I have a 4-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter. I am having a hard time figuring out how to punish my son for doing something bad. He doesn’t understand the difference between his punishment from his sisters. How do you handle this problem?

Response: This is a though one for all families to deal with… you are not alone. The way the situation is handled COULD depend on the offense in my house. So we are all on the same page, lets use a specific example of a problem… yelling. I have children near the ages of yours. I too, have the same dilemma. This is how I have dealt with it.

stage one

To reduce the likelihood of my toddler’s potential feelings of being treated differently than her baby sister, I decided that I was going to teach and warn my children by referring to how we all should act within the family, including myself. I attempt to teach through example. Sometimes there are failures. If my toddler yells, I DON’T say, “Don’t do that, your being a bad girl.” I say, “We don’t yell in this house.” I have always responded in the same fashion to her baby sister. I react calmly and TRY never to get frazzled. Your baby is very possibly, old enough to comprehend, “We don’t yell in this house,” but even if she didn’t understand or was very young, it couldn’t hurt and allows your eldest to feel “equal” to her sister. At least in the warning stage you can respond the same.

stage two

The way we handle discipline in my house is through time-outs at their ages. If my toddler and baby were to yell again, I would say, “ We don’t yell in this house. If you yell again, you’re going to have to go to time-out. At this point in time I even say the same thing to my baby.

stage three

If my toddler, (or baby) doesn’t heed my warnings, and has to be placed in time-out, I have found it effective for both children of 10-months and 4-years-old, but its handled slightly differently. I explain again to my toddler or baby, “I am putting you in time-out because you yelled and we aren’t allowed to yell in this house.” For ages 2-years and older, they sit in time-out for a minute equal to every year they’ve been on this earth. The time starts once they have calmed down, if upset. Once they have sat quietly for the designated minutes allotted, I come in the room and explain again why I put them in time-out, I tell them I love them, ask them if they are sorry, and give them a huge and a kiss. Lots of hugs and kisses and tell them I forgive them.

The difference between my baby and toddler… My baby, is just barely one year old. I have a playpen separate from her room, not what she sleeps in. I place her in her playpen until she calms down. She is not two years old, but it still works. The difference, I get her when she calms down. She is also not old enough to be required to sit still in a chair, but I have found she understands the punishment, as has even younger than 10-months.

Responding to a misbehaving child is hard. I finely understand what the phrase, “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” truly means and feels like for a mother. Even though I would never say it to my children, I get it. My oldest daughter is also able to understand and appreciate that her sister is a baby and she has a different comprehension level at this point. If my baby is in a mood and yells NO!, to a little kid at the park, my eldest will actually go to the child my baby was just rude to and say, “ My sister didn’t mean it, she just doesn’t understand, she’s just a baby.”

When your children are very young I think there are many valid ways to handle punishment and teaching moments. These are my suggestions to you. They have worked well in our home, and I recommend at least giving them a try. But as your children grow in age, the dilemma of punishing one and not the other will go away. Good luck, on your journey with your children, I hope I was helpful!


I am not the authority on any topic asked in this forum. For questions that may have medical implications, please consult your doctor or midwife. The purpose of this section of the site is to provide support, help, or a sounding board for individuals. Whether a person is going through struggles, would like to know they’re not alone, or find out which bottle worked best for my children, I will do my best to answer. There are going to be many ways to reply to all questions posted. I am merely providing my perspective. This forum is not meant for debate.

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