12 Jan 2016

Too Young for the Naughty Step?

How and at what age do you start enforcing rules with your little ones? When is the right age to introduce the naughty step? This has been a parenting quandary we have been confronted with a lot lately.

Alex will be 18 months next week. He’s more and more a toddler and less and less a baby, and as his personality develops, so does his curiosity and boisterous side. He’s bright, inquisitive, energetic and mischievous, there’s no two ways about it. But as cute and endearing as he is, he is also starting to really push his boundaries. He doesn’t take no for an answer, he is stubborn, determined and already most definitely knows his own mind. All characteristics that will stand him in good stead in life, I’m sure, but right now, it sometimes feels like the terrible twos have started a little early.

And with that comes the dilemma for us as parents on how to set boundaries and instil good behaviour from an early age and the awareness that if we say no, we mean no. This isn’t predominantly a disciplinarian aspect, but actually more of a safety issue. Most of the things we say no to are the things that are dangerous and which he is simply not allowed to do because they can and will harm him: like climbing up the stairs without anyone beind him to catch him if he falls, playing with sockets and electric cables, pulling plugs, pulling himself up on various objects, pulling anything and everything down that he can reach, eating the coal in the fire-place, climbing on the couch and throwing himself off head-first etc. As much as we have baby-proofed the house, he still finds all the things that are hazardous and these are the things that fascinate him most. It’s a fine line between letting him be a proper toddler and discover the world, and keeping him safe whilst teaching some ground rules and where certain limits are.  

When we say no, he simply ignores us or laughs, and when we remove him from the situation, he starts to protest vehemently.

So what to do? John and I have been discussing when the appropriate time is to start setting some boundaries. John was keen to implement the naughty step straight away, whereas I - whilst I wasn’t against it - was sceptical whether he would actually understand what is happening, though I do agree that we do have to make a point of showing him when he is behaving badly. One day, however, John just did it; he picked him up and placed him on the bottom step of our stairs and kept him there for a short moment. Initially Alex was a bit confused as to what was happening, but he soon enough cottoned on to the fact that this was a direct action from him being naughty and not listening to “no”.

We have been repeating this consistently every time he does something really dangerous and is ignoring us (don’t get me wrong, we do pick our battles, otherwise he’d spend most of the day on the naughty step, ha!) – and I think it’s working. Even though he maybe doesn’t understand exactly what John and I are explaining to him, he definitely understands that this is what happens when he crosses a line.

To be honest, it’s more of a time-out scenario than the proper naughty step anyway, because he is still so young. However, it would be wrong to under estimate our little monkey, too, because he is very much capable of understanding when he is being naughty, or too naughty.

Now, more often than not, whenever we say “no” quite sternly, he will pause, look at us, think about doing it again, but then walk away. Not always, but increasingly so. Hopefully, over time, he will become a little less mischievous - but until then it looks like the naughty / time out step will become a well-used spot in our house indeed.

* Linking up with #ShareWithMe


  1. Well if it works then why not? I think my 10 month old already has us wrapped around his little finger...whenever we say "no" he laughs and goes back to what he was doing. My biggest thing is trying not to laugh at how funny it is because I want him to grow up knowing what's right and wrong...although he's too young for that at the moment. I'm glad that you've found something that helps :) #ShareWithMe

  2. We only introduced time out/naught step when he turned 3. I kind of got around it until then. #sharewithme

  3. He is only testing you and finding his boundaries MM did this with us. But we started the naughty step with her at 2 and it really worked for us and/or threaten to put her in her bed for a time out which helped to when she threw a big tantrum. Depends on the child. They are smarter than we give them credit sometimes. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme


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