How can I get my 15 month old son to listen when I say 'No?'

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Rachel - posted on 01/01/2010

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Consistent Consequences. Young children can learn to respond to NO at an early age. In the first year, saying no and then using distraction is very helpful. Usually they are just curious and exploring the world around them. However, other times they need reinforcement.

Identify key situations/actions that you have experienced or can anticipate experiencing. For example, hitting. Say your son hits you in the face (or anywhere really). What is your reaction going to be? Our response is a firm "Oww, NO hit" and a smack on the offending hand. If he hits again, we respond with another firm "Oww, NO hit" and a slightly harder smack on the hand. We don't get angry, we don't yell, we don't try to hurt him other than a light sting. And we are consistent with that response every single time he hits. This response was born from some trial and error. We don't employ hitting or spanking very often, but this was one of the times that we found it the most effective. He seemed to need the pain correlation. As he got older, like closer to 2 (he's now 2.5), we told him "Oww, NO hit, that hurts momma" and he started to understand and would say "Momma oww?" And I could respond with yes, that gave momma an "oww". He's now sensitive to hurting others; we can tell him that him pulling the dog's tail is "oww" and he'll stop, for example.

Here's another example. Tantrums and whining are no-nos in our home. When he decides to throw a fit (rare these days), we tell him, "Dietrick, you can either calm down and play nicely, or you can go to bed." Early on, he didn't really understand what we were saying, but we said it anyway. And, if he didn't calm down, he went to bed (his crib at first, now his room with the door closed since he's in a toddler bed). We would tell him that when he calmed down, he could come out. Again, as he got older, he understood that he had a choice to make - he could chose to calm himself down and then play or whatever, or he could be by himself for a while. These days all we have to ask him is if he wants to go to bed. Most of the time, he chooses to stop the fit and stay with the family. We are very, very consistent in following through when we take a stand like this. If we aren't able to follow through, we don't say we will do something.

We never threaten, never bribe, just explain that his behavior is not acceptable and that he has a choice - change his behavior or have a negative consequence.

So, really the biggest thing is to think about situations you have or will have with your son and then plan what you think will be the best and most appropriate discipline for that. And then follow through, even when it is hard, even when it is inconvenient, even when it is embarrassing, even when you feel like it won't matter. It is when it feels like you'll never get through that the breakthrough is about to happen. :)

Anna - posted on 12/31/2009

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I don't think there's much point trying to actually discipline a child so young - their brains are just not mature enough to understand. I say no to my son, remove him from what he's doing and just distract him with something else.

Patricia - posted on 12/31/2009

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It is so normal for young children to say no. It is their favorite word. Just be consistent and make sure he understands why. He may not understand at first, but be consistent. He will always test you and see what they can get away with. When my sons were young, I chose my battles carefully even when they were toddlers. You have a long road ahead of you.

Kelley - posted on 12/31/2009

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I think distraction usually works well when they're younger. I usually try to tell my kids the reason why we don't do it and then redirect them toward something that is okay to do. When does he usually test you?

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