Q&A: My Two-Year Old Refuses To Listen


Hello, I would like to have some suggestions about my child. He is 2 years and 7 months old. His name is Atharv and is currently attending pre-school in Pune.

Some of his behavior patterns:
1) Hyperactive
2) Confident
3) Dominating and aggressive
4) Given to misbehavior

He simply does not listen and insists on doing whatever he wants. He is intelligent and quick to grasp things immediately. He is also very caring and soft at heart. May we have your analysis of him?

Thanking you in advance,
Mangesh Salve
Hadapsar, Pune


Dear Mr Salve,

Your concerns are understandable. You haven’t mentioned if Atharv is an only child. Also, has there been any recent transition in the child’s life (shift of residence, new maid, or new baby at home)?

If none of these are present my guess would be that your son is going through what is known as ‘The Terrible Twos’. Between the ages of two and four most children tend to display a wide variety of negative, defiant behavior.

This is simply because at this age they are gaining control over their gross motor skills (walking, running), language development and communication. They are starting to assert their independence which usually shows up as destructive behavior and temper tantrums.

If you say your child can grasp things quickly then that could be another reason for his ‘aggressive behavior’. His intelligence allows him to understand but not express properly. (Remember he still lacks complete control over his emotions, speech and physical coordination.) This may result in crying, hitting, biting, etc.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Try to decode WHY your toddler may be misbehaving. The usual reasons are frustration, poor coordination, curiosity and fatigue. By recognizing the cause, you will be able to help him much better.

2. Avoid shouting or raising your voice – doing so sets a bad example. Stay calm, bend down, make eye contact and speak in an even, firm tone. This works like magic with most hyperactive toddlers.

3. Avoid punishing. Instead, adopt redirection as a method for discipline. When your child misbehaves, let him know in a firm voice that what he did was wrong. Then redirect his energy into something more purposeful (helping you clean up the mess he made, for example).

4. Remember to praise him genuinely for good behavior that he has initiated on his own.

5. Let him work off his energy by engaging him in games, helping in simple home chores, or playing some sport.

6. Monitor the TV programs your son is watching. Aggressive or violent cartoon shows are usually the culprit, since children emulate these toon heroes.

7. Lastly, avoid excessive sugar (chocolates, mithai, biscuits, carbonated drinks, etc.) in his diet, especially close to bedtime. These increase hyperactivity and make the child even more difficult to handle.

Most children outgrow this behavior once they start going to regular school. However, if he is still acting aggressive beyond the age of four, lacks attention and concentration, or continues to disobey you, I would advise you to visit your school counselor or approach a psychologist for guidance.

Hope this helps!

H’vovi Bhagwagar is a Clinical Psychologist and Behaviour Consultant based in Mumbai, with a private practice where she sees clients at Andheri and Powai. For personal consultations please contact her at hvovi76@gmail.com or visit her website at www.hvovikesaath.com

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