The situation: The toddler is playing with a toy. His little sister wants to play with the toy. The toddler yells at his little sister. His little sister starts to cry.
Sit down on the floor with the two children. Pick the baby up onto your lap on one side. Pat your leg to offer the other side to the toddler (who may or may not take it- My son did not.)
Say: Oh Alexander! No yell. Yelling is sad! Anne Marie says “that scared me and made me cry!” Sad Anne Marie, Sad Alexander! Anne Marie says “I want to share. I want to play! Can I take a turn then you can take a turn again?” Look! Look! A game to play. Alexander loads the digger and dumps it in Anne Marie’s dump truck! Oh what fun it is to play together. Can you sound like a truck? Vroooom! Oh what fun!
“Alexander! Don’t yell at your sister! Go to time out until you can share!”
By choosing to handle the situation this way I did not isolate the children. I gave my son an alternative way to handle the situation, I put words to what my daughter was experiencing, and I modeled an example for him.
He responded not to me but to his sister. He said “Yes! I want to play. I want a turn too. I get the digger and you get the dump truck!” and he pushed the dump truck over to his little sister and they spent the next 20 minutes playing and taking turns.
He was frustrated because his little sister was grabbing a toy that he was playing with, and he didn’t have the necessary tools in his toolkit to cope with the situation. He just wanted it to stop. He reacted emotionally.
He was not “bad”, he was not “mean”. He was two and a half and acting in an age appropriate behavior that I wanted to help him change. He would have learned nothing from being isolated, other than perhaps that when his little sister is around he doesn’t get to play and has to go sit in a naughty corner.