Toddler Tantrum Solutions and Discipline Tips
From sibling rivalry to public tantrums, learn discipline tricks for toddler behavior problems
Q: My 2- and 3 1/2-year-old boys fight constantly. They hit and grab and scream at the top of their lungs. What should I do?
A: Try not to pull them apart unless you feel one of them is going to get hurt, says Kazdin. "As much as possible, don't interfere. Separating children doesn't teach them conflict resolution." Besides, aggression is natural between siblings, and though the screams suggest otherwise, your boys may enjoy the sparring. "It's a dance," Kazdin says, "and they both know the steps."
If they don't resolve things on their own, though, and the fighting escalates, step in. If they're arguing over a toy, take it away for 20 minutes. Avoid the temptation to scold your older son, on the theory that he should know better, unless you know for sure he's the only one to blame. "No matter how old kids are, it's natural for them to compete with their siblings," says Kazdin.
Later, take the opportunity to teach your boys about emotions (namely, anger and frustration!) and tell them how you calm down when you're upset, whether it's by taking deep breaths or lying on your bed for a few minutes.
When you can, try to give your kids some one-on-one time so they don't always feel like they have to vie for your attention. Siblings tend to get along better after they have time apart.