Discipline of a One-Year-Old

Question: Please describe the best approach to the discipline of a one-year-old child.

Answer: Many children will begin to test the authority of their parents during the second seven-month period.  The confrontations will be minor and infrequent before the first birthday, yet the beginnings of future struggles can be seen.  My own daughter, for example, challenged her mother for the first time when she was nine months old.  My wife was waxing the kitchen floor when Danae crawled to the edge of the linoleum.  Shirley said, "No, Danae," gesturing to the child not to enter the kitchen.  Since our daughter began talking very early, she clearly understood the meaning of the word no.  Nevertheless, she crawled straight onto the sticky wax. Shirley picked her up and set her down in the doorway, while saying, "No" even more strongly as she put her down.  Seven times this process was repeated until Danae finally yielded and crawled away in tears.  As far as we can recall, that was the first direct collision of wills between my daughter and wife.  Many more were to follow.

How does a parent discipline a one-year-old? Very carefully and gently!  A child at this age is extremely easy to distract and divert.  Rather than jerking a wrist watch from his hands, show him a brightly colored alternative--and then be prepared to catch the watch when it falls.  When unavoidable confrontations do occur, as with Danae on the waxy floor, win them by firm persistence but not by punishment.  Again, don't be afraid of the child's tears, which can become a potent weapon to avoid naptime or bedtime or diapertime.  Have the courage to lead the child without being harsh or mean or gruff.

Compared to the months that are to follow, the period around one year of age is usually a tranquil, smooth-functioning time in a child's life.

Dr. Dobson Answers Your Questions

By Dr. James Dobson

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