How To Discipline A 1 Year Old
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How To Effectively Discipline A 1-Year-Old

As your baby enters toddlerhood, many changes happen. Not only are they constantly learning and developing, but they are also becoming more curious.  

Toddlers love to explore the world around them, and sometimes this includes exploring boundaries. That’s why it’s best to learn how to discipline a 1-year-old as early as possible!

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What is discipline?

First, let’s get into the meaning of discipline. Discipline is teaching your child the skills they need to behave under the rules that you have set. These skills include teaching your child how to control their behavior and emotions and acceptably solve problems.

Often, when people think of discipline, they might be thinking of punishment without even knowing! But, there is a massive difference between the two.

Discipline vs. Punishment

Discipline is all about teaching your child what’s acceptable, whereas punishment inflicts suffering for the inappropriate behavior. Through discipline, your child will continue to learn right from wrong with trust in you, while punishment can instill fear in your child.  

When you’re disciplining your child, that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for their actions. The difference is that the result of your child’s poor choice isn’t spanking or yelling, which causes stress to both of you.  

For example, if your child decides to throw their dinner on the floor, the consequence is that they help you clean it up. Then, you can teach your child why it’s not okay to throw food on the floor.  

Also, when you choose to discipline and teach your child these crucial life skills, you will notice that they start to make the right choices on their own.  

You’ll also love: Fun Activities That Teach Your 1-Year-Old

When should you start disciplining a child?

You can start disciplining your child as soon as they start crawling, which is typically around 6-months-old at the earliest. This stage in your child’s life brings so much curiosity, which makes it the perfect time to start setting some boundaries.  

How To Discipline A 1-Year-Old

Prevent Accidents And Ensure Safety

The first step in learning how to discipline a 1-year-old is to prevent accidents beforehand and ensure their safety.

Babies love to explore. Once they’re mobile, exploring becomes their favorite pastime! Part of disciplining is setting boundaries, which is where baby-proofing comes in.  

When you take the steps to baby-proof your home, you are setting physical boundaries. When your baby crawls up to a baby gate, they know they can’t go any further – that room is off-limits. 

Baby-proofing can also help to keep your baby is safe from household dangers. Installing things like furniture straps and outlet covers will ensure that your child is safe before learning to follow established rules.  

Be Consistent

Consistency is critical when learning how to discipline a 1-year-old. If your child knows that there is always the same outcome when they do something that isn’t allowed, they will begin to realize what is off-limits.  

For example, if you don’t want your child to play with the TV remote, don’t let them play with it ‘just once.’ It can be unclear to your child when something was okay to do yesterday, but not today.

Another crucial part of staying consistent while disciplining is to get on the same page as your partner. You have to be in agreement and show your child that both parents expect the same behavior.  

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Choose Your “No’s”

The word ‘no’ can come flying out of your mouth before you even realize it. And most times, it’s probably warranted. But when you start saying no to everything, it can become sort of like background noise to your kiddo.  

Try to save ‘no’ for things that are indeed a danger; your child running away in a parking lot, reaching for the hot stove, or hitting others, for example.  

I’ve noticed that when I stop and think before I say no, I don’t need to say it half of the time. For example, if my kiddo wants to dip his banana in the mustard leftover from his chicken nuggets at lunchtime, it’s gross, but it doesn’t justify a ‘no.’ Or, if he wants to dump all of his blocks on the floor, it’s going to make a mess, but I can teach him how to pick up afterward.  

Many times, our kids are just being kids. They explore the world around them and sometimes even find natural consequences for their actions (like the taste of mustard on a banana). 

Instead of saying no, try mentioning what your child can do instead. For instance, if your child is yelling a lot while playing, try saying, ‘remember to use your inside voice!’. Or, if they are throwing their toys inside, you can show them how to roll toys on the ground.

Distract And Redirect

Most younger toddlers don’t understand when things are dangerous or unacceptable, so it’s helpful to use distraction and redirection when disciplining a 1-year-old.   

Let’s say your toddler is trying to pull on a cord. While you can tell them that the behavior is dangerous, you will also want to steer them away from the situation and give them a new activity to focus on. This new activity or toy will help them lose interest in the dangerous object altogether. 

Redirecting your child’s attention will help them forget about the off-limits object in a positive and productive way.  

Use Verbal And Non-Verbal Cues

When learning how to discipline a 1-year-old, it’s imperative to use verbal and non-verbal cues. When you use both verbal and non-verbal cues, it helps your child connect the dots when something is not allowed.

For example, when your child reaches for the stove, you will want to tell them that it’s hot and not to touch it while showing them a painful face. Seeing your animated reaction will help them remember what happens if you touch the hot stove.  

Stay Patient And Positive

Disciplining a 1-year-old can feel very repetitive at times. Some days, you will have to continue to redirect their attention or remind them that something is off-limits. But that doesn’t mean your discipline isn’t working!

At this stage, your child is learning crucial life skills. They are learning how to control their emotions and behavior, and that takes time.  

In the end, you have to try to stay patient and remind yourself of the small ‘wins.’  It also helps to do something you love, like a hobby, on the harder days to keep yourself positive.

Watch For Patterns

If you notice that your child is struggling at a particular time of the day, it might be time to watch for a recurring pattern. Once you find the source of your child’s upset, you can take steps to prevent any meltdowns. 

For example, if you notice your child disregards boundaries right before bedtime, they might be getting too tired. You can try to prevent this by moving bedtime up a bit earlier to avoid that overtired stage.

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Right The Wrongs

Whenever your child crosses a boundary that you’ve set, you will want to explain what was wrong with the behavior first.  Then, you can talk to your child about what to do the next time to make it right. Even better if you can show them!

Be The Rolemodel

A terrific way to show your kids what’s right from wrong is to lead by example. Kids love to copy their parents; they are always watching and listening! When you set the best standard for your kids, they will want to follow in your footsteps.  

I know it’s not easy to be cool, calm, and collected 24/7, so if you do make a mistake, like raising your voice, for instance, be sure to make it right as soon as possible. This will show your child that everyone has bad days or moments, but you can take steps to make it right and move on.  

Praise Good Behavior

Have you noticed that your child’s face lights up when you get excited about something they did or made? Well, they get just as happy when you point out their good behavior. 

When learning how to discipline a 1-year-old, good behavior must get more attention than bad. As your child is acting out, try to ignore it as best as possible (unless they are in danger, of course). 

When they know it’s easier to get your attention when they are behaving as they should, it will make the poor behavior less enticing.  

Connect With Your Child

As I mentioned earlier, disciplining your 1-year-old will go much more smoothly when they have trust in you, not fear. The more you connect with your child, and the more they feel secure when around you, the easier it will be for them to learn discipline.

The best way to connect with your child is to spend quality time with them. This time should be uninterrupted and utterly focused on your child. Follow their lead on what activity they choose to do with you, and go all in!

When you take the time to fill your child’s emotional ‘cup,’ it’s not only great for them but for you, too! 

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Can a 1-year-old understand discipline? 

Many people think that 1-year-olds can’t understand discipline, but that’s not entirely true! While time-outs aren’t going to be very effective, your toddler will always benefit from having boundaries and learning right from wrong at an early age.  

Keep in mind that disciplining a 1-year-old will be repetitive, but that doesn’t mean it’s not working! As they get a little older, the things you have been teaching your child will start to click, and you’ll see all of the efforts of your discipline!

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Learning how to discipline a 1-year-old isn’t always easy; there will surely be bumps in the road. But the great thing to know is that these tips for disciplining 1-year-olds work for older children, too! All of these suggestions are a terrific base point for teaching discipline, no matter the child’s age.

What are your favorite tips for how to discipline a 1-year-old? I would love to know in the comments below!

Rachel Sig 3

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  1. These are great tips! And starting early is important (in an age-appropriate way, of course.) I read a book on discipline and it also recommended choosing your “no’s”. That way they knew you really meant it! 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing! I definitely need to work on the being patient and choosing by no’s. I feel like having a two year old and a newborn sometimes my patience can run low!

    1. Being patient and choosing your no’s are difficult things to work on, especially with two little ones! Try to remember to give yourself patience during the process, too!

  3. This is a very thorough and well written article! My kids are 17 and 18 but I think you’ve provided valuable information for anyone that needs it. Great job! And yes, you have to be consistent 😊

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