How to discipline a 17 month old, I need advice.

Nique3 - posted on 02/13/2013 ( 13 moms have responded )

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My daughter messed up her dads glasses but by the time I found them, about 20 minutes had gone by. I called my husband and told him what happened. He asked if I tapped her and I said no. I just don't feel like this is an effective way to discipline her. The one time I did tap her hand, she started smacking her own hand and I didn't like that. So what are some ways to discipline a toddler??? I do put her on time out sometimes. He doesn't understand since I am home with her all day that I don't want to spend the whole day constantly yelling at her or tapping her hand for every little naughty thing she does. To me that is border line abuse.

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Megan - posted on 02/15/2013

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This is a topic that I have struggling with myself, as my 18 month old son can be a handful sometimes. If I may suggest a book that I recently read, I feel like it would really help you to understand your role to your toddler. It is called "Toddler Wise" and I just feel like it would really help you out. I learned so much from it. I realized that toddler years can be quite challenging, but it is important to consider the "why" of parenting and not the "how". You have to protect your child first and foremost, so if they are doing something dangerous that is obviously a big "no no". They live in a world of "me myself and I" and we have to pay close attention to what they are doing. There are some things, like glasses and TV remotes, etc that a toddler just can't resist playing with. I myself have lost 2 pairs of glasses to my son, but that was my mistake for leaving them within his reach. They are going to break stuff, hide stuff, and even put things in the toilet, but we as parents must help them learn and give them engaging activities that catch their fleeting interests. Anyways, I really hope you consider reading that book! Good luck.

[deleted account]

You are right--tapping/spanking/smacking/whatever you want to call it, is not effective. If you really are just "Tapping" it won't phase her anyway because the whole basis for physical punishment is making the child fear the consequence enough to avoid the behavior, and no kid will fear a tap on the hand. And if you are hitting any harder than a "tap" you risk hurting your child (mentally, emotionally, and physically). Plus, it has absolutely nothing to do with what she did wrong.

Honestly, in the situation you described, you can't discipline her. She is 17 months old, at that age, the best option is to keep things that she could break out of her reach. Your husband should have put the glasses away where she couldn't reach them. As she gets older, you can teach her how to handle delicate objects, and if she mishandles them you can take them away That is a logical consequence and she will learn that if she wants to handle the delicate things, she has to handle them properly.

(start with a "delicate" toy that she can't really break, but needs to show you she knows how to be gentle with--this toy should ALWAYS be handled gently, even if she can't break it. Another option is a toy that breaks easily--for example, build a robot or house with large legos, then let her play with it, but if it breaks, she cannot have it back until the next day).

She is too young to connect any discipline that you administer to her now to the act of messing up the glasses hours ago, so you just have to let this one go and try to catch her in the act whenever you can. And don't feel bad about it, and don't let her dad make you feel bad about it either--she's learning, and so are you and dad. These things happen with children. She didn't deliberately break the glasses--she wasn't doing it to be spiteful or mean, she just made a mistake, and if she does it again, she can learn from it.

Monica - posted on 02/15/2013

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Make sure she is listening to you, look right in her eyes and say a very form NO. Eye contact is essential for this to work.
Things will get trashed though unless it's put away, it's unfair punishing them if it's there for them to break.

Megan - posted on 02/16/2013

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I have read that you should get your toddler to obey you at least 60% of the time. This makes a lot of sense... also when you ask for something you should get your toddler to respond with "yes mom" or "yes dad" so that you can establish your leadership. Those were just a couple of the many great ideas in that book (Toddler Wise)... ENJOY!

Megan - posted on 02/15/2013

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Spanking is a pretty heated debate, I think we as parents know when it is appropriate to spank and when it isn't. I spank my son and think it is OK but there are times when I worry it was the wrong way to handle it. Please post links when you can because I would love to see the research. Punishment is tricky, but it is important we remain consistent. We have to command leadership, obedience, and set boundaries. Good post!

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Helen - posted on 05/12/2013

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I think the debate here has turned into one about punishment (spanking/tapping etc) but shouldn't it be about *discipline* instead?
Discipline is about teaching - so the 'NO', the eye contact, the repeated removal from situations, using lots and lots of praise for the behaviour we want, distraction techniques and telling them what we want them to do rather than what we don't want them to do (if I tell you not to think of a pink elephant what happens?) so I say 'Hold tight to your car.' instead of 'Don't drop your car.'

There are some things that you can let go, but being rough with fragile, important or expensive things, even unintentionally, is not acceptable and needs to be dealt with straight away. You are right in that any punishment 20 mins after the event with a 17 month old is useless as they will not connect the action with it, but you could've show her the glasses and told her that she mustn't play with them because daddy needs them to read/drive/see but if she finds them again she should tell mummy or daddy where they are - which is teaching her discipline and how to react in certain situations which will hopefully help prevent a repeat performance!

I know how frustrating it can be when toddlers get hold of thing they aren't supposed to - I have had my own glasses 'toddlerised' - they were on the nightstand and he grabbed them and I think he was trying to open them for me to put on, but didn't do it properly and they ended up so twisted! :-(

Hope the glasses were recoverable to a wearable condition, that your husband wasn't too cross and that lessons were learnt :)

[deleted account]

Kelly- I am not basing it on a few classes I took years ago, but classes that I am in NOW. As we both know there are several studies supporting evidence on both sides. You can go on the apa website yourself, I don't really have the time or the patience to do research for you. but you can go there and type in "spanking" in the search bar and it will pull up several different articles, some supporting, some not, and my favorite, the ones that say there is no real unbiased study on spanking. There are to many factors to account for, that many researchers did not, and then of course there are the biases in how media reports their findings.

Also, if you look back at my comments, I said the exact same thing you just said, except I don't believe in taking things out of their reach, unless it is something dangerous.

And just like everything else there are always "studies" and "research" proving this or that. There were studies that proved cigarettes weren't that bad, and studies that said formula was better than breast milk.

If spanking for certain caused so many problems, wouldn't there be a lot more mentally ill people in the world? Kids today, who were raised totally without spanking seem to be a lot more aggressive, mean, and disrespectful then kids when I was in school, which wasn't long ago.

I am not saying all kids need to spanked, because some kids are easier than others. But to think that discipline is a "one size fits all" thing, is untrue. Time-out can be just as "detrimental" as spanking. Just like anything else, the effects can be negative when used inappropriately.

I was spanked as a child by my grandparents, and they used everything but their hands, and I never had any ill feelings towards them. My mother never spanked me (maybe once) and we never got along. I moved out her house when I was 16 and for a while wanted nothing to do with her. How do you explain that?

Anyway, I am not going to sit here and argue about who knows what better than the other person, or why because I have better things to do. My main problem is what you said about a 17 month old not understanding. My child understand VERY well, and so did her older brother. I think you need to look more into the development of children.

[deleted account]

Sorry I "rubbed you the wrong way" but I work in child development and psychology. I'm not basing my statements on a few classes I took in college several years ago, I am basing those statement on current, in-depth research and, believe it or not, FACTS.

I never said she couldn't begin teaching a 17 month old right from wrong (I even suggested activities for it). I said in the situation she described the child couldn't be disciplined because too much time had passed. I will stand by my statement that the best option for a 17 month old is to keep fragile objects away from her--yes, you can repeatedly tell her no and repeatedly remove her from the situation, however, at only 17 months old, most children do not have the mental development to keep themselves from going back to the object at some later time--they learn it is off limits, but they cannot retain that information for any extended time at this stage in development. The best option is to keep objects that are forbidden away from them until they are closer to 2 years old, at that point they are usually able to use reasoning to figure out what objects are okay and which are not, and they can begin to establish a more long-term memorized catalog of objects that are on and off limits.

I will also stand by my statements that spanking/tapping/whatever IS detrimental to a child's mental well-being and development. You stated that countries where corporal punishment is banned have higher rates of juvenile delinquency and child abuse. Do you have fact based statistics to back that up?

I've got to run for now, but if you like, I can post links to current research to back up my statements later. I would appreciate if you do the same as I have read absolutely nothing in the past 5 years to indicate that physical/corporal punishment is in anyway beneficial, and I would like to read it.

[deleted account]

I'm sorry, but that comment just totally rubbed me the wrong way. I feel like she called every 17-month old in the world, including mine, stupid and incapable of learning. That doesn't sit well with me at all. My girl is 17 months as well and follows directions very well, and has been since before she was a year old.

[deleted account]

Oh, and just for the record it would be pointless to "tap" her hand after the fact because 17-month old does have a very short attention span and she would have forgotten all about the glasses. If you would have caught her in the act then a tap and an explanation would have been appropriate, or a simple "No, these belong to daddy" and redirecting her, such as giving her something of her own to play with.

[deleted account]

I am sorry but I disagree. A 17 month old is old enough to understand what "No" means. Research shows infants as young as 6 months are capable of understanding what "No" means. Spanking does not result in damage to the child mentally. I have taken psychology classes, and research has been done to prove it. The so called research that shows it does cause problems later in most cases did not separate the subjects in the research project based on whether or not the child was abused (slapped, punched, hit with objects, whatever). Research does show that abuse does cause mental anguish later, not spanking. No, I am not saying you should spank your child if you don't want to, I am just trying to present the facts. If you do proper research (not just research done by people who are anti-spanking, I mean true, non-biased research) you would see that. Also, in countries where spanking is banned, there is a higher rate of juvenile delinquency and child-abuse, just for the record.

Now that being said, if you don't feel comfortable doing that then don't. But for Kelly to say there is no way to teach a 17-month old right from wrong is absurd! When she does something she isn't supposed to simply tell her no and remove her from where she is at. If she goes back do it again. And keep doing it. You don't need to take anything out of her reach. Just allowing her to do whatever she wants without even a simple "No" at that age is only setting yourself up for a hard time later.

Just for the record, I am neither anti- nor pro-spanking, but I am pro-fact. You shouldn't believe every "research" article you see. It's called fact checking.

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