Nov. 30, 2020

Ask Amy- Can You Discipline a One-Year-Old?

A listener asks whether, and how, she can discipline a 1-year-old who pulls hair and throws food on the floor.

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This week Lindsay asks: How do you discipline a 1-year-old? Specifically, with pulling my hair and dropping his food on the ground. I say “no" in a firm way and he laughs at me. Any advice you could provide would be much appreciated. Thanks for all you do- love your podcast!

You can't discipline a 1-year-old. They don't get it. But you can redirect, and in this episode Amy explains how that can work.

Toddlers drop food on the floor because they’re fascinated by cause and effect, and in repeating the few things they can control. It's a behavior kids will bore of sooner than you can correct it. But if the parental reaction is swift and predictable, it can actually encourage more food-throwing. The challenge is to make throwing food on the floor more boring than NOT doing it.

Pulling hair is another brief but intense stage of toddler behavior, and the quickest way to discourage that might be by adding an incompatible behavior– something that can't happen at the same time as the hair-pulling. If you hand a toddler a toy he loves before picking him up, he can't pull your hair. If you untangle your hair, put him down, and otherwise blank-face it, that's another incompatible behavior. So is pulling your hair back until this stage passes.

To come up with ideas for redirecting undesirable behaviors, consider the strategy Carolyn Dalgliesh suggests in her book THE SENSORY CHILD GETS ORGANIZED: "What can you add? What can you take away?" Think about what dial you can adjust on the situation to refocus your toddler's attention. It takes patience and a little outside-of-the-box thinking, but you'll find something that really works for you.

Find Carolyn Dalgliesh's book, and all the books Amy and Margaret recommend, in our Bookshop store:

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