My daughter is one year old (already!) and for the most part she is sweetness and light. She is, however, starting to learn to get in to things and push her boundaries, and she is starting to throw the start of tantrums when she is thwarted. I am happy with the exploration-- that is what babies do, after all. But the tantrums worry me a bit. She seems to have few middle steps between “everything is okay” and “nuclear meltdown,” and she’s started to learn some behaviors I’d like to discourage, such as throwing things and hitting when frusterated. On my end, I don’t really feel like I have any tools besides “give in,” and “distract.” That works, but I am hoping to get started building some coping skills and hopefully a tiny bit of patience (I know babies aren’t known for that sort of thing, I just don’t want to start down a road of tantrums.)
But what do you do with a one-year old? She seems to understand a fair amount, but definitely has “selective hearing,” so there is only so much that I can say. She’s too young for time-outs, right? How do I make sure she feels loved and safe and able to express herself while still building good habits? Everything I read about toddler discipline is aimed at verbal children. Is there anything I can do now?
There’s a lot to be said for just leaving her alone. Like, shunning her, for lack of a better word.
She’s a human, just like all of us, and she needs to know that certain behavior is not acceptable - and most of these things are not acceptable because of social expectations. So, if she’s displaying that kind of behavior, just looking at her, saying “no!” and leaving her alone will get the point across that bad behavior = no attention. None at all. Shunning, if you will.
I totally agree, and I like “shunning” as a description. .If you think about it, fear of being “shunned” helps control behaviour in most grown-ups, too.
If you are at home and your child goes into meltdown, put her in her crib. As you do that, tell her “no yelling” or “calm down”. After that, don’t talk to her if you come in to check on her. If she manages to get out of her crib (my brother was an escape artist at about 12 months), just put her back. (This is also good training/preparation for the child understanding s/he has to stay put for the time-out chair or “the naughty step”.)
You can also just let her throw a fit on the floor (or in her playpen if you use one and she can’t get out). And totally ignore her, not a word to her.
One thing to keep in mind as you move into the twos…if she goes into a negative behavior phase, your discipline may well cause the behavior to escalate before it gets better. It’s a test. Stay strong.
WRT some ideas – Supernanny has a lot of common-sense tips. I used quite a few of her ideas when caring for my nephew (whose mom who was an addict and tended to disappear). Supernanny is big on positive rewards and heading off behavior problems rather than disciplining after. She also doesn’t do yelling or hitting.
Yep. At 12 months, ignore and distract are basically your main tools. You should be practicing what has jokingly been called “Basic German Shepherd” (“Come here, Stay there, Sit down, Leave it…”) but that’s still in the early stages, as I’m sure you’ve learned already. You can’t get too worked up when a baby needs to be shown/moved as well as spoken to. Provide positive reinforcement when she does what you want, and ignore it as much as is safe when she does what you don’t want. Sometimes part of making it safe is making it happen in another room, or you moving to another room so you don’t throw things. That’s okay. *
I will add that I found giving direction in the positive (“Leave it”) rather than the negative (“No, don’t touch that!”) generally goes over better as they’re moving into toddlerhood and figuring the world out. It gives them something to do, rather than something to not do. Likewise, “Thank you for picking up the vase for me! Give it here, please! Let’s put that somewhere safe, shall we? Thank you!” tends to get me better results than, “No! Stop! Don’t!” The kid’s already got it - which part of this scenario exactly is being “no’ed”? The touching? The picking up? The holding? Should I drop it? Why is Mommy so loud? Loud is scary. Waaaaaaaahhhhh!
Sounds like she’s right on schedule though. Don’t worry…just when you get the hang of it, everything will change again.
*ETA: I do suggest acknowledging and naming her emotions for her, so she learns that. But do it kindly, then let it go and proceed with the ignoring. “Oh, you’re frustrated because you can’t get your sock on? Okay, it’s okay to be frustrated. But it’s not okay to hit Mommy. I’m going to sit over there so you don’t hit me again.” And then occupy yourself and ignore the rest of the tantrum as best you can.
Everyone here has had some good advice so far. The only thing I would add to it is plan for distractions ahead of time. Need to keep a little one distracted for a while? Let them help you! It will take you 90 minutes to get the dishes done with her little hands in the sink (and, if anything like mine was, taking the clean dishes out of the rack and throwing them back in the sink again) but she will be occupied, spending quality time with Mama and learning an important life skill all at once. I’ve said more than once that whoever coined the phrase, “two steps forward, one step back” obviously had tried to do chores with a toddler around but feeling helpful and accomplished makes a big, big difference in their disposition.
Yep, ignore and distract. And I second the advice about positive commands (‘Put that down’) rather than negative ones (‘Don’t touch that’). Their heads can’t take in complex commands at that age - if you say ‘Don’t touch that’, the only bit she can really hear is ‘touch that’.
Also, I’m a big believer in rechannelling impulses rather than trying to eliminate them. My second kid is a few months older than yours, and when she’s teething she sometimes bites when she gets frustrated. Instead of trying to get her not to bite, we point her towards appropriate things to bite - like when I see her lunging for her big sister with her mouth open, I grab her and hand her a teether or a cushion or a cardigan or whatever’s handy, and say ‘Here, bite this.’ We did the same when Thing 1 was a bit older and hitting - you can’t hit Mama, but if you feel like hitting, you can hit this pillow. We’re aiming for the idea that your impulse isn’t wrong in itself, but you can only express it in appropriate ways that don’t hurt anyone.
My daughter also had her worst tantrums between 15 and 21 months of age. I remember sitting on the floor beside her, not touching her, not looking at her, and not saying anything until she had worked out the worst of it.
Every time she has tried to hit me, though, I have held her hand, given her the big scary Mom Eyes, and said something grave about how we do NOT hit. Ditto biting, kicking, throwing things at people.
A couple of times she got sufficiently out of control that I put her in her crib and walked away for a couple of minutes. I actually have video I took during one of those episodes. Breaks my little heart to watch it now, but it was done for good reason.
It can be really frustrating, but what really helped me was remembering that this is their job, to learn independence and that they don’t have the emotional tools to deal with setbacks.
For them, their whole life depends on eating out of the blue cup. If someone marched into your house and ordered you to leave, you’d be upset, too. Right? They don’t have the emotional maturity to deal with these meltdowns yet, which is why they need mommy and daddy to help them contain their emotions.
Some advice which I received which helped me include the idea that the parent being calm when the child is having the tantrum will help the child gradually learn that being upset is OK and the parents are fine with being upset, but that doesn’t change the rule.
Being upset is OK, but hitting or throwing isn’t. My daughter was much better at picking up on that than my son. He also never really accepted substituting things to throw. His thoughts seemed to be, “Why should I through that soft toy when I’m angry with my food?”
As others say, things go in waves. They get worse for a while, then better, then worse then better again.