Discipline for a 1 Year Old

My little boy, like most little kids, wants to touch everything. We’ve childproofed most things in our house, but there are still a couple things here and at friends’ houses that we don’t want him to touch, either because he could break them or hurt himself (or both).

We don’t believe in spanking, especially a one year old. When he touches something he’s not supposed to, I say “no” in my sternest voice and remove his hand from the object.

I’ve tried moving him to a different part of the house and distracting him with a toy. He laughs and immediately runs back.
I’ve tried putting him in his crib for a “time out” (of about 2 minutes). When I get him out, he laughs and runs back to the object.
If I just say no and remove his hand, he thinks it’s a game.
If I tap his hand while I remove it, he uses his other hand.

He eventually gets tired of the game or so frustrated with being thwarted he puts his head down and cries. This is a fine outcome, but I’d like to get him not to touch the thing in the first place, or at least stop when I say no.

He’s only one and doesn’t really have a good grasp of consequences yet. Am I expecting too much from him right now? Should I just keep doing what I’m doing until he gets a little older or is there some miracle technique you all know for disciplining a toddler?

[Disclaimer: The following suggestion is for entertainment purposes only and is not to be taken seriously.]

Find some object that you can wire up so that when he touches it, it delivers a harmless but painful electric shock. Then tell him not to touch it.

I’ve found that “no” isn’t specific enough, and gets very repetitive. He won’t necessarily figure out what you’re saying no about, and will probably start to tune it out after a while. So I use “hands off!” for something DangerBaby can’t touch, and other more specific phrases (not in your mouth, sit down, etc.). It seems to be easier to understand.

If possible, I would put the object away out of his reach the first time, thus removing the game. If that can’t happen, then I would probably hold him on my lap for awhile if he doesn’t obey. I’ve never tried a time-out for such a little one (not that I think you’re hurting him, but I do doubt that it makes much of an impression).

Otherwise, I doubt there’s much you can do right now. As he gets older, he’ll understand more and have a bit more control, but right now he probably isn’t capable of staying away from a tempting object, and from what you say only sees it as a game anyway. Constant repetition and consistency are about all you can do.

About all you can do short of using a leash is keep your eyes on the kid all the time. Try diverting his attention to a different activity that is pleasing to him and within the boundaries of what you want him to do (like NOT yanking on lamp cords).

“No” can become a power word for a toddler. If he hears it a lot now, you’ll hear it ad nauseum in a couple years. “Terrible Twos” is a sucker punch misnomer. The defiance begins at about 32 months give or take 12. In other words, just when you think you’ve escaped it.

Consider also that he thinks it’s a game, especially if he’s laughing. If he fails to get a direct response from you about what he’s doing, he’ll get bored with it. It’s my understanding that cause/effect (pulling a lamp cord will make the lamp fall over) doesn’t really sink in until maybe age 4. But they sure as hell learn what activities get attention. Staying one step ahead helps–keep him busy with other stuff so that he doesn’t get the “fuxwithits” in the first place, then watch for him to begin to get bored with that activity and get him on to something else before he makes up his own mind to “get attention.”

In any case, rejoice. At least he’s interested in his environment and isn’t tempered to just roll over & obey.

Yes, you’re expecting too much. Your son is behaving exactly like a tenacious, curious one-year-old. One thing that might work is to put a couple of his favorite toys (does he have favorites yet?) away, and only pull them out when you need to distract him from something you need him to leave alone. If he goes back and touches it again, put the favored toy away, but keep removing him from the forbidden item. Eventually (although it may take longer than you wish), he’ll learn that the only way to keep the favorite toy is to leave alone the thing you don’t want him touching. I’d be careful, if I were you, about giving him time-outs in the playpen. I wouldn’t want him associating the playpen with punishment, because then when you just need him in the playpen for another reason, it’ll leave him thinking “what did I do?”.

At about 24 months, he’ll have the capacity to make the connection between time-outs and undesirable behavior.

IANAChild development expert, but I’ve raise three kids (well, the younges one is four, so I’m not done raising them yet), and this is stuff that’s worked for me.

I’m with dangermom on this one. Why not put the breakable/dangerous things (at home) away, like in a closet until he gets older?

I’ll make one exception, though. If he’s headed toward something hot (that’s not going to cause permanent damage, of course), just go ahead and get it over with and let him touch it. There isn’t a kid on the planet that didn’t have to touch the furnace before they learned what “HOT” means and usually once is all it takes. It’ll break your heart when that little face crumples but it’s gonna happen sooner or later anyway.

We have removed all the actually removable stuff and done other childproofing things, like put latches on cupboards, etc. His biggest temptation is the computer tower. We live in a very small house and the only place we can put the computer is in the living room. The tower is raised off the floor, but he can still reach it (there really isn’t a remedy for this in the near future). I’ve covered the main power button up with a piece of paper, which seems to keep my little button fanatic sufficiently distracted. It’s the cords in the back that fascinate him. That, and he likes to get the cd out of the cd drive.

You all have good suggestions that I’m going to try…thanks! The favorite toy thing might not work yet, because he doesn’t really have one thing that he likes best, but I’ll keep that in mind for when he gets a little older. dangermom, I’m definitely going to get rid of “no” in favor of your suggestions. That sounds like a good idea. Distraction seems to be the way to go, also.

Of course, the computer! We wound up putting a fence around the whole area. Our computer desk is in a corner, and we put two wooden child gates (the kind you put across the top of the stairs) together perpendicularly and sort of lashed them in place with plastic zip-ties. For months, we just stepped over the gates whenever we needed to use the computer (which was a lot). I nearly killed myself a couple of times, getting my foot caught. We haven’t had to put it up yet for the current DangerBaby, but probably will soon.

Is there any way you could find him a cheapy CD player that has a sliding out thingy that he could play with?

I think you may be expecting too much for a 1 year old. Of course, you don’t say how many months he is and 13 months is a big difference from 23 months (the age my daughter is).

A 13 month old doesn’t have the impulse control to not touch something inviting. Their brains just don’t have the wiring yet. So it isn’t defiance or a lack of proper dicipline, but simply that at 13 months they are supposed to touch everything in sight.

I think your only hope is to use a barrier system of a fence or something. We had to use a few baby gate things set up around our TV to stop the Twiddlette from turning the TV offandonandoffandonandoffandonandoffandonandoffandon all day long.

I agree with the others about using a positive directive instead of a negative one. In my household we say “bottoms in chairs” instead of “don’t stand up!” or “food on the plate” instead of “no throwing food”. It helps a little kid to learn to evaluate what is ok, instead of having to guess what maybe isn’t.

Finally, I’m pretty sure one is too young for a time out too. [RUL=“http://www.babycenter.com/refcap/12252.html”]Here is a good article that says “Traditional time-outs won’t really work until sometime between your toddler’s second and third birthdays.”

Good luck!


Here is what I meant to say.

Under two years old, your only real hope is to kid-proof your stuff. As others have noted, he’s not yet at an age to comprehend consequences and patterns.

My kid wants to touch everything in sight, andhe’s four-plus, so this is not something they grow out of. At least now I can tell him “don’t touch that,” and he’ll (usually) obey. :wink:

Here’s I found worked for Charlie when he was that age. If he was constantly wanting to touch something in particular, I would tell him he could look at it with me. I would take the figurine or whatever down and hold it and let him look at it with my supervision. I found that would usually satisfy his curiosity enought for him to leave it alone.

Failing that removing him, distracting him and moving objects higher are really your only choices until he’s older.

As I write, my 12 month old daughter is dismantling a package of dominos. It makes her happy, and she can’t choke on them, so I’m not fussing. Under normal circumstances, she would be doing everything in her power to climb over me to get to my telephone. She’s obsessed with it.

All you can do with littl’uns is distract them. I really appreciate the advice about ‘give positive instructions’ (“sit down” rather than “don’t stand up”) and I try to follow that myself with all my kids - but of course it’s not much use with the one who don’t speak the language yet. My husband ‘owns’ the back half of our longer-than-wide family room, and we bought one of those metal heart fences with a walk-through gate so he doesn’t hurt himself trying to climb over (as happened more than once).

It’s impressive how easily this thread could have been entitled “Discipline for a puppy.” Much of the advice presented here is nearly identical to the advice found in puppy training manuals.

Make no difference what the age, 1 year to 100 years, the human animal responds to conditioning. The man who gets a ‘slap on the writst’ for murder, grand theft, etc.
reverts to doing it again. Five or ten years at hard labor, minimum comforts, and plain rations will give him secondthoughts.

A 1 year old without a mild physical punishment for misbehaving and praise and reward(s) for obedience is being deprived.

I lived with a family with a 10 or 12 yr. old, in a european country, for several months. The first night his parents were out to dinner and Alan was a Major PIA. I sat him down and told him how thing were going to be. He could either behave beginning immediately or he could go to bed. Fortunately the bluff worked. During the week the women and kids traveled to see the sights with Alan it a group all the adults would have preferred to be in a different group. On weekends all went on longer trips. On these occassions when everyone was in a big group and Alan began to ‘act up,’ all it took was for me to look at him and raise my eyebrows.

ADD, in my opinion is a cop out and excuse for medication. The child needs a scholastic challenge not Ritalin (Cocaine).

How delightfully off the topic. :rolleyes:

Funny, I could tell this was coming just by reading spingears’s first couple sentences.

First thing, babyproof as much as possible. If you don’t believe in spanking, or hand smacking, then I guess you’re left with time-outs. I don’t know how well that works for a one-year-old.

When my daughter got into something dangerous, I would smack her hand once, but hard enough for it to sting. Then I would tell her “NO!” in a harsh voice. Then just saying “NO” would suffice after the few initial hand smackings.

When it comes to dangerous things, I worry, and I’d rather her have a stinging hand for a few seconds than be shocked by a cord, or burned by something hot.

Uhhh … have you ever actually taken care of a 1-year-old?

I realize that this is not GQ and that right or wrong answers are held to a lower standard of scrutiny as the point of this forum is the expression of humble opinions but…

Yes it does. The human brain is not completely developed at birth. If it were, the cranium would be too large to allow the mother to survive the birthing process. Two consequences of this underdevelopment are an inability think logically/abstractly and inability to grasp the concept of differential equations. At 1 year of age a child is capable of not much more than responding to direct physical stimuli in such a fashion as to alert a caregiver that it is either in distress or generally copacetic with a situation. They do not associate physical discomfort with the naughty act, they equate the physical discomfort with the presence of the person administering it–they can’t comprehend punishment because that is too abstract. A spank will distract them, sure, but it will also cause them to distrust the spanker. The human brain is not fully developed until well into the 20s. We call it 'Maturing" or “Mellowing with age” and it represents the time at which the frontal lobes have completed development and emotional & rational control is at normal performance level.

Sure does. Question is, do you know what the response is that you are conditioning into the organism?

That’s the theory ain’t it. I suggest that the theory is flawed given the rate of repeat offenders who either a) have failed to condition correctly to the negative reinforcement of prision life or b) love five or ten years at hard labor, minimum comforts, and plain rations.

Physical punishment can increase pain tolerance, which is useful to some degree admittedly, but it also provides an example to a small child of how best to cope with situations where someone is doing something that the child does not want done. Again, pay attention to the response you’re conditioning. Small children have no sense of right & wrong–that’s why they don’t have to go to jail. They do understand rules & obedience to some degree, but that’s not the same thing as right & wrong. With no sense of right & wrong, the world is broken down into heirarchies of authority. When the adult spanks the child for doing X, the child learns that spanking is the correct way to enforce one’s will, not that pain is the result of disobedience. In other circumstances, the child will react physically in order to enforce its own will–only it has no working understanding of right & wrong, so there is no reasonable limit to the ferocity or means of his attack–it will simply be in proportion to the level of control it wishes to exert.