What to do with unruly “teen-tots”

“Teen-tot” is the developmental stage that Jo and I have decided Camille is going through. One second she’s bursting with happiness, the next she has snot rolling down her nose and she’s throwing shit. We are perpetually walking on eggshells. I TRULY know that it means to handle something with kid gloves; and that something is Cami.  

So obviously as responsible parents we cannot let her to wreck havoc on the world and become a world-class jerk. We are actively working to set boundaries and consequences as all parents should. Let me say that I know people have very different views about how to rear children. Jo and I are of the camp that we’d prefer to seek out positive discipline with logical consequences instead of physical punishment or other types of punitive action.  

It should go without saying, but Jo and I are not experts at childhood development – hell most of the time shit is hitting the figurative fan. However, there are a few things that have worked really well for us as we embark on this parenting journey. So since sharing is caring, I’m here to share with you!



This might sound like a strange place to start when handling toddler meltdowns, but it’s certainly where I think discipline should begin. When Camille engages in positive habits Jo and I celebrate her like crazy! In fact, I’m sure she does some of these things because she wants the praise, but regardless of the motivation, she is constantly building good habits. We totally leverage verbal praise and criticism with our tone. It’s pretty darn obvious when we are pleased with her behavior and when we are not. We overemphasize when Camille is engaging in appropriate behaviors. While over time we would love for her to develop intrinsic motivations for doing “good” things, but at this stage we’re totally okay with extrinsic motivations – i.e. verbal praise.


Give warnings and rationale before issuing consequences

When Camille does something undesirable, we never just jump straight to consequences, but rather we issue warnings. This is obviously not the case if the little one is doing something potentially harmful. In those situations there are no consequences, but we do immediately have serious talks. There is a lot of rationale building in our household, even if Camille doesn’t understand every single thing that we are saying. One thing that Camille understands is that our tone conveys a lot.

In the event that Cami does not head our warnings, consequences obviously follow. We want to give Camille to opportunity to make better decisions without scolding her for one mistake. On paper, this seems like common sense, but in the moment it requires hella patience!  

Logical consequences

After having been an educator for years I have been exposed to many different models of discipline. The one model that I am a firm believer in is logical consequences. The criteria for logical consequences is basically does the punishment fit the crime? For example, if Camille throws her toys, the logical consequence could be for her to pick up her toys. If she repeatedly throws toys, in addition to picking them up, she will most likely have a toy moratorium.  

One consequence that we have tried, but haven’t been too successful with is time-out. Let me run down what we do, and if you have any suggestions for how to improve our time-out technique then dish it down below!! When we issue a time-out there is no talking and no toys. Camille has to sit in a chair until her time-out is up (never longer than 1 minute). If we choose to continue to engage in time-out, we’ll increase the minutes for every year that she is. If she gets up from her time-out, we quietly put her back until her time-out is up.  

Once Camille is old enough, we plan on adding time to reflect on her choices. With this, I envision her taking the time to consider how her actions impacted not only her, but also her community. I also envision her taking time to consider how she is going to avoid whatever the issue is in the future.


Emotional Constancy

While it can be quite challenging to deal with an unruly tot, the one thing that I have learned is that we as adults have to be emotionally constant. It does not send the right message if we fly off the handle when Camille does something wrong. I wouldn’t want her to be the kind of adult who is irrationally mad when something upsets her, so we have to model emotional constancy. I think that both Jo and myself are pretty good at being emotionally constant. We generally exude calm demeanors and when we are redirecting Camille we are firm, but serious. After having been a middle school teacher for five years, my patience with kids is rock solid. It’s not easy at all to channel patience and calmness, but it is something that I am constantly trying to improve.

I’m sure it’s crazy obvious, but we haven’t mastered this parenting/discipline thing, so please share below what has worked or not worked with toddler behavior management!! I appreciate you! <3

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