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My 1-year-old is a PITA

Your baby has suddenly become a toddler with a personality and opinions — very vocal and aggressive opinions. Here are five ways to effectively discipline your 1-year-old without feeling like you’re, well, putting baby in the corner.

A year of spoiling your baby and delighting in her development of motor skills has turned into horror as she now pitches anything and everything across the room. You can no longer chuckle at her sippy cup tossing ability — it’s time to learn how to say “no” in a way your toddler will understand and obey.


Discipline vs. boundaries

Up to this point, you and your child have bonded through play and laughter. But making sure your child knows what’s right and wrong is another form of parental love. Avoid the guilt that can sometimes accompany the implementation of discipline. Remember: There is a difference between discipline and boundaries.

“Boundaries are rules parents set up to guide the behaviors of their children. Discipline is what the child experiences if there is violation of those boundaries,” explains John Medina, author of Brain Rules for Baby. “Discipline can cut both ways — not just for punishing bad behavior but rewarding good behavior.”


Don’t force the discipline

You know your child best and can clearly see when she’s beginning to understand your directives — so don’t expect more from your child than she’s emotionally or mentally able to deliver. “There is no one-size-fits-all regarding discipline for 1-year-olds,” says Medina. “Most of the prep should be for the adults.”

But it’s never too early to begin deciding what rules and boundaries you’ll expect of your child. He suggests creating a list of non-negotiable boundaries, semi-negotiable boundaries and “free zones” (actions and behaviors that can go either way). This is a living, breathing list — revisit it routinely as the child gets older and adjust as necessary.


Teach, don’t punish

Short and sweet: Discipline is about teaching and not punishment. Disciplining your 1-year-old doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly become a bad guy, and teachings don’t have to be doled out with a raised voice or harsh language.

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Put yourself in your toddler’s shoes

Much of a toddler’s frustrations come from being unable to communicate their needs effectively. While your 1-year-old can hardly be expected to know the difference between frustrated and angry, let alone use words to explain their feelings, you can work in a different language: sign language.

Teach your child the signs for milk, hungry, drink, tired, diaper and other relevant, daily terms. When your toddler can communicate with clear, simple requests and get what they want from you, the chance of a tantrum is tremendously reduced.


Work on your patience

Your child is a toddler — not a little adult. “Children’s brains are immaturely developed. Our expectations as parents need to be centered continually around where they are, not continually around where we’d like them to be when they’re 20,” says Medina.

So be logical about what actions require discipline. Your child wants to touch everything because that’s how she learns — you don’t want her to touch everything because she may hurt herself or break something. Solution? Control the environment around you and your child — remove the tempting, delicate knick knacks and babyproof your home.

More on disciplining kids

Positive discipline: Why time-outs don’t work
Should a parent discipline other peoples’ children?
Evaluating your discipline techniques

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