Is It a Discipline Issue or a Development Issue? Part 1 Young Children

Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage
Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage

Is It a Discipline Issue or a Development Issue?

Part 1 Young Children

Effective discipline of young children requires knowledge about the development of children. Normal toddler behaviour is often viewed as “misbehaviour” by parents who do not understand the physical, cognitive, social and emotional capabilities and limitations of toddlers. Research shows that children under age five comply (“listen”) to parent requests about 40% of the time.  This is normal child behaviour for that age, and does not require “teaching”, “discipline” or “punishment”.  This normal behavior will change as the child matures.

Children will develop self-control naturally with age. Until then, parents can child-proof the local environment to make it safer and enjoyable, and can redirect the child.  Children need adult help to calm down, as they have yet to learn self-soothing, which is a learned skill that comes with age and practice.

Toddlers have poor understanding of rules until they reach about age three. Even the word “no” is counterproductive, in that directing the child NOT to do something tends to inspire the child to actually do it!

Toddlers also have poor impulse control. This is a factor of executive function. Even though they understand the rule, they don’t have the self-control to hold back until about age five. They are going through a necessary developmental stage to explore their surroundings with all their senses, and want to taste, touch, and smell everything. Toddlers may seem to be ignoring or deliberately disobeying you, but in reality they are just doing their normal job of exploring, which stimulates development of their brains.

In summary, normal characteristics include:

Toddlers do not possess abstract thinking skills.

    • Rules are abstract, and a “don’t” rule is a double abstract which draws a toddler’s attention to the very action that you are attempting to forbid.
  • Toddlers are in the here-and-now.
    • Memories of rules known yesterday have been displaced.
  • Toddlers cannot multitask.
    • They can only hold a few thoughts in their heads at once.
  • Toddlers are driven to explore.
    • Everything in their being says “touch, taste, smell, look, hear!”
  • Toddlers have almost no impulse control.
    • Their immature brains do not allow them to restrain themselves.
  • Toddlers do not understand cause and effect.
    • They can’t relate their action to Mom’s anger. Reflection skills do not develop until age seven.

The best discipline tool for young children is understanding development and redirecting their behaviour. Child-proofing helps too because when a desired item is out of sight for a young child, it is also out of mind.


Temper tantrums occur when your child is overwhelmed and over-stimulated. The child feels frustrated and angry, and expresses those feelings through body language instead of words. Tantrums are part of normal behavior for a child between age 10 months to age 4 years, decreasing in frequency with age.

Prevent tantrums: Provide rest, sleep, food or stimulation as needed. Don’t go shopping with a tired, cranky, hungry child. Watch for and prevent triggers. Change the activity.  If your child is getting tired, hungry, or cranky, offer a juice-box (to raise blood sugar) and a protein snack. Try cuddling on your lap with a good book – a great way to calm down, gain literacy skills and enjoy some connecting quiet time together. Try to meet needs as soon as possible. Sometimes, boredom can’t be alleviated. Get creative and invent ways for children to pass the time.

Handle the tantrum:  It often helps to just ignore the tantrum, and carry on with your activity as if nothing is happening. If you have denied the child some item, this not the time to hand it over! Other methods are to just hold the child, and move to a safe, quiet place. Encourage feelings and expression of feelings. Say: “You’re angry. I’ll stay with you while you calm down. It’s okay to be angry. I know you are feeling frustrated.” Use a gentle but firm voice. Encourage deep breaths.

After the tantrum:  Label your child’s emotions and provide words to develop a vocabulary of feelings. Ask: “Were you angry when you couldn’t have that cookie? How can we express our anger?  Here is something to do.” The toddler usually understands the intent of the question and feels understood, and will later learn to use the words of feelings instead of the body language of a tantrum.

 In any situation that involves discipline of a child, remember three steps:

 Step 1.  Calm yourself – Take deep breaths, drop everything, dress your child, take the stroller and go for a walk, or put on a video, to distract you or your child;

Step 2. Calm the child – Redirect to another activity, or sit and breathe deeply together, or hold the child;

Step 3. Solve the problem: childproof, redirect, substitute, distract, comfort, talk, prevent, and model.

You will make much better parenting decisions when you and your children are calm.

Next week: Stay tuned for Part 2 – Problem Solving

Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage
Most toddler behaviour is perfectly normal and just a stage

For more information on Judy Arnall’s suggestions for effective discipline, click Webinars at to register.


Are consequences a discipline tool or a form of punishment?


By Judy Arnall


Consequences are the natural outcome from our behaviours.  Every action that we humans do has a consequence. For our children, consequences are a powerful learning tool that tells them if their decision was a responsible one or a careless one. Experiencing the consequence from their action helps them to modify their future behaviour to enjoy better outcomes. Natural consequences are those outcomes that happen without the intervention of parents. Sometimes, letting children experience the natural consequence is too dangerous, such as letting a two-year-old experience the traffic in the street, because traffic may hit them. Logical consequences are arranged by the parents to teach a child the probable outcome of their behaviour and how to solve the ensuing problem. For example, a two-year-old is confined to the back yard because he runs out on the road when he’s in the front yard. This solves the safety problem for the parent and the child.


There are several guidelines when using consequences as a respectful and effective discipline tool.


Consequences must be related to the behaviour.  For example, a messy room might mean that the floor is too cluttered for Mom to put away the child’s laundry so the child must do it himself. An unrelated consequence would be Nintendo confiscated for a week until the room is cleaned up.


Consequences must be reasonable. If a parenting makes the child pay 10 times the cost of an item that he has broken, it could be seen as unfair by the child. Realistically, the child should only pay for the replacement cost. Often, we issue consequences in anger and they are often unreasonable. To ensure that consequences stay reasonable, calm down first, and then ask yourself if the consequence is something that you would expect from a spouse or friend.  If it is, then it probably is reasonable. If a friend breaks your item, an apology and a replacement is something that you would expect. Teach your child the same solution.


Consequences must be realistic and you must be comfortable doing it.  Mom telling the child that the play date will end if the child acts up one more time, may not be enforceable, if Mom is enjoying chatting with the other mom on the play date, and unwilling to cut the time short.


Consequences must be consistent. Leaving the store in the middle of grocery shopping because of bad behaviour is very inconvenient, but if done consistently, the child soon learns that if they act up, the shopping trip is over.


Consequences must not be used as a punishment. How to tell? If you threaten a certain outcome to get compliance, then the consequence is probably being used as a punishment, which could invite a power struggle, resentment, rebellion, shutdown of communication, etc.  The consequence of parents imposing a consequence on children is that children decide to stop talking to parents. Children know that the consequence arises from the parents imposing it, not from the fact that they may have “chose” the outcome.  For this reason, avoid threats.  Just impose the consequence matter-of-factly. If you get push back from the child, then go to problem-solving to remedy the situation. The best consequences focus on teaching restitution, solving problems and making amends. If a child spills a drink because she was careless pouring, she wipes up the mess. A child who hits another child needs to be separated, calmed down, and told the rule. The restitution part might be to offer the other child a toy, hug or an apology after the emotions have been dealt with.


Consequences won’t work when the underlying feeling/need of the child is not addressed.   In those cases, a consequence is the wrong discipline tool to choose. For example, a child who consistently refuses to wear a bike helmet even after having the bike locked away several times may have a good reason for not wearing it. Perhaps he is being teased because it looks babyish. Locking away a child’s bike for a week for not wearing his helmet might be too severe and the child could perceive it as unfair. A sit down problem solving talk to find out why the child is not wearing his helmet, can help to get buy-in from him to find a solution to the problem. He must wear a helmet, but there are many alternatives available when child and parent get together to brainstorm. Does he find the helmet too nerdy? Does he wish to pay half on a new one? Can he borrow his siblings? Can he buy a cool second hand one?  Either solution will mean that the bike still doesn’t get used without a helmet, but brainstorming provides other options.


Listening and mutual parent-child problem-solving are better tools used to uncover and address the underlying need. When used properly, consequences teach children appropriate behaviour in a positive way and should be in every parent’s discipline toolbox.


Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE is a professional international award-winning Parenting and Teacher Conference Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and love as well as the new book, The Last Word on Parenting Advice,, 403-714-6766

Time-In, instead of Time-out for child discipline, by parenting expert, Judy Arnall

Co-Sleeping with School-Aged Children

Family Bedrooms Still Popular Even with School-aged

By Judy Arnall

“But Mom! You don’t have to sleep alone!” Kyle protests to his mom when she suggests that he
might want to sleep in his own room. Family bedrooms are increasingly becoming common in
North America thanks to the attachment parenting movement that recognizes that babies and
toddlers are not developmentally ready to sleep on their own for the first few years of life.

However, Kyle is seven years old, not two. The prevalence of family bedrooms among families
with school-aged children has not been studied, let alone talked about openly in our society yet,
but the trend is growing.

Many children, especially those that don’t have siblings to snuggle in with, continue to sleep in
the same family bedroom as their parents, well into the school-aged years. Because of high
profile cases such as the late Michael Jackson issue where he openly talked about sleeping with
older children in a non-sexual way, causing such public distaste, many families do not admit to
anyone outside their close family relatives that they sleep with their children, again, in a caring,
non-sexual way. The fear of being investigated by child welfare authorities is the biggest barrier
against discussing this practice. So the practice occurs quite often, but is not openly admitted. As
a society, we accept family bedrooms for motels rooms, visiting at relatives, camping and
vacations, but not for everyday use in a society that values independence at all cost. Still, parents
persist. “We co-sleep because it’s a cultural choice. My husband is Vietnamese and I am Canadian
and we have decided that it’s what works best for our family. Back in Vietnam my husband`s
sisters still sleep with their mother and my husbands’ brother and father also share a room. The
younger ones are all in their 20`s and it is not illegal or abnormal or culturally odd like it is here,”
says *Cheryl, mom of two children.

How does a family bedroom work? Two hundred years ago, before the invention of central
heating, most of the family slept in the same room if not the same beds. Fast forward to the
twenty first century, where bedrooms now have the square footage size of the average 1950’s
house, the family bedroom can easily accommodate two king-size mattresses on the floor or
several beds in the same room.

Not everyone agrees with the concept of a family sharing sleep in the same room. Barbara Evans,
a parent educator from Beaumont, Texas, worries about the parent’s need for privacy and
intimacy. “My concerns are that as parents, our job is to raise healthy, loving and lovable,
independent (heavy on the independent) children. Not to the exclusion of depriving them of
nurturing and cuddling, but this may be the first place to start learning about boundaries and selfcare.”

Why do families choose a family bedroom? No separation anxiety issues and no bedtime battles is
the biggest reason. For an increasingly separated family where both parents might work in paid
work all day and children are away at school, it is comforting and enjoyable to cuddle together at
the end of a busy day. “The best thing about having the kids there with us is the emotional bond
we have with them. We love the time upstairs to talk in bed, read, write or just watch T.V.
together. There’s no separation between us and we don’t send our kids away at night to be alone
unless they want to.” says *Ally, mom of three children, ages 9, 10, and 12. They have a big
master bed for the parents and two mattresses on the floor on either side of the master bed for the

What age should family bedrooms stop? Children naturally develop the desire for more privacy
at puberty and tend to want their own room and sleeping space by the age of 12 or 13. This
occurs naturally whether they sleep alone, or share a bedroom with siblings or with parents.

Most experts agree that the rules are simple. Generally, all members of the family must wear
night clothes. Whoever doesn’t like the arrangement and says “no” should have their wishes
honoured whether they are the parent or the child. The parents might enjoy the closeness, but if
the 8-year-old wants his own room, that should be respected. And of course, couple sexual
intimacy must take place in another room.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau once said, “The government has no
business in the bedrooms of the nation.” And for many families, that rings truer than ever.

Family Bedroom Pointers

1. Parental sexual relations must take place in a private room away from the eyes and the
ears of the children.
2. Whoever says “no” rules. This must work for everyone
3. When children hit puberty, their natural desire for more privacy will take over and the
concept of the family bedrooms should be reviewed by the family.

*Names changed upon request.

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting and Teacher
Conference Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling
book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible
children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD,
Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and
love as well as the new book, The Last Word on Parenting Advice,, 403-714-6766
Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in
whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety————————————————————————————————-

123 Time-Out – Know the Risks!

123 Time-Out Advantages and Disadvantages
By Judy Arnall

Time-out seems to be a popular discipline/punishment method. Parents need to be aware that it has risks for their child and their relationship. Although many parents claim it has “worked” they often mean that it has worked to gain compliance in the short-run. Long-run effects of this method, on the child and the parent-child relationship are listed under the disadvantages. What can parents do instead? There are many methods to getting children to calm down. Try Time-In instead. In Time-in, the parent assists the child in regaining self-control. They coach the child how to deep breathe, how to stop and take a minute to channel feelings at an object, or redirect their anger and frustration with physical outlets. Breathing, touch, hugs, soft words, and rocking will all help a child finish crying and be “ready” to listen – to teaching, comforting, encouragement and kind words of direction in what to do instead next time. With many repetitions, children soon learn that taking a time-out from the source of annoyance is a good coping strategy, rather than a punishment, and will repeat it themselves on their own.
Advantages of using Time-Out
• Puts limits on behaviours.
• Invites little adult emotion.
• Increases consistency.
• Simple to do.
• Helps parents to calm themselves down.
• Better than spanking and hitting.
• Transferable among care-givers.
• Developed for children with ADD.
• Sometimes attains “short-run” goals of stopping misbehaviour.
Disadvantages of Using Time-Out
• Promises “magic” and speed, which can be an unrealistic goal in parenting.
• Fails to address long-run goals of the child developing belonging and attachment with family.
• Teaches that time-out is a negative punishment rather than a positive life skill.
• Invites power struggles in keeping a child constrained in time-out.
• Encourages submission to a bigger-sized person.
• Fails to teach problem-solving and co-operation skills.
• Can incite anger, frustration, and resentment in the child.
• Can promote rebellion, retaliation, and getting-even behaviours from the child.
• Can increase sibling animosity when used to curb sibling conflict.
• Ignores the child’s feelings that led to the misbehaviour.
• Is a barrier to parent-child communication.
• Fails to recognize that each child is unique.
• Fails to teach internal controls and self-discipline.
• Fails to teach conflict resolution and thinking skills.
• Fails to teach how to make amends or restitution in solving the problem.
• Fails to teach the child how to self-calm when the child is in a high emotional state.
• Isolates the child, rather than promote connection between the child and the“conflict” person.
• Not “mutually respectful”. Adults do not want to be treated in the same way. In real life, if someone is bothering an adult, they can’t move the person to time-out. They have to take the time-out themselves.
• Gives negative attention to the misbehaviour, which may often increase misbehaviour in attention-seeking children.
• Difficult for extroverts who need to “talk through high emotional states.”
• Label’s the child with unhealthy self-esteem. “The naughty child goes to the naughty step”.
• Increases original and repeat behaviours because the child’s underlying needs or feelings are not addressed.
• Children do not have reflective skills until age seven to understand their role in the preceding behaviour.
• Children often do not know or understand why they are in time-out.
• Often used to help the parent calm down rather than for child’s needs.
• Models power over, not peace with.

Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting and Teacher Conference Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and love as well as the new book, The Last Word on Parenting Advice,, 403-714-6766

Copyright permission to reproduce this article is granted if byline left in its entirety.

Parent Time-Out

How to Take a Parent Time-Out with Small
Children Underfoot

One of the very best parenting tools is the Parent Time-Out. When parents are feeling
upset, angry, or frustrated over a parenting issue, or over their children’s behaviour, it
can help to diffuse the situation if the parent removes themselves to get calm and
centered, rather then force the isolation of their child into a Child Time-Out. After the
parent is calm, they are in a much better frame of mind to deal with the issue at hand
and they’ve avoided saying and doing things they might regret later. Sometimes, with
young children, this is easier said than done!

Many parents object to the parent time out because they complain that their toddlers and preschool children just follow them around the house, screaming, whining and crying.

How True!

Here are some tips to Mentally Time-Out when you can’t physically time yourself out:

Throw a CD on the stereo and dance hard!
Use an IPOD or MP3 player filled with your favorite songs to distract you.
Have earplugs everywhere. In the car, kitchen, purse, and bathroom. They take the edge off a child’s screaming that can damage your ears.
Lock yourself in the bathroom. Tell the children that you love them, and Mommy/Daddy is feeling angry, and needs to take a time-out for herself or himself. Turn on the fan or shower so you can’t hear the children, and breathe slowly. Visualize yourself in a calm place.
Do the Hokey-Pokey, and shake it out! Smile and make a funny noise and you will all be laughing.
Phone a friend to have a brief conversation. Tell her how you feel. Call from the closet or a bathroom if you have to.
Distract yourself with a magazine.
Drop everything, dress your children and yourself for the weather, and put them in the stroller. Go for a brief walk outside. Exercise, fresh air, peace and quiet! Children will be distracted by the sights and sounds and you can think out your anger in peace.
Put a children’s DVD or Mom’s movie on the player. It will either distract you or your child, and will give both of you time to calm down.
If you are in the car, pull over to a parking lot or some other safe place. Get out of the car, leave the children in there, and walk around the car 20 times. Cry, deep breathe, vent or stomp. Get back in the car when you have calmed down.
Imagine a soundproof, gentle, clear shell around yourself to protect you from screaming children.
Sit on the porch, find a closet, basement, or somewhere you can be alone. Make sure the children are in a safe place.
Tell your child that you both need a group hug. It can be very hard to hug someone that you feel angry with, but the touch is soothing and helps to heal the anger. It works well for some people.
Use “Self-Talk” Say over and over to yourself, “My child is not trying to bug me right now. She is only coping with her strong feelings in the only way she knows how. “But me first.”
Remember the phrase: “Get myself calm, Get my child calm, and then solve the problem.”

What skills do you use to calm down in situations other then parenting? Use some of those strategies if you can. Just as the oxygen masks in airplanes are meant to be used on adults first, so they can be in a position to help the children, you must take care of your needs first when you are angry. The bonus gift is that you are truly modeling for your child, how to take a calming time-out when situations become
overwhelming. Modeling by example, instead of forcing them in time-out, is the best way for children to learn self-calming tools.


Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and
Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without
Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out,
spanking, punishment or bribery” and a new DVD called “Plugged-In Parenting:
Connecting with the Digital Generation for Health, Safety and Love.” (403) 714-6766
Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety.

Parenting Boundaries in Social Media

How far should one parent online? Catch today’s post in the Globe and Mail with comments by Judy Arnall, Canada’s leading “parenting the digital generation” speaker and expert: