What two-year-olds think about when they are placed in time-out

My niece (two years old at the time) was put in the corner as punishment for some sort of misdeed. At the expiration of her punishment, her grandfather returned and asked her, "你乖唔乖?" (Are you going to be nice?)

She cheerfully replied, "仲未乖!" (Still naughty!)

In an unrelated incident, one of my honorary nieces was being similarly punished. She told her aunt who was passing nearby, "In a little while, my daddy is going to ask me if I'm sorry. I'm not really sorry, but I'm going to say that I am."

Comments (10)
  1. Anon says:

    So she's going to grow up to be an investment banker? CEO of an oil company?

  2. Anon says:


    Yes. Punishment needs to be immediate and consistent, starting at an age where causality is understood.

    What do you recommend? Saying "Don't do that?" Let everyone know how that works for you.

  3. Gearov says:

    These stories are cute, though I think I can already tell where the comments section is going.

    They aren't your direct children, but I am curious if you have the freedom to ask them why they don't feel sorry. I lack children, but I think it might be an interesting conversation.

  4. Anon says:


    They don't feel sorry for whatever they did for the same reason adults don't; they felt like their actions were justified.

    The most relevant example for a 2-year old might be hitting someone who hit you first. Other people might say the action was unwarranted, adults tend to want to be 'objective' and 'not take sides,' but the child is going to feel perfectly justified in defending themselves, and not understand why they should feel sorry.

  5. JM says:

    @Anon: I find your post is best read in the voice of GLaDOS. Remember, Bring Your Daughter to Work Day is the perfect time to have her tested.

  6. KS says:

    *Two*-year-olds? Put in a corner? Geeze. Next year handcuffs?

  7. cheong00 says:

    @Anon: By 2 years old, empathy begins to develop and only after that they might feel their actions unjustified. Before that they can only behave with the idea without understanding that "when I doing this thing I get punished, when I do that thing I won't."

  8. Anon says:

    @William Aitken

    Step 1 of manipulating parents: Be a Daughter.

  9. Joe says:

    When my oldest daughter was ten, while we were driving somewhere, she cheerfully declared "There's nothing you can do punish me." She then detailed every punishment and why it didn't work. When she turned 16, I discovered her Achilles Heal–driving privileges.

    (The good news is that her daughter is even more precocious. Now that's karma.)

  10. William Aitken says:

    One year my wife brought my older daughter, then 4, and her best friend to the office for Halloween.   The two girls spent the *entire* trip over discussing, in detail, the srategies they use to anipulate their parents.   The level of discussion was very similar to that found in the GoF patterns book: when to use, alternatives, possible variations, pitfaalls, and implemenation details.

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