20 answers

1 Year Old with Temper Tantrums

Lately my one year old has started throwing some pretty fierce temper tantrums. If she goes towards an electric outlet or hangs on the gate at the top of the stairs, we tell her "no, no" and if the behavior continues, we pull her away from the forbidden item. She will throw a HUGE tantrum---tears, yelling, throwing herself to the ground. This used to be solved by distracting her with a toy or activity that was hers to play with, but lately that is being met by her throwing that toy or today by her hitting me and my husband. I know this is her expressing her independance, but I'd like to nip this throwing and hitting behavior in the bud. I think she seems too young for a time out (just 1 year old), but don't know what else to do. Just keep up with the "no, no"??? Other ideas? Any good discipline book recommendations?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD tells you how to talk to a one year old in the midst of a tantrum. Needless to say reason doesn't work and by this age they consider a distraction to be insulting. Who knew?

1 mom found this helpful

My son is 14 months and he throws tantrums too! He goes limp, throws his head back, cries. I've been following some advice I received. Just let them throw the tantrum. Be calm. Basically ignore them. Once my son realizes that his tactics aren't working he stops crying and that's when I distract him with another toy. It's hard for me to do but it seems to work most of the time! I've read that time out at this age doesn't work because they don't have the coginitive ability to really understand it. Good luck!

More Answers

Check out the website www.thinkkids.org. This site offers great parenting advice. There is a discipline model called The Collaborative Problem Solving Approach that is very helpful. Maybe not exactly helpful when the child is one, but definitely nice to read when you are starting out figuring out your parenting style. Plus! the clinicians who wrote this book are nearby, in Needham.
The only piece of advice I can offer is that as you go along parenting, everything just changes. When a child is one their temper tantrums really are just cute. Wait until they throw a temper tantrum at five or eight... Not fun. Distraction at age one is the name of the game.

1 mom found this helpful

The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD tells you how to talk to a one year old in the midst of a tantrum. Needless to say reason doesn't work and by this age they consider a distraction to be insulting. Who knew?

1 mom found this helpful

Run don't walk to your nearest bookstoreor amazon.com and get Parenting with Love and Logic, the Early Childhood years. Loveandlogic.com has CD and DVD's too!
Good luck!

I would recommend "How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk" by Faber/Mazlish and "Raising our children, raising ourselves" by Naomi Aldort. BTW, both books discourage time-outs. Time-outs are, in the end, a punishment, and for reasons explained in these books, we ought not to be punishing children for the expression of their strong feelings. There are other gentler, more humane methods of helping children pass through these difficult periods. A tantrum is the expression of a need and ignoring the need or shutting it down may or may not make the tantrums go away, but absolutely will NOT make the fundamental need go away. Calm, loving, consistent presence will let your child know you are there for her and her needs will be met. It may also head off most tantrums!!

It's definitley not too early for time out. After you say no and she hits or continues the behavior, have her sit out for a minute or two and simply tell her why and don't interact with her. It should work!

I second the recommendation for Happiest Toddler on the Block. Helps you see things from their standpoint and I found it made it much easier to deal with DD after reading it. Gives great help in being able to talk to them in a way they can understand, I think.

I would also advise using words other than NO all the time. But as another poster said, not a lot of words. Short repetitive phrases can be useful with little ones.

We used "not for babies" or "danger" or "hot" and removed her immediately when she was interested in something she couldn't have. I avoided No as much as possible because it really loses a lot of meaning when they hear it constantly.

I never ignored DD but I did ignore the tantrum. So if the redirection didn't work and she went off, I stayed completely calm and talked to her normally. "Oh would you like to do x? No, okay I'm going to continue doing whatever." So she is not being ignored and isolated but I was not reacting to the drama and giving it attention.

I actually think that when the child (especially at that age) is asking for attention that we should give it to them. I have found that when DD starts doing a lot of things that are annoying me, often it is because we haven't had a lot of time together or she's tired or hungry or whatever. She just doesn't know how to express that her needs are not being met.

I agree that timeout is totally useless at that age. DD now might get it (she's 27 mos) but at that age, absolutely not. I don't use that technique now either but then no way.

We didn't have a big hitting problem but with hitting or biting I'd immediately calmly say "No hitting" and resume what we were doing. If she did it again I'd repeat "no hitting" and put her down immediately. I did not then walk away and ignore her and if she wanted back up I would pick her back up. She almost never resumed hitting when I picked her back up and if she did then down she went again. She got it.

I think it is great to have a Yes environment. I babyproofed as much as possible so the need to say no was as limited as possible. And yes, she still did figure out what No means. :) They really don't need to have that lesson over and over to get it! Another thing that I think helped TONS was using sign language with DD. Yes, she still can't play on the baby gate or whatever, but the fact that she was capable of communicating her basic needs helped keep the frustration level low generally. It is very frustrating when noone understands you so anything that can help with that is a good thing!

btw DD, although she has her moments, really does not have a lot of tantrums at almost 27 mos. I think it is partly her temperment and partly how I've dealt with her in the past.

I started reading your post and it made me chuckle only to think of my own daughter at this stage. It's funny to look back on, although not that long ago. It was the exact same thing. All of a sudden everything was so much more dramatic. The tantrums were all out throwing herself down on the floor and crying. Even now, she's 21 mos, we still get those, rarely though. The only thing we kept doing was saying no. I never felt she was old enough for timeout at that age, until just recently, and it does work with her by the way. She would throw toys and hit us in the face. Again we just kept saying no. As hard as it might be we found that our being calm and talking her through it was the best way, and sometimes even ignoring it all together by walking into the next room or turning our backs to do something was sometimes effective. I have a couple friends and family with children several months older and they all went through the same thing. I really hated the hitting in the face and I see some parents that just let it happen and don't say anything. I truly believe that you need to address it right away and every single time. Even if they do it when you are in front of someone else. About a month ago was the last time she did it to either one of us. I was feeling sort of frustrated with it and she hit me again. So I hit her back exactly as she hit me. It wasn't hard and it didn't hurt her but she looked at me so surprised and I told her that hurts mommy and that is what it feels like. It doesn't feel good does it. I didn't yell or get mad, she didn't even cry. Then it was all over and she hasn't done it since. I don't think everyone should do this and certainly not more than once if it doesn't work. I just wanted to share what worked for us. Good luck, I don't think it will last long.

My son is 14 months and he throws tantrums too! He goes limp, throws his head back, cries. I've been following some advice I received. Just let them throw the tantrum. Be calm. Basically ignore them. Once my son realizes that his tactics aren't working he stops crying and that's when I distract him with another toy. It's hard for me to do but it seems to work most of the time! I've read that time out at this age doesn't work because they don't have the coginitive ability to really understand it. Good luck!

Welcome to the toddler years. Some of the tantrums maybe out of frustration for not being able to get her needs across to you she maybe hanging on the gate because she wants to go downstairs. Toddlers seem to love outlets so I would suggest the outlet covers my neighbors son got electricuted by trying to jam a car into an outlet. If she hits you need to firmly tell her no hitting and if she does it again you can stick her in a safe area and walk away. My youngest actually enjoys timeouts he will go and sit in the timeout spot at our house as happy as a clam but if she is close a year and a half timeouts will do one minute per a year. If you want a good discipline book I like The discipline book by Dr. Sears and I also like Magic 1-2-3

I have an 18 m/o now.... What I learned is not to make a big deal out of the "no touch" items. Especially considering the babe has no idea why we are telling them they cannot touch, say, the electrical outlet or the stove knobs. It's probably too late, but I say, minimize the concern or the babe will inevitably be gravitated to it's no-ness more and continue testing you, as she should naturally do. Remember to keep your wits, as you are dealing with a precious darling, and be polite in your "no's". She will respond in kind, and if you are not, so will she. A huge tantrum, to me, often indicates other issues at hand, like need for food, drink, attention... Even with the hitting you must keep your wits and tune into your little one to "listen" or at least talk to her like you are listening. Sometimes a brief "time out" in her crib might be good to help collect your frustration and her temper. Maybe this helps.
I find that these little ones know what the limits are, or what they are just learning are the limits and they just test you. Freak-outs happen 'cuz they know you are standing your ground! It's natural. Your consistency is key.

No advice--we're having similar issues--but I've been reading the responses with intrest. Good luck!


My 19 mo is still throwing tantrums like this, but not as bad, and they don't last nearly as long. Every time she hits me or does something that gets a "No" she throws a fit and I just make a point to step over her and walk away. She doesn't like that I don't pay attention and stops. Keep that up and your daughter will do the same.

Best of luck!

I don't see how time out would help, agreeing with you - what does a 1 year old know about taking time out... right?!! With our son I used to immitate him by doing the exact same thing that the kid did. It was ridiculous, right? Well, that didn't work for him to see just how stupid I looked - what a waste of time! Pediatrician actually told my mother-in-law when she had the same issue with my husband while he was a kid (now we know where they get it) that you stand over them with the most serious face and say "is that the best you can do, that is pathetic" and just walk away. So, yes, they know you just saw them do the tantrum and you don't feel that it was quite good enough. It was less than a couple weeks when I tried this fashion and he stopped. He just was not doing it good enough for me!
Good luck!!

Hi -my pediatrician who is wonderful supports 1 minute time outs starting at a year. We have a play pen that we use. It only took a few times and my son listens so well now, he is 18 mths old...it gives us both a minute to stop and think, and then resume playing.

Hi L. - I do have a couple of thoughts... Most importantly, toddlers understand one word for every year of life - a one year old can comprehend one word, a two year old, two words, until they are fully comprehensive. Too many words - you've lost them.

So first, rather than use the word "no", replace it with the word "danger." One word, indicates safety - which we never compromise on...

It is the first word my daughter learned, and it is still serving her 11 years later - and will forever!

"No" can become difficult as you enter into the years of teaching your child self control and discipline. You will be saying that enough when it's the only word available!

Please child proof your house as much as you can, so you have to use the word no minimally. We gave our daughter the tupperware cabinet and the drawer under the stove. We never said no when she went to play there! And she did it a lot.

Also, completely IGNORE her temper tantrum. Don't even try to distract her. Just walk away. The tantrum is for you - it's meant ONLY to get your attention...

At this phase, and I hate to say it, but without knowing and using words you are more "training" your child than "teaching." Much like we train a dog (eeek! I can hear the intake of breath from Mom's everywhere...!)

But what I mean is, a dog will repeat whatever behavior gets them attention. Period. And so will a child. So it's time to teach her that good behavior gets the reward of attention, bad behavior (NEVER a bad child, only bad behavior) gets no attention, and we never compromise on the rules of safety.

A book? My bible was "Your Baby and Child" by Penelope Leach. It's birth to age 5 and is FULL of just this kind of practical advice... Run, do not walk, to your local bookstore!

Now is when you start teaching your child actions and consequences... some day she will be 13, 14, 15, 16!!

And enjoy her. In the blink of an eye, she will be too big for your lap and you will be buying her a little bra...

I do not have a good book recommendation, but I will speak of my experience. I have an almost 5 year old and twin 2 1/2 year olds. Each of them has gone through a phase of getting very upset upon hearing the word, "no". They seemed to take it personally. I found that having some set phrases that didn't have the word no, and finding something to redirect them with prevented a good number of the tantrums. (Not all, by any stretch.) ex. "Outlets are hot. Ouch." "Where's your teddy bear?" No is sometimes just necessary, such as when they decide to try to cross the road on their own, but I had to accept that if I used the word no, I would get a very upset child during these phases. Best of luck.

I have to recommend time outs. She is NOT too young! Our doctor suggested it at 12 months and we have been successfully using the method for a year now. It works like a charm. Normally it is one minute per year of age and you put them in the same spot (away from family, toys, distractions) and hold them there is you have to. I began with counting while holding my daughter by the stairs. She would cry and then finally calm down. After the 1-2 minutes, I would tell her why she had the time out and then ask her to do something, say "sorry" or put her oys away like she was asked, etc. Most importantly, we would end with a hug or something. Now that she is two and stronger, I normally turn her high chair around facing the wall to use for her 2-3 minutes. I do not speak to her once she is in time out and I think that bothers her the most.
My daughter has not turned to hitting yet, but she does throw herself on the floor and have tantrums. I walk around her as if I am oblivious and sometimes say, "Oh, is this a tantrum? Okay, just let me know when you are done..." and continue to walk on doing something busily. Once she started to realize the tantrum was not going to make me pick her up or fight her, it has helped. Now she sometimes begins one and then just lays there, thinking. It's kind-of funny. Just ignore her and see what happens.

I wish you the best! D.

Hello L., 'No worries' I sense many moms will connect with you on this one. :)

The most important thing is to: REMAIN CALM. Your voice should be strong and "containing' meaning you do not want to OVER REACT and bring fear or doubt or worry into your voice. You should NOT talk much during her tantrum. She will come to learn the special TONE in your voice...the one you use to establish 'Alpha' in the pack ;) Steady, low, firm, and to the point. Use a phrase such as "Stop. Not safe." There should be no 'temper' of YOURS (or your husband's) blended in your command. That is very important. Try and turn away and let her see your back as she tantrums. Give as little attention as it is safe to do so, while calmly but firmly offering a phrase such as 'UH UH. Stop please.' The second she takes a breath and 'stops' her tantrum behavior, turn to look at her, give her a positive HIGH voice paired with a phrase like 'nice stop!' Come immediately down to her level, and pat her hand. Get eye contact. Do NOT PICK HER UP until you have established she is finished with the 'tantrum' part. If she 'winds up again, move away from her, turn your back and begin again by stating "Uh Uh,Stop please" phrase, and repeat sequence until she 'communicates' 'all done' by taking a breath or whatever (:)) and then offer your presence once again. Before you pick her up, remember to ask 'all done angry cry?' or something like that, with your arms outstretched and when she puts her little arms out to you (without screaming or kicking) scoop her up with a BIG smile and with lots of enthusiasm. But then, and this is the other VERY important piece of the sequence...move on. Do NOT give ANY MORE ATTENTION to inappropriate behavior. The secret is to 'be in the moment' at all times. :) She should never be punished for being angry. Never. This is why I personally chose to identify feelings with my girls when they were younger. You DO want to teach her how to self-regulate the emotion, however, and I believe this is one way you can begin that process. There should NEVER be punishment of any sort connected to tantrums (or to expression of true anger,in my opinion.) Sooner or later she will connect with the calmness and intonation of your voice and begin to self-regulate her emotional self on her own. :) Since your little one seems to be showing earlier signs of frustration around communication, have you considered teaching her simple hand 'signs' for 'stop', 'more', 'want', 'please', etc? There are many books out there, or you could check online. Good luck and good parenting! Be Peace, N.

Rather than distracting her I would just ignore her. When my kids throw tantrums I usually just step over them and walk away. I will go keep busy with something. I just pretend not to see them and act as though all of the noise isn't even noticable. They will soon learn that their behavior is not getting them anywhere and will grow tired and bored of trying. I have four kids and I have learned that there is NO reasoning with a toddler. I know that distracting is very popular now, but I don't really understand that. If you really think about it, aren't we just dragging out the learning process? They have to learn what they are doing is not acceptable. If you distract them they are never really learning what is right and wrong. Tantrums are not fun! Just remember, you're the mom and always stay consistant. It is the hardest thing in the world, especially when giving in is SOOOO much easier. Good luck!

She isn't too young for time outs. You can give her a warning and then say, you are in time out and put her in a time out seat or place and have her sit there for a minute. The sooner you do this the better. I ask my now 20 month old son if he wants a time out and he says "no" and stops what he is doing. Time out have worked wonders for us. He does throw some temper tantrums but they are small and usually he just throws a toy, but he immediately goes to a time out. He even knows he has to sit there and be quiet. I usually make him count with me the last 10 seconds so that he knows he is almost done. Time outs work evet at one. You just have to be consistent.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.