We have a pair of kids, one is 4 and the other is 2. The 2 year old loves attention from either parent and is a bundle of joy to be around when she is getting what she wants. When she doesn't get enough attention though she is deliberately naughty to get it. The more we discipline her (naughty step/time out), the more she acts up to get the attention.

I don't want to ignore her when she wanders off the naughty step and starts to play, but I also don't want to give her the attention she is seeking. Any suggestions?

asked 28 Sep '09, 08:34

Colin's gravatar image

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edited 28 Sep '09, 09:05

I like that you said you have "a pair of kids." hehe :) Great question!

(28 Sep '09, 09:03) Sabrina

Yes, that's really cute, "a pair". I would like to ask how they get on with each other. Is your 4 year old a boy or a girl?

(28 Sep '09, 10:55) Emi

The older one is a boy and generally they get on fine.

(28 Sep '09, 11:18) Colin

A two year old can have a very hard time understanding that they are supposed to stay in one place and how long they are supposed to sit there. Their sense of time isn't developed.

If she wanders of she probably thinks the issue is resolved and she has forgotten any orders to stay put.

You need to ask your self, if maybe you are using a discipline that she doesn't really understand yet and maybe if, she wanders of to play... isn't that good? Are you trying to resolved a situation or are you punishing her?

Time out - to me - is about getting out of the negative attention grabbing. If the kid sit there two seconds and then wonders of to play something fun, that's good! If the kid come back and screams for more attention - back in timeout. No discussions, no talk, just a simple, "you need to sit a bit longer until you've calmed down".


answered 28 Sep '09, 09:14

TC's gravatar image

accept rate: 20%

Ignore the bad behaviour; reward the good behaviour when it returns. (Reference)

Any form of discipline reinforces the cause and effect between bad behaviour and being noticed.


answered 28 Sep '09, 10:59

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edited 29 Sep '09, 00:24

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦♦

+1 absolutely right.

(28 Sep '09, 14:44) Kevin

I would agree with this! Positive Reinforce the good behavior and ignore the bad behavior. I have personal experience with this and it works!!

(29 Sep '09, 00:05) Melissa 1

Remember to include references. (I went and found one for you).

(29 Sep '09, 00:25) Scott ♦♦

Thanks for that Scott, although I thought I invented that idea all by myself ;-)

(29 Sep '09, 01:24) Antony

We always used the guideline of 1 naughty step minute per year of age, and we started at about age 2 with our eldest.

That gives them long enough that they understand they're being punished, but it's not so long that they get bored and try to wander off. We also always made sure to clearly (and simply) explain what behaviour had led to the naughty step, and when possible tried to get her to repeat that back to us so that we knew she understood.

If the behaviour was repeated, she was then back on the step for another two minutes, and so on.


answered 28 Sep '09, 11:06

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This is the approach we generally take with both kids. The problem is the younger one will only stay in place for 10 seconds before wandering off. We put her back, she wanders off (repeat until patience is lost!). If we ignore her (as Antony suggests) she acts up again until she is put back on the step.

I am hoping this willful stage will pass with time...

(28 Sep '09, 11:21) Colin

Yeah, I do recall ours used to do that - wander off after a few seconds - when we first started using this technique. IIRC we actually stood over her the first few times for the whole 2 minutes - after a few visits to the naughty step she understood that she was expected to stay there the whole time and not wander off.

Obviously every child is different, though, so it might just be that this technique is not appropriate for your child just yet.

(28 Sep '09, 11:47) Ratinox

We have the same problem with our 2 year old. When I put her on her "time out" step, she struggles to get down, I struggle to keep her there, and it becomes a game for her. I know it sounds medieval, but what worked for us was to have her "time out" spot be an older, unused highchair with straps. We buckle her in for her 2 minutes and leave the room. That way, I know she's safe, I know she's going to stay in time out, but I'm not giving her any of my attention.


answered 28 Sep '09, 11:47

erin's gravatar image

accept rate: 31%

I was thinking about whether your little one plays up more and becomes cheekier/naughtier when her brother is around?

Or perhaps when you are dedicating some time to him she also wants attention?

If so perhaps that is her way of trying to maintain your undivided attention. You say that she is fine while she has enough attention, so perhaps you can spot patterns in her behaviour.

I think discipline sounds a bit harsh, but just by not giving in to her bouts of naughtiness, you could show her your own will, and that you will not give in to her.


answered 28 Sep '09, 11:56

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%

edited 24 Dec '09, 08:09

My sister-in-law has this problem with her oldest daughter. She does something that I never could do: she'll put the girl in a timeout chair and flat out ignore anything she does while in timeout. Our niece will throw full-blown temper tantrums complete with stomping and screaming and crying at the top of her lungs. Somehow her mother has the discipline to continue on in normal conversations as though the banshee in the corner doesn't exist.

The other thing is to remember to reward when they're being respectful. In this case, the reward is easy: reward them with the time and attention they so desperately crave. It's so very hard to remember to reward appropriate behavior -- it just feels like life -- but it's very important.


answered 19 Oct '09, 15:30

Dinah's gravatar image

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Asked: 28 Sep '09, 08:34

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Last updated: 24 Dec '09, 08:09