Q: My 18-month-old pinches and hits me when she's angry. When I tell her no or try to talk to her about "not hitting Mommy," she gets even angrier and begins yelling. I've read that she's too young for time-outs--what else can I do?
A: I think she's not too young for time-outs. I don't advocate long, punitive stays alone in a bedroom, but short periods--one minute per year of age is a good guideline--in a designated spot, such as a nearby chair, are perfectly acceptable. (If a time-out is too long, the child will pass the point of feeling contrite and begin asking herself, How can I get even with these people?) Another option, depending on the setting and as long as you know she's safe, is to just walk away. This type of crisp, sure action sends an important message: I don't play with or talk to people who hit me. I don't hit back, I don't yell; I just walk away. If you're out to dinner, you'll simply need to leave if her behavior becomes unacceptable.
Now, I am very familiar with the schools of thought that recommend against "abandoning" a misbehaving toddler. But I don't think the kind of brief, targeted response I've suggested has a negative impact on a child's sense of security and love.