Ariana,

Interesting posst and comments. I have no experience with my own (too young), or a child as young as Jasper but as a teacher I do have some experience of child discipline. I have no advice for individual problems but I would like to echo some general comments on here.

1. Jasper is testing you at the moment to see how you will respond to his behaviours. It’s completely normal. What you do now will set a precedent. You must gain and maintain authority. This does not mean you can not be a loving mother, but he must know that YOU and not him is in charge at all times.

2. The need for consistency is desperate. Children of all ages need (and indeed like) boundaries. They need to know where they stand in order to feel secure.

The thing that I do disagree with, however, is the time out chair with a restraint. There are two reasons for this. The first and (I believe) most important is the fact that I regard physical restraint such as this to be on the same level as corporal punishment. Some will say it is a safety issue but I would say that time out should be done in a safe environment where you can see the child. That is a personal feeling – each parent must do as they see fit. The second reason I disagree with this is from a discipline and authoritative point of view. A child should stay where you ask them to (especially in time out) just because you said so, not because they can not physically move away. Restraining a child in this way massively undermines your authority. You also have to ask yourself, if you do this at home, what will happen when they are given time out at school and the teacher is not allowed to restrain them or when the child grows out of the chair?

Good luck. I am sure you will find what works for both you and Jasper. Motherhood is a steep learning curve. You don’t know what the problems are until they are already upon you.


Sarah says:

I have son who is a 1 1/2. I try to redirect, but it doesn’t always work. If he does something out of anger, like hit or do something over and over, he goes into time out. I put him in the crib for one minute. I think I’ve only ever put him in time out four times so far, for different reasons, once being he gave me a bloody lip after hitting me in the face. He maybe too young to understand why he’s in time out (hence the reason for people saying you should wait until 2-3ish so they understand why) but after he gets out of time out he listens to “no” and responds to it. So that’s a step in the right direction. I also try to help him voice his feelings by saying, “I can tell you’re angry, but you cannot hit mommy.” And the way you deliver the message is just as important, he’s reading your tone and your words. GL!

Ava says:

Hey, psst — time to update your Amazon wishlist over here ->
You have some new toys ;p

Ava says:

I’ve read two books in the past few months:
1-2-3 Magic, and
Love & Logic Magic (the purple one)

I liked them both, although I’m a bit more partial to 1-2-3 Magic. They dealt with communication, explaining consequences, but also taking action. They were good and I’ve learned some valuable tips from them.
With that said, G’s also a huge fan of ignoring me when I ask him not to do something. Like Jasper, he’s perfected the toddler giggle while he does things he KNOWS he shouldn’t. Redirection has worked, but I’ll admit, I’ve also put him in time-out now 3 times (this too is hilarious btw, since he just gets up and walks away, so dealing w/ that too). I have no magic bullet, but I also recognize it’s a process. I hope I’ll figure it out before he moves away to college.

ariana says:

@Sara, very interesting.. a naughty chair with a restraint system.. good stuff :)

@Chantal, the positive reinforcement is great.. just sometimes there’s no positive behavior in opposition to the bad one (like turning the stove nobs!)

@Anh, Jasper is very aware of hot.. hyperaware! Every time he sees steam he goes “hot, hot hot”. I made the bath too warm a few baths ago and now he FREAKS everytime I put him in the bath :( He refuses to sit even if the water is barely tepid. It takes a ton of convincing him to sit now.. such a pain!

Anh says:

It really is heart-wrenching to see your little one cry but I have to remind myself that it’s in his best interest. Then his hugs and kisses afterward make me (and hopefully him) feel better. Please keep us posted when you do find something that works for Jasper.

By the way, with regard to the stove … I’ve made it a habit to say “HOT!” every time I take Oliver’s toast out of the toaster oven, blow on a hot spoonful of food, or fill his bath, for example. Once, his bath was a little too warm for his liking so he caught on to the meaning pretty quick. Now if he gets too close to the oven, I say “HOT” and he backs away and peers at it cautiously. Repetition seems to work for our little one but then everyone is different.

chantal says:

I just asked this on facebook and got a variety of responses. I’m not sure if time outs will work with Annora yet, who is only a month older than Jasper. What I’ve been doing when she throws her sippy cup (constantly) is to pick it up and take it away from her and sternly say “No! We do not throw in this house.” Then when she nicely puts it down instead of throwing it, I praise her and make a huge deal about how well behaved she’s being and how proud I am of her for not throwing it. This seems to be working in other areas too, but not for all the behaviors I’d like her to improve on. I think part of it is the age – our kids are testing us. It wasn’t ok 10 minutes ago, is it still not ok? How about now? What about now? It’s frustrating for us but I think the key is consistency… make sure you always let him know it’s not cool to be doing it. If you do start doing time outs, please post about it. I’m not sure how to get started with it.

Noah’s in the same boat and our ped suggested using a separate booster chair (not his usual eating place) as the “timeout chair” and because the booster has straps, he can’t get out until I let him out. We’ve been doing that for a little over a month and I have seen an improvement in listening to “No”. Now I can usually just warn Noah that if the undesired behavior doesn’t stop, he has to go to the timeout chair and he backs down.

If I don’t strap him in, he thinks it’s a game and won’t stay put. And then there goes the whole discipline behind a time out, you know? Another good thing would be a pack ‘n play or the like set up away from the “fun” places of the house, i.e. toys, Mommy/Daddy, GPs, TV, etc. and that becomes the “timeout” place. It’s safe for him and gives him a little breather/time to think.

Hope you find a good discipline strategy that works for you and for J!

ariana says:

@Anh, sounds like I may have to start trying a time out.. though knowing Jasper I think he’ll think it’s a game too!

@Samm, I am the same way.. I HATE seeing him cry. He does this little thing with his upper lip and it just KILLS me. I’m such a softie.

@Kelsy I think that stop is a great alternative to NO! Will have to try that..

Kelsey says:

The language they use at my son’s school is, “STOP that right now! Your body is not safe right now.” They then find a safe/appropriate activity and redirect. With aggression, they say, “That hurts my body when you _____ and you need to stop.”

I don’t really know how effective their method is because my son is too young to need this so far (knock on wood). However, I do know that they used best practices based on child development research. (He is at a university-based child care center that is run by our college of human development.)

Samm Ivri says:

This is a great post. I am struggling with the same issue. Its really difficult for me because I HATE punishing. I hate seeing DD even slightly upset. Yet, I don’t want to create a spoiled monster. Its gotten the the point where DH disciplines and then I run over to calm her down when she starts crying. This is no solution! I am reading Happiest Toddler on the Block. I really recomend this book. Its got great ideas and insight. Have’t put them to practice yet, but I will!

Anh says:

Everyone chooses to discipline their children differently, but I agree with the posters about being firm and consistent with whatever you decide.

Our 21-month old is definitely asserting his independence and frustration these days. About a month ago, he started hitting us. I don’t believe in spanking so we resorted to giving him timeouts after an initial warning. Initially, we put Oliver in his crib, but felt it wouldn’t be a good idea to continue associating his crib as a “bad place”. However, he quickly caught on to the idea after 2-3 timeout sessions so we put out a timeout mat. I was afraid he wouldn’t stay on it, but amazingly, he never budges. He just sits there for a minute and a half and cries pitifully. Afterwards, he says “sorry” and gives us a hug and kiss. Two days ago, we put him in a timeout session while at Costco and it worked! When he starts to act up, I’ll tell him he’s going to get a timeout if he doesn’t stop his naughty behavior and I can see him actually thinking about it. I’m still amazed that he seems to understand the concept.

Now instead of hitting us, he slaps his leg when he gets frustrated. Not yet sure what to do about that one!

kari says:

looking forward to reading these responses – liam’s FAVORITE word is no!
ps – great video!

I don’t have any experience in this area (yet!), but I did have a few thoughts (although I can’t back them up with experience)!
My first thought was, try a time out in a safe place by himself. A few ideas for places: high chair, crib, exersaucer or a booster seat at an empty table. I’ve heard timeouts should be one minute for each year, so just two minutes for Jasper- feel free to correct me on that!
Second, I think it’s really important to be consistent. So do the same consequence (whatever you choose) for the same behavior each time. If it doesn’t seem to be helping, you can change it up.

That’s all I have, but I’m looking forward to the responses!

jbhat says:

Ariana, I know you will figure out the approach that works for you (especially on the safety front), so the only thing that I will say is that it’s important that you be consistent and that you follow through on any consequences you state to him. It will be hard, because he will be upset (crying, acting out) and you will want to comfort him, but be firm. This goes for you and everyone who is helping with him. GPs and Jeff need to be on board with the plan.

His aggression and obstinance are completely normal–it’s a stage. He’s testing you and his independence, and he’s being especially watchful for the times when you might fall into an inconsistency trap.

You are the boss of him. So good luck! You can do it.


Allison says:

Hi Ariana,

First time commenter, but I’ve been reading your blog since before Jasper was born.

I have a son, 3 years old – Alex who was going through a similar stage. What I found works best is to find what makes them understand (their “currency”)and show them you mean business (pick and choose your battles though – not everything can be off limits).

For my son, it was social interaction. We had to remove him from the situation, after a warning about what would happen if he would continue, and then give him a time out. The removal from us/me – was his “currency”- the thing he didn’t want to give up (like speeding tickets that cost a lot of money for adults, etc). He learned really quick that when Mommy gave a warning with a consequence – I meant business. He still pushes the limits to check in, and I’m there to remind him that they are still in place for the important limits. I had to choose what I was going to limit and I chose hitting the dog, doing something dangerous (like the stove) and something else, I can’t remember.

This changed our interactions and worked really well for us.

A book I would recommend is “How to say No to your toddler”. It’s a great book, fairly short and easy to read. Taught me this technique above. Try it out. You can apply the ideas to YOUR child and what YOU are comfortable doing.

Good luck!

ariana says:

Yikes Sara! The thing is that I KNOW he understands me – because sometimes he’ll do something that drives me nuts, like when I’m changing him he kicks me, or pushes me away with his feet. Often I let him brush his teeth while I’m changing him to distract him (he loves the toothepaste!) and I’ll say “Jasper, if you don’t stop kicking mommy is going to take away your toothbrush, do you want your toothbrush to go bye bye? And then he’ll do it one more time to test me, at which point I take away the toothbrush, then he freaks and I give it back to see if he’ll do it again and usually he won’t.. so again, I know he understands consequences.

I think it’s definitely time for me to get a copy of HTOTB too!!

Sara B. says:

Marino can be violent, as well. He bites, smacks me in the head, pulls my hair. I started doing timeouts, but I have to hold him in the corner (otherwise he won’t stay). I don’t make eye contact or talk, other than to say “time out.”

One of my friends said it’s important to remove the thing that they want that caused the acting out. In most cases, that tends to be me (he wants me to hold him, doesn’t want me to put him down, doesn’t want to go to bed), so I am considering putting him in his crib for those timeouts, although I hate for my iffy sleeper to start hating the crib. I’m reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block now, hoping to get some insight.

ariana says:

Ack! That’s so scary, definitely what I was afraid of. We have that stove guard at becoming home, but not at my parents’ house. But more than solving individual problems, I am wondering if there is something I’m not doing that will teach him right from wrong? Because unlike James, he doesn’t get the picture when I remove him!

Kimberly says:

I wish I had advice for you pertaining to the biting….
But as for the defiance around being told “no,” James thinks it’s pretty funny and laughs whenever I tell him “no,” regardless how stern I am with him. I just remove him from whatever it is, and he does get the picture.
The stove buttons were a problem for us too… We came home after being out for several hours to the house smelling of natural gas… James had apparently turned one of the gas range knobs JUST enough… terrifying. We bought the covers that afternoon. :)
I got these at Babies R Us (I’m pretty sure) and they work beautifully…