Discipline for a 1-Year-Old?

Evan is doing things that we’d rather him not do, like pulling my hair, rocking the TV stand, and putting things down the heating vents, among others.

I know he’s too young for time-outs (though we do put him in his playpen for a while if he’s really getting into things) or any real sort of discipline, and that’s not really what we want to do at this stage anyway. We’d rather be able to teach him that certain behaviors are unacceptable.

We do tell him “No, Evan” firmly, but he just looks at us, smiles, then goes back to doing what he was doing. Distraction tends to work most of the time, but sometimes we’re not able to for some reason or another.

So, any other tips from the peanut gallery? Anything that really worked for you with kids of this age? Anything that really didn’t?


Comments on: "Discipline for a 1-Year-Old?" (12)

  1. Yeah, discipline doesn't work well at all at that age.

    A firm voice also doesn't help much– he doesn't understand what that means.

    Distraction is still your best weapon for at least the next year. You should also say, “OW!” in a hurt tone, and then “Ow! Pulling hair HURTS people” Then you will want to model the behavior you want to see, so take his hand and use it to pet, “Soft touches. Mommy likes soft touches.” This will method also save your family pets from terror.

    You'll also have him do things that are dangerous once he's toddling about– so when he reaches towards the stove, say in a frightened voice, “No! Dangerous! The stove is dangerous.” then “Walk away.”

    (These tips and more totally stolen from our excellent daycare.)


  2. We're doing similar to what N&M say. We say “no” when it's something really bad (climbing on his bookshelf, running toward an open oven), and also say ouch when it's hurtful and done on purpose for attention (biting while nursing, pulling hair, or pinching – a relatively new one), but then we just try to distract and move on.

    It is extremely frustrating right now since Monkey is developing quite the ornery attitude. Tantrums are becoming more the norm than I'd like, but I just don't think there's much more than distraction that can be done at this stage.


  3. Yeah, I'd also add a few things to the great advice you've already gotten…

    We started teaching discipline with Eliza by saying what she CAN do instead of “no” or “don't” or “stop” all the time (which is what we found ourselves saying a lot, and it did nothing). And also “biting/hitting/pulling hair hurts mama”, and then later: “Eliza, if you do {whatever} one more time, {insert consequence}” (for example – Eliza was a major food thrower. So, it was always “If you throw your food one more time, you are going to be all done”, or “if you bite mama one more time, we are going to be all done nursing for right now”.

    Not that you need this information yet… but now as a 2-year-old the discipline is getting more logical and concrete – so, if she is not respecting herself, someone else or “materials” in the house/classroom, we tell her no, or, my recent favorite “I can't let you do that”, and remove her from the situation. Also, trying the counting method/letting her choose, so we're saying a lot of “I'm going to count to 3. When I get to 3, you can either come get your shoes on by yourself or mama is going to come get you and put them on your feet for you.” She responds pretty well to us telling her what's going to happen, and to her feeling like she has a say in what happens – or, at least HOW it happens.


  4. I agree with @Nicoleandmaggie. Distract, distract, distract. That is still my main go to method with my 2 year old.

    I want to emphasize her advice about when he does something dangerous (like rock the TV stand- if the TV can fall, that is actually a very dangerous thing for him to do)- freak the heck out. Sound scared. Physically remove him from the situation.

    With both our kids, we had surprisingly good luck with a “No” followed by physically removing the kid from whatever we didn't want her to do- even in less scary situations. However, I think that doesn't work for all kids.

    When he gets a little bit older, the board books in the “Teeth are not for biting” series maybe helpful in reinforcing that it isn't OK to do things that hurt other people. Also “playing it out” with dolls/stuffed toys. I tell you this in case you find yourself dealing with a 14 month old who bites (my first did this). It is really, really hard to stop this in a kid so young, but we had luck with the book and play approach. (She's a very sweet 4.5 year old now, who pretty much never gets in trouble at day care, and certainly never gets in trouble for physically hurting another kid… so if you kid bites or hits- don't freak out. It is just frustration and having emotions with no words to express them.)


  5. I am a super big believer in the positive discipline method which basically is just being respectful of your children, and teaching them logical consequences with the emphasis on teaching. They have a great book for ages 1-3 and basically the number one thing to take away from it is – distract/redirect.
    At this age their brains are still so immature that they often aren't even able to react to no even if they wanted to- the stove or glass or whatever else is sometimes so exciting that they really can't stop themselves so we made sure to make our flat as Teddy safe as possible so that we didn't have to say no all the time.

    For things like hitting we also do Oww that hurts nice touch, (show nice touch), that's better. It took a few months but now he totally gets it and when you say nice touch (or its German equivalent 😉 ) he starts to pat very gently he also will give a hug if we say that what he did hurt.

    One thing that really works is letting them get involved. Instead of saying no don't climb on the dishwasher I ask if he would like to help, and he hands me things one by one out of the dishwasher. More time consuming? Definitely but also a great way for him to feel part of the family and use his energy in a productive way. If it is something where that isn't possible like the stove or oven. I show him something he can do and take him over to what I want him to be doing.

    For the TV stand, I say Teddy we don't hit the TV why don't we go play with your blocks and then I take him by the hand and lead him away. When we have been lazy and have just said NO in a stern voice he laughs maniacally and then hits it as hard as he can over and over 😀


  6. Oh, I've mercifully almost forgotten. We also did the “OW! Gentle!” and took Bug's hand and did a gentle touch. And when he chucked food over the side of the highchair, we said “All done” and took away the food (because we had to clean him off before letting him down to play; immediate removal would have resulted in sweet potato everywhere). And so on.

    The one time he made a break for a busy road I did scream “NO!!! NOT SAFE!!!” and he got scared and cried and yeah… he never did that again.

    As soon as he could really understand words we did establish that certain things were “not safe” which functionally meant “there is not even the remotest chance I will let you do that”. Like touching a hot stove or trying to dive off the kitchen table. I think the message gets through eventually!


  7. (To clarify: I ran after him while screaming, grabbed him after he'd gotten about three feet, and then screamed a little more. He did not make it anywhere near the edge of the road.)


  8. Thanks everyone! I like the idea of saying no/ouch or whatever, but then showing him the correct behavior. We'll definitely try that!

    I also like the idea of getting him involved, but he is a bit young for that still. I'll definitely keep that in my pocket for the future though.


  9. Alyssa, so funny we were JUST talking about this in the Cutie Pie Group!

    I'm just going to C+P what I wrote there about what we are doing with James . . .

    For “No”, I stop the behavior, for “yucky”, I remove from his mouth and/or hand, and for “gentle” I remove his hand and then demonstrate nicely. Oh I also do “Ouch that hurts Mama/whoever” and make a sad face/stop the hitting/kicking/whatever. And we are definitely starting to sort of expect him to behave now–we say “No” and scold if he throws food off his high chair now, and if he continues to do it, we'll take the food . . . it's definitely working and he is actually incredibly obedient for a 12 month old baby . . . but like I said it's GOT to be just his personality. I honestly feel like it's too early for time-outs . . . I think at this age that is too abstract of a concept. A stern voice/expressive face is the best discipline at this age, I think. Babies are bonded to their Mamas/Daddies and naturally look and listen to them to understand how to react to the world, so it's as effective as anything else, at this age, I would think.


  10. Reading through, we sound very similar to Ash . . . we teach cue words with a specific meaning which we try to demonstrate . . . but again I think a lot of it is personality.

    For some reason James has almost always understood and listened to “No”, especially when it is conveyed with the appropriate emphasis. But honestly it's still a shock every single time he stops what he's doing after I say no. It's got to be personality. I don't think *I* EVER listened to no!

    I will also say that I don't use “No” lightly, though. I pretty much let him do whatever. If I say no it's because it's dangerous or unsafe for some reason, and once I say “No”, I NEVER let it go. If I said “No” that means if he continues with what he's doing, I will intervene. But, like I said, I doubt any of this would matter a smidge if he was a different sort of child!


  11. Adrienne you bring up such a good point! A lot also had to do with personality although I have read and do believe that time out absolutely should not be used before 2 1/2 – 3 (depending on development) because they just don't get the connection -at all- they may feel bad or sad but they aren't learning a thing, better for mommy or daddy to take a break instead.

    But when it comes to everything else you may find that like Adrienne a stern voice tends to work or you may find like us that you always have to go to your child because he is a little troublemaker LOL but either way Evan will end up being a big deciding factor in what works.

    Teddy started really “helping” once he was walking. Things like putting toys back in a box, holding things for me, pulling everything out of the washer (we have front loaders like pretty much everyone in Europe) and putting them in the dryer, etc.

    The stages coming up have been really enjoyable (IMO) 🙂


  12. Adrienne – good to see you! I agree it has a lot to do with personality. Sternness and “No” do nothing with Evan. Especially since he's CONSTANTLY getting into things, so we have to say “No” a LOT. The distraction technique is working well though.

    Ash – Evan is starting to “help” a little here and there (such as with his toys). I look forward to that happening even more, especially if it keeps him out of trouble! LOL!


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