disciplining a 15 month old

Kimberly - posted on 07/27/2009 ( 41 moms have responded )

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How can I discipline my 15 month old without spanking her or slapping her hand or putting her in "time out" so that she can understand that she is in trouble and what for?

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Minnie - posted on 07/27/2009

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You need to understand what age-appropriate behaviours are. She's in an exploratory, impulsive stage, and she's not mature enough to control those impulses. Keep breakable objects out of her reach, set boundaries, but don't micro-manage her. You don't want to frustrate her.



Redirect her attention, distract her, be repetetive. Cuddle and hug her when she becomes emotional. A meltdown is very stressful for a toddler and she needs your love during one- not to be ignored or punished (not saying you do that).

[deleted account]

Time out is useless at this age because he/she has no way of connecting the time out to the thing he/she did wrong. Redirecting and substituting are the best way to get them to stop. Tell them, "This is a NO" and make a frowny face. Then lead the child to something that they CAN play with and say, "This is a YES!" (happy face). If you have the easy-normal range of child, this should work after several consistent times of saying it. Not only are you letting them know what is NOT acceptable, you are showing them what they CAN do. If you have one of the bull-headed ones who like to specifically do whatever you have told them not to (I had one of those) good luck with the non-hand-smacking.

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Kristin - posted on 08/01/2009

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She is probably to young to fully understand the concept of "consequences", so what I did with my daughter was catch her in the act and say"no!" in a firm tone, loud enough to startle her, but not enough to scare her.

Vickie - posted on 07/30/2009

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I had trouble with my 16 month old getting into everything and touching things he shouldn't I tried a smack on the hand a couple of times and taking his attention else where didn't work for him he is very determined. What I found worked the best for him was a timeout in his crib for 1-2 minutes he soon started listening to my nos alot better

Jodi - posted on 07/30/2009

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Suzanne, thats ok, I probably should have made it clearer that I was being tongue in cheek :)

Robyn - posted on 07/30/2009

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I have 3 very different children and each one needed to be disciplined in a different way. Time out worked really well for my youngest when she was little but was no use at all for my middle child, the oldest was the most exploratory and he needed constant distractions, they all got a smack on the hand or butt now and then which worked for the really serious stuff and I always used a very firm tone when saying no or stop. The most important thing is to be consistent in what ever you do and to remember as they get older what might have worked well once might not work in the future so be prepared to change tactics.

Beverly - posted on 07/29/2009

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Sounds to me that alot of Mothers have some yet different child rearing practices. The thing is what works for one child may not work for others, so the best way to raise your child is to do what works for them and you. I have two children grown now and they were both different. I now have a granddaughter and she is totally different from both of my children. Which ever path you choose I do agree with being consistent and firm.
Good Luck!!

Suzanne - posted on 07/29/2009

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Oh Jodi... I am so very sorry!! I completely miss-interpreted your post!
I apologize, I've been reading too many threads on spanking, and I think it's finally gotten the better of me :(
Sorry again... I think this Mom needs some focus factor!! arghhh

Suzanne - posted on 07/29/2009

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Wanted to mention (sorry I got caught up in my last post) that at 15 months old, I don't believe that a child can completely understand that they are "in trouble" per say. That is more of an abstract reasoning conclusion. Developmentally speaking, they reside only in the moment, and are only beginning to learn the concept of more instantaneous "cause and effect", for example: If you fall down, it may hurt you. Later on they begin to develop those greater concepts of familial consequence. It is more abstract thinking.

Suzanne - posted on 07/29/2009

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"Kate, that's like the kids you see down at the shops throwing tantrums because they can't have something, and then after 5 minutes of tantrum, mum gives in. Nice quick fix, that'll teach them! Then wondering why they always do it!!!"


I need to disagree here, There are no "quick fixes" in parenting. At 15 months old, the reasoning ability simply isn't developed yet. Your main goal at this age is simply to keep your little one safe from danger!
I agree with Audrey here; A firm NO, with an unhappy facial expression. Move the toddler out of the situation, whatever it is, and repeat these steps as often as necessary. Consistence is really the key to correction in such a young child. It is not always convenient, and it takes an unending reserve of patience, but this appropriate to the reasoning ability of a 15 month old. Tantrums are simply part of this developmental stage, because they have found their mobility, but are only beginning to learn "cause and effect". They simply do not have the awareness and reasoning ability, to have free reign in the world, that can be frustrating to a curious toddler, who see's the world as a playground.
Why anyone would suggest that violence would be a positive method of control at 15 months is beyond me. There are no "quick fixes", without a hefty price to pay.
Toddler years are tough, and very hands on. That is just the reality. But they are also the most wonderful time of discovery.
My only advice would be to simply, keep her safe, try and allow her to discover, and begin to learn cause and effect under your watchful guardianship. Correct with in a firm but gentle fashion, and be consistent! As a child develops they learn better reasoning skills, and it gets easier.
I've raised one daughter, she's 28, and have a second 5 yr. old now. I can say without a doubt that; children will grow and learn with consistent guidance and love. If you deal with every stage of development, with kindness; they will know kindness. Children never forget if they were treated with patience and kindness.
Sorry, I think that much of my post was in response to Jodi's, but I hope that I've offered some contribution otherwise.
Best to you, and your beautiful little one!

Suzanne - posted on 07/29/2009

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"Kate, that's like the kids you see down at the shops throwing tantrums because they can't have something, and then after 5 minutes of tantrum, mum gives in. Nice quick fix, that'll teach them! Then wondering why they always do it!!!"


I need to disagree here, There are no "quick fixes" in parenting. At 15 months old, the reasoning ability simply isn't developed yet. Your main goal at this age is simply to keep your little one safe from danger!
I agree with Audrey here; A firm NO, with an unhappy facial expression. Move the toddler out of the situation, whatever it is, and repeat these steps as often as necessary. Consistence is really the key to correction in such a young child. It is not always convenient, and it takes an unending reserve of patience, but this appropriate to the reasoning ability of a 15 month old. Tantrums are simply part of this developmental stage, because they have found their mobility, but are only beginning to learn "cause and effect". They simply do not have the awareness and reasoning ability, to have free reign in the world, that can be frustrating to a curious toddler, who see's the world as a playground.
Why anyone would suggest that violence would be a positive method of control at 15 months is beyond me. There are no "quick fixes", without a hefty price to pay.
Toddler years are tough, and very hands on. That is just the reality. But they are also the most wonderful time of discovery.
My only advice would be to simply, keep her safe, try and allow her to discover, and begin to learn cause and effect under your watchful guardianship. Correct with in a firm but gentle fashion, and be consistent! As a child develops they learn better reasoning skills, and it gets easier.
I've raised one daughter, she's 28, and have a second 5 yr. old now. I can say without a doubt that; children will grow and learn with consistent guidance and love. If you deal with every stage of development, with kindness; they will know kindness. Children never forget if they were treated with patience and kindness.
Sorry, I think that much of my post was in response to Jodi's, but I hope that I've offered some contribution otherwise.
Best to you, and your beautiful little one!

[deleted account]

They already know they are in trouble but the tone in your voice and the look on your face. They already know what the word NO means, they are just testing the waters to see how many of your bottons they can push. All family members must agree with the same patterns, or you are lost. If you tell her No and Daddy let's her do it, then you and Daddy need to have a serious talk about discipline. They cannot get mixed signles, all must be on the same path. When she goes to someplace she is not supposed to, tell her No and be firm. Then take her away from there and get her interested in something else. It is not an easy task, they will try you everyday. But keep your chin up, in about 20 years, things will change.

Jodi - posted on 07/28/2009

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Kate, that's like the kids you see down at the shops throwing tantrums because they can't have something, and then after 5 minutes of tantrum, mum gives in. Nice quick fix, that'll teach them! Then wondering why they always do it!!!

Kate CP - posted on 07/28/2009

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"try buying her some Cutie and Patootie"

Cause ya know buying kids clothes always makes them behave. What the hell??

Leslie - posted on 07/28/2009

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Children don't need to be spanked or slapped imho. That is violent to them. I was raised in a very violent, stressful household where we were strapped and mentally and emotionally abused. This age is an important age for your child. Up to two years old is when their foundations of trust are built. I would discipline my son and daughter by either bringing them up to my eye level or squatting to their level, not cowering over them. Make them look at me and sternly say no, this is not allowed in our family or whatever. Then you can turn your head and laugh when they're not looking because let's face it, they are hysterical! (I have a 14 and 17 year old)

Cathralynn - posted on 07/28/2009

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So I don't really care if I go against some peoples views but hope not to offend. My daughter is 14mo. We have been consistent about saying no sternly and re-directing. And things are case by case. If she does soemthing accidentally or as a way of communicating (dropping food off the table) we try to show her another way (give to mommy). I try so hard not to use the word no and instead, be gentle, not yours, etc. And my daughter seems to get the serious ones, she itches her tummy when she really wants to touch the electrical outlet etc, but doesn't do it yay! BUT she does the not so serious ones. She grabs daddy's books and runs off giggling with me chasing and saying sternly not yours give to mommy. Turned into a big game with all things not hers. I know she understands cause she waits til were out of the room to grab them. Then giggles when we return and haven't yet checked into what she's doing. I think formal time outs are beyond her understanding and she wouldn't stay put anyways. I don't like the idea of using a safe place, her crib or high chair, as a time out spot. So what I do we call counting. I grab my daughter mid whatever she's doing wrong, make her sit in one spot, show her and repeat what I said she shouldn't do and count to three. I stay calm and nice, but serious. Then I let her up. Normally, I've only just started this, she gets upset and calms quickly when I let her up. I don't know if she gets whats happening, but she doesn't go back to said activity and goes on to something new. I figure she will associate the two eventually and learn, and its a baby step to formal time outs in the future. Hope this helps!

Kym - posted on 07/28/2009

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Posted by Cindy Tescher (yesterday, 4:59 pm)

maybe try telling her that its ugly and shes a pretty girl and pretty girls dont do that.



OMG are you serious?????

Shanda - posted on 07/28/2009

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I try to save "no" or "stop" for when it's really important (like dangerous situations-- overuse can kinda make it lose its efficacy!) With my ODS we relied mainly on redirection and positive reinforcement. I praised him every time he listened to direction. We also tried to figure out what he needed and find another way to accomplish it. So, when he was climbing all the furniture, we got a small toddler slide and put it in our living room (LOL) and every time he climbed I would move him to the slide and say "if you want to climb you may climb the slide." He stopped climbing the off-limits furniture within 2 days. Or when he kept messing around with the garbage can I gave him his own little can and would give him papers and other safe things to toss in it (and then could sort it for recycling later.) I tried to make the consequence fit the behavior and tried to address his feelings ("you are angry because I took the scissors away. You really wanted those scissors and now you are angry.")



Really I think if you are understanding, sensitive to their feelings, and try to be creative in helping them accomplish what they need to in an appropriate way you'll find that they want to please you!

Jodi - posted on 07/28/2009

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Sorry, I had to laugh at the cleaning up shampoo, it reminded me of my daughter. She cleaned up the shampoo at that age alright, drank the whole damn bottle, LOL.





Don't worry, it was kids shampoo and not poisonous (I did check with the doc and it just upset her tummy a little), but there was no way she'd even spill the stuff if it was there for the drinking, let alone clean up something like that on her own. It would be more mummy cleaning up, her helping in her own way :)

Stina - posted on 07/27/2009

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This has become a topic within a topic here... I too started very early teaching my kids to wipe spills up- around 18 months. but in the end, it was still me doing the majority of the cleanup. A year later and my 4 1/2 ds and 2 1/2 dd are getting pretty good at cleaning up spills. Still more helping though than doing it all independantly.

Mel - posted on 07/27/2009

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i didnt think they could understand time out at that age? I have a 15 month old and would love to be able to use time out rather then smacking

Angela - posted on 07/27/2009

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If she is into stuff I would do a "that isn't for you" and give her something that is for her and say "this is for you" Instead of using you use your kids name also. 15 mth is kind of young to really "understand" without a model. If your child is doing something like hitting show her how to pet nice and praise. Also use the "we don't do that in the house" statments.

Laura - posted on 07/27/2009

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And it doesn't hurt to switch up your language. If your kid is hitting, for instance, instead of always saying "NO" try saying "oh, be gentle" and showing what a gentle touch feels like. And when she hits again, you don't need to do a time out, but you do need to put the kid down and say clearly, "mommy doesn't like to be hit" and then step away (not out of the room or out of sight, just out of reach for a moment). You don't have to give the kid an official time out, just a few moments of separation is enough to have an impact. But come on, there's not a single answer for this--you try, try something else, say it a different way, say it again, get frustrated, and hope for the best.

Kate CP - posted on 07/27/2009

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Sharon, my daughter was cleaning up her own messes at 18 months. Kids are capable of amazing things if you give them the chance.

As for the original question: I agree with Lisa Moreau. She's exploring and learning her surroundings. Obviously you want to keep her (and your valuables) safe so keep them out of reach. But I wouldn't scold her for being 15 months old. Give her stimulating things to do like playing with items of different texture. Sandpaper, a soft feather, a squishy ball, and a wooden block are fascinating at this age. Bright colors are also really intriguing. Spend some time with her coloring with different materials like crayons, markers (Color Wonder by Crayola is a GOD SEND), tempera paints (washable, just make sure no one is allergic to eggs), and finger paints are TONS of fun. Playdough is also great, too. Lots of neat things you can do with it like roll it into balls, "snakes", and squish it flat. Little ones love that kind of stuff. Keep her entertained and she'll stay out of trouble for the most part. Let her explore what she can but give her boundaries. Obviously if you catch her trying to stick something in a light socket you should make a big deal out of it. When my daughter was that age a simple "NO!! STOP!!" in what my hubby calls my dog training voice would get her to stop and pay attention. You don't need to hit/spank/slap/smack/swat her. Just try to understand that everything is new to her and she's doing her best to learn the rules. She still doesn't know the rules. She's only been around for 15 months. :)

Sharon - posted on 07/27/2009

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Oh as soon as my kids were able to pick up and put down, they started putting away too, but to me cleaning up shampoo for a 15 month old was ludicrous.

Melinda - posted on 07/27/2009

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Actually Sharon, I started having my daughter pick up her toys at one year of age and now at 22 months, she cleans up after herself anywhere she plays, she asks permission to play with something that's not hers, and she wipes up/ picks up any mess she makes all on her own. So it's never too young to start teaching responsibility.

Eve - posted on 07/27/2009

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Re-direct! "No, you can't pull all my books off the shelf, but you can pull all your toys out of your toy box-here, lets go do that!" Also, make her clean up the mess she makes. If she can take it out, pull it off, or drop it, she can put it back, or pick it up. Oh, she dumped all the shampoo out all over the floor? Great-then here is a lot of paper towels, lets clean it up and put the paper towels in the trash can. She can certainly do that! No baby ever needs to be hit-they can't possibly understand that and it only breeds rebellion and they turn around and do the same to their pets, family and friends!

Tamara - posted on 07/27/2009

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Redirect, redirect, redirect. Not much else works at that age. Its not until after 2 or so that you can start doing timeouts, etc.

Stina - posted on 07/27/2009

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With my eldest two when they were this age, it was a stern "no" and redirection- but often they would return to the forbidden object or activity... say a drawer I didn't want them playing in. When redirecting/trying to otherwise occupy them didn't work, I did do time out. One minute. After about two timeouts, they would listen to my "no" and a warning that they would get a time out. Every child is different, but I found timeout an effective teaching tool at a little before 1 1/2 years when repeated redirection just wasn't working.

Jodi - posted on 07/27/2009

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I also agree with the others, giving them positive feedback on what IS the right thing to do :)



On the first post, I don't personally condone focusing on pretty and ugly. I would never focus on how a child looks being associated with behaviour. It gives children the wrong message, and in particular, that if you aren't pretty you will do things that are wrong. Imagine how that will translate when they are older......

Deidre - posted on 07/27/2009

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Good luck doing that. I use a form of time out myself if my daughter is being completely uncooperative and screaming her lil' head off in anger. If she's just going to get into something she shouldn't be messing with I tell her no firmly (and usually snap my finger as well, or say 'uh uh') and move her somewhere else. I do this multiple times throughout the day, I just try to catch her before she actually does what she shouldn't do. Oh, and I point to. I say "No." *point at her* Now, she'll copy me and say "no" and point lol, and usually walks away while doing it (totally adorable too).

[deleted account]

you can't. time outs or sitting or standing in a corner are your best non violent options. I personally prefer a smack on the hand or butt but I'm old fashioned and looking back on three kids all grown with kids of their own, it worked and didn't scar them forever!

Kristen - posted on 07/27/2009

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I firmly tell my 14 month old no and get her by her hand and take her somewhere else if i need to but alot of time if i firmly say no she will walk away herself b/c she looks at me and waits for me to tell her no while she is getting into whatever it is she can't have there are times where she just don't listen to anything i have to tell her

September - posted on 07/27/2009

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Try using the word stop rather than no and then divert her attention to something new. This seems to work well with my son who is only 9 months old. Good luck! :)

[deleted account]

My little one is 14 mts and I feel like I constantly repeat the same thing over and over. Consistency is key, even if you feel like you've said it 100 times. I use a low toned voice and try to get at an eye level with her. And when she does what I ask I give her tons of verbal praise. "good job", "you are such a smart girl" etc. .. sometimes add in some hand clapping and smiles and such for good measure. She responds pretty good to postive reinforcement but it's a learning process for both of us. Somethings she has picked up on and some we are still working on. She will follow some instruction like, 'Please close that for Mommy' and some she wont, like "please don't put your hand in the toilet!!" That doesn't always come out in a cool, calm and collect voice. What's a Mommy to do? : )

[deleted account]

My little one is 14 mts and I feel like I constantly repeat the same thing over and over. Consistency is key, even if you feel like you've said it 100 times. I use a low toned voice and try to get at an eye level with her. And when she does what I ask I give her tons of verbal praise. "good job", "you are such a smart girl" etc. .. sometimes add in some hand clapping and smiles and such for good measure. She responds pretty good to postive reinforcement but it's a learning process for both of us. Somethings she has picked up on and some we are still working on. She will follow some instruction like, 'Please close that for Mommy' and some she wont, like "please don't put your hand in the toilet!!" That doesn't always come out in a cool, calm and collect voice. What's a Mommy to do? : )

Mimi (Hilary) - posted on 07/27/2009

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at that age ... my son was into everything... when he was into something rather than punish him.... I redirected him to take his mind off of it.. but before doing so I sternly said no no... then took him to do something esle again .. patience ... and time.. eventually ( usually about 3-4 days) he no longer messed with it.

Jodi - posted on 07/27/2009

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I am assuming at this age that she is getting into things she shouldn't. What worked mostly for my daughter was a very strong, firm, short and sharp "NO", with the appropriate facial expression, shaking your head, and then divert them from whatever it is they are getting into. But you need to be consistent about it. If you do this everytime they go back to that same thing, they eventually get the message. They don't like to be frowned at, and they don't like that sharpness of firmness of the word no, and they learn to associate that particular behaviour with your reaction.

Cindy - posted on 07/27/2009

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maybe try telling her that its ugly and shes a pretty girl and pretty girls dont do that.

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