30 answers

Such Thing as Discipline for a 15 Month Old?

Being new to this 'mothering' thing, I don't know when the appropriate time is to begin disciplining our son. In the future, I know that I will be doing the "supernanny" technique (put on time out, explain why they're there, a min for every year and then appology and kisses and hugs) but I think my son, Ethan, is a little too young for that technique right now. My main issue is the throwing things and screaming and a little bit of hitting he does when he's frusterated. I understand that he's testing his limits right now, especially due to lack of communication skills at this age, but is there anything that you might recommend to help steer away from the tantrums? Any advice will help.

Thank you!

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At this age, mostly redirection and explaining why he shouldn't behave that way. I suggest reading the Love and Logic Toddler book and try teaching him a few signs so that he isn't so frustrated with the lack of communication skills. Good luck!

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I've recently learned about Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. She has several books and one for birth - 3 years and another for toddlers. I have found her approach very workable.

Telling him no at this age is a start. Right now my 19 month old is doing the same thing. I tell her it isn't okay to scream and throw things down. Every time she does this kind of behavior I just repeat it. She is getting that it isn't okay to throw.

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I attend Positive Discipline meetings with our Mothers of Multiples club and I have received some great tips and tricks that worked for my children at the age your son is at.

We taught our children sign language to enable them to communicate with us sooner than verbal skills would allow them to. The improved communication definitely lessened the frustration on their part. (Sign language for simple words - which are all they know right now, are available on DVD with either Signing Time or Baby Signs).

When our children would throw a tantrum, I would say, "Oh, you're mad! You're mad, mad, mad!!" As I'm saying "mad", I would shake my head to emphasize the feeling. This would usually result in them cracking up...but, it gave them a word for what they were experiencing. I would also grab a piece of paper and a pen or crayon and tell them to show me how mad they were. I would put the pen or crayon to the paper and scribble while I said "mad, mad, mad!" It is completely disarming for them. They start to scribble, get the frustration out, and then move on.

As for the hitting, we did what Deann suggested. We would grab their hand (typically in mid-hit) and say "No hitting" firmly. We took it one step further and then while holding their hand, would gently stroke the person who was going to be hit and say, "We touch so-and-so gently." This doesn't work overnight...but, it definitely works.

Another solution is redirection. When he becomes frustrated or angry, simply take his hand and say, "Oh, look! What's this?!" Simple diversion works well in many cases, too.

I hope that some of this helps. Hang in there...as it is only a phase, and does get better in time!

~ L.

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At that age, I would mostly ignore the tantrums. As they say, reward POSITIVE behavior.

Your instincts sound pretty good. Listen to them.

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Sometimes people say "discipline" but think "punishment".
Discipline actually starts as soon as your child is born, because we are teachers ... which is what discipline is all about ... from the start. Your fifteen month old needs to learn right from wrong behavior, as well as safe vs. unsafe behavior. The 'Super Nanny' methods are not punishment, though the way the children react sometimes makes it appear to be. They are firm, gentle methods of getting across to the children that their behavior isn't appropriate and to teach them to behave in more appropriate ways. Time out doesn't mean a lot to a fifteen month old, but you can begin to get the concept across. If he throws something (usually a toy I presume) take it away, and talk to him about the behavior. If he throws a tantrum, give him a spot where he is to stay until he's finished. Time doesn't mean anything... and using a time frame even with an older child isn't productive.. but giving the child the idea that a change in behavior gets them out of 'time out' works. I say to a child something like, "you need to stay here until you're finished with your tantrum and ready to play nicely". If they get up and try to come back to the group while still screaming or acting out, I send them back to the tantrum spot and repeat the instruction. When they are ready to settle down and come back I say something like "are you ready to join us again?" I may also talk with the child about a better way to handle things in the future, giving him/her words to use. (This is one of the ways we can use to teach our children language too.) The idea is that we aren't punishing for inappropriate behavior, but helping the child to learn appropriate behavior and giving them a safe place (for themselves and others) to vent their anger and frustration when it's gone to that point.
As for preventing the tantrums in the first place, it is just a matter of being constantly alert. You don't want to 'rescue' him all the time, but you can see something beginning to lead to a tantrum and gently intervene with some suggestions in order to help him avoid frustration. Remember, this is a time when he is learning life skills that will need to last him for many years to come.

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Absolutley start disciplining him right now. Discipline means to teach, so that is what you do. You can put him on a special carpet and tell him why he is going there. Or, what worked for me was putting him on his bottom and telling him no. Then, of course, pouring praise into him when he does what you want. I wish I had started earlier with my son, as he is now 6 and I am working hard to break some hard habits.

Good luck.

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It looks like you've already gotten a lot of good advice here. I'll just add a couple of things--since my son is almost 2, I have a lot to say about temper tantrums.

For discipline, it helps to have an authentic bottom line phrase that very clearly communicates that a line has been crossed. For some people that is "Stop Now." For me that is "No Way." With throwing things, take whatever it is away, and say this isn't a throwing toy...or we don't throw food or we don't throw our cups...

And then (when he starts winding up to cry) I'll add, "I'm sorry you're upset, but you're just going to have to cry. It isn't going to change anything. You can't have cookies for breakfast." It is my response to crying demands for juice, cookies, toys that have been taken away because he is hitting me or the dog with them. When my son hears it, he knows that negotiations are over. It doesn't always stop him from continuing to be upset, but often it turns the crying from temper tantrum to disappointment.

In truly serious temper tantrums (maybe twice by 23 mos), I have taken him into his room and put him in the rocking chair and said, "When you're ready to be around other people come find me," leaving the door open and going into the next room. It works like a charm and has taught him that when he is very angry to go into his room and cool off. Last week, he got mad, ran to his room, and slammed the door and I thought wow, that is starting much sooner than I thought it would. But it allowed him to express his feelings in a more socially acceptable way than lying on the floor crying or hitting.

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At this age, mostly redirection and explaining why he shouldn't behave that way. I suggest reading the Love and Logic Toddler book and try teaching him a few signs so that he isn't so frustrated with the lack of communication skills. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Redirection and telling him no and why you don't do something. I also recommend "Happiest Toddler on the Block", the DVD so you can see him use the techniques. It helps you communicate with them in a way that they understand. He compares them to little cavemen because they act purely on emotion and don't have the skills to properly communicate so they resort to fits or bitting or hitting. If you son doesn't have much of a vocabulary, it's a great and easy resource and tool.

Good luck, this like all phases will pass with the right amount of love and support from you.


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I certainly think it possible to discipline a 15 month old, for the behaviors you describe. I think the time out approach, as you said, might be too much at that age. But when he hits you can gently move his hand/arm down and say "no" in a firm voice and with a facial expression that show your disapproval. For throwing things you can say "no throwing" and put the item away out of reach. My children are now 21 and 11 years old, but for me what worked for tantrums when they were little is to give them as little attention as possible and even walk away when possible. Working in a field of behavior modification, I can tell you the behaviors that will be repeated are the ones that work for the child. So if there is behavior you are seeing that you do not want to be repeated then make sure that behavior does not get a pay off for it. It is also important to realize that at 15 months old your child understands more than he can verbalize, so don't hesitate to talk to him in sentences, such as "no, we don't throw things" Comprehension is a part of language development and usually occurs sooner than verbal skills. I have known people that feel you cannot discipline a child at all until after the age of two, but in my experience what you get then is 2 years of bad behaviors that will need to be un-done.

Hi H.,

I think the most important thing for your son to know, is that you are serious when you say "NO, don't throw!"

Up until this point, everything he's done has been "cute" and "harmless", and he's probably gotten a reaction (probably laughter) of some kind off of his "cute" behavior. Well, it sounds like you're at the point where it's not so "cute" anymore! At 15mos. he is looking for the reaction to his beavior. So, let's make it count!

At his age, a really firm voice with eye contact should work just fine. Of course it might takes 50 times before he catches on that you're serious :O) As new moms, we are always afraid to raise our voice to a baby, but having a "serious" voice to our baby is just fine. I wouldn't yell though. Timeouts will work when he's older, but not now.

Be consistent! Your parenting skills are being "built" during this time, so let him know that you mean "business" right now at 15 mos. This will get you off to a good start.

Good luck!

~N. :O)

Telling him no at this age is a start. Right now my 19 month old is doing the same thing. I tell her it isn't okay to scream and throw things down. Every time she does this kind of behavior I just repeat it. She is getting that it isn't okay to throw.

Start discipling now. Use the word "no",get to his eye level, and tell him that is not acceptable. Ignore the tantrum meaning if he is in a safe place, then walk away and leave him there. Once he is not getting any attention, he will stop. He is old enough to have his behavior corrected. Good luck.

My husband and I started time outs when our son was 16 mos old. We used the naughty chair. Recently (our son is now 3), the naughty chair time outs were beginning to be ineffective, so we are going with the Magic 123 method time outs. It seems to be working.

We started VERY short timeouts at 16 months for just that sort of behavior and it nipped it in the bud. We put him in his crib for timeouts (1 minute using a timer). He is now 20 months old and is no longer hitting but still occasionally throws toys. He seems to understand the concept and his behavior has improved.

A couple of things, get down to his level and tell him no and why it is no. Then try redirection. Get his attention focused on something else. This worked really well for my little ones. Depending on the situation, I sometimes just let him throw a tantrum. If they throw things I catch it and they lose it til they are good again. Hitting, he will outgrow, but just keep telling him no and get down to his level and talk to him. He may not be able to tell you why he is upset/frusterated in words, but actions do speak louder for both of you. Good luck


If you wait to discipline your son until you think he is ready, it will be that much harder for you. Children catch on much earlier than a lot of people give them credit. Your son probably knows it is wrong to throw things and have tantrums, but you have to stop it now.

I have been putting my kids on time out since they were walking. Before then, we just steered them clear of things they were not to touch. At first, you may have to hold him on your lap for the minute he is on time out. I recommend holding the arms as soon as he realizes that he can hit you. Then, when you are done, you can ask him to show you what he wants. This works great when they haven't started talking. I would take my son by his hand and tell him to show mommy what he wants. Then, most of the time he would take me to the sink for water or the toy box for the toy he couldn't reach.

Discipline does not have to be harsh and I do not agree that you should apologize for punishing bad behavior. (I do not watch Supernanny, but my kids do not have issues with throwing things or tantrums because we stopped it early.


I've recently learned about Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. She has several books and one for birth - 3 years and another for toddlers. I have found her approach very workable.

Hi H.,
I have just the thing you need. It's been proven time after time. A good swat on the behind. Yes he's testing his boundaries. Show him where they are now and teach him how to deal with authority now, or you're going to have huge problems on down the line. God bless.

If you think it's appropriate for your child you can try a time-out in his crib. We used this method for a couple of behaviors that we found unacceptable. They don't have to understand much for this method -- basically that can't do X and when they do, they will go in their crib for a time-out.

When out of the home we used "going bye-bye" instead. We said "if you do X (throw sand, hit, throw a tantrum, whatever), we go bye-bye." If he did it again, no matter how inconvenient, we left. He got it fast. The biggest thing is don't threaten to "go bye-bye" unless you can follow through, otherwise they learn to call your bluff.

Only you know how much your son understands at 15 mos. With my kids they got the basics enough to use this technique. To keep it simple and understandable, there were only a few behaviors we used it for (throwing tantrums was the main one), and only 2 undesirable outcomes (time-out in crib and "going bye-bye").

Good luck!

Most of the time throwing things is just there way to express themselves or test the laws of gravity :). i am not sure why people get so worked up about throwing something. as long as it is not at anyone or something breakable or food for that matter, who cares. i also usually ignore tantrums after explaining why x, y or z is happening and then move on. that usually ends it at this age. i sometimes think when you pay TOO much attention to a behavior the behavior becomes more frequent. i don't ignore hitting by any means but throwing something or hitting the floor, not a big one on my radar. good luck, this age can be tricky!

You have to start with your tone of your voice right now. When he screams and hits or throw things you have to say in a stern voice, "mom will not accept that behavior." I used to tell my son that we will not go outside and play or go to the park if he is going to use that tone with me etc. And of course he would yell "no mommy I want to go to the Park" and I would say "then change your tone and stop yelling and let's go pack up your park toys" and after doing this repetitively he stopped. Also as he got older I would always say, don't talk to me that way, I am your mommy, not one of your friends so he would always know the difference. I never yelled it, I just wanted to make sure he always saw me in a respectful role. You have to set that tone early on. Now, he is a loving 8 year old and gives me lots of hugs and kisses all the time!! Good luck!

I know not everyone agrees, but I believe properly done spanking is appropriate at this age. My son is 22 months now, and only in the last 1-2 months has he been able to understand the timeout concept. We started with the spanking right about 15 months. If he did something wrong, I would tell him no and make sure he understood what I wanted. For those times when he would look me in the eye, grin, and do it again, he would get a little swat on the hand or the leg. I would tell him why he got the spanking "You get a spanking when you don't listen to mommy," or whatever, then give lots of hugs and kisses. Honestly I don't think it even hurt that much, but knowing he was in trouble did the trick. He is a very obedient & happy little boy and we get lots of compliments on his behavior. (Although now that 2 is approaching he is spending more time in the timeout chair!) I would highly recommend the book "Dare to Disciline" by Dr. James Dobson. It's so important to establish your authority as a parent when they're young. They need discipline and consistency...sometimes if I decide to "give him a break" and not discipline him because I know he's tired or something he will actually ask to go to timeout! Crazy! Anyway, good luck to you! It gets easier :)

All of my children and grandchildren are the same. In case of hitting I told them all "ouch that hurts" then showed them NICE by holding their wrist and gliding it on the hand of the person hit while saying NICE slowly. After a while they will learn the appropriate behavior.

I found that my daughters got rough around this age, too. If you are holding him and he hits or gets rough, put him down. Say "ouch" and "no hitting". For throwing, I made sure we had a few balls. If something was thrown that wasn't a ball, we'd redirect and say "We don't throw that. We throw balls." Then we throw the balls around. I started time outs around 2 with my oldest and 20 months with my youngest. My youngest actually started putting herself in timeout when my oldest was in timeout. She thought it was fun. Eventually she discovered that timeouts had a reason. I don't use "love and logic" techniques except for one that I was told about. It works pretty good. Say "Uh Oh. So sad" in a sweet or silly voice. It cuts down on your anger and cues them on changing their behavior. If you get to the end of the phrase, use time outs. Be consistant. Now I rarely get to at the end of the phrase before behavior changes. My youngest just turned 2 and my oldest is 4.5.

Good luck!

Start now. He understands no and cause/effect. If he throws, hits, etc. tell him no. If he does it again, remove him from the situation. Be consistent. He'll test you when you don't want to be tested for sure.

He is at the right age to start grasping the concept that when he isn't being sweet no one wants to be around him so start giving him time outs in his room or just walk away from his tantrums. Just remember to stay calm through any of you discipline measures so he isn't doing things to get a reaction.

You can teach him "No!" and get up and leave the room when he has a tantrum so he doesn't win your attention with bad behavior. For hitting - hold his hand firmly so he can't move and say "No hitting!" very firmly and then leave the room or turn your back so he knows you aren't pleased.
We started time outs at 18 months for our son. Made him sit on the bottom stair where we could hear him but he couldn't see TV, toys or us for 90 seconds ( 1 minute per year). We also picked him up and left when we were out shopping, etc. if he misbehaved. We got a lot of dinners to go for a while! Stick to your guns, be patient and consistent. You've only got 17 years left - hang in there ;)

He's not to young...get on it ;-) Also, look into Love and Logic Magic: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Logic-Magic-Early-Childhood/dp...

It's NEVER too young to start teaching them appropriate behavior.

For screaming and temper tantrums my kids went in their rooms with the door shut until they stopped. I very calmly said "That's not acceptable and I don't want to hear it. When you want to talk to me you can come out" They might not have had a full vocabulary at 15 months but they still could communicate with some basic words that didn't involve screaming.

Hitting and throwing things got them a time out in their playpen with NO TOYS to play with. And any toys they threw got taken away and put up where they could see it but not reach it for the rest of the day. We had one day with my oldest that he decided to see just how many toys I'd let him go without. My entire kitchen counter was covered with toys he'd thrown that day. By the end of the day he had NONE of his favorite toys to play with. The throwing things became a very rare thing after that.

And I hope you mean HE'LL be appologizing for HIS behavior not you appologizing for disciplining him.

A really good guide on discipline is Without Spanking or Spoiling: A Practical Approach to Toddler and Preschool Guidance. At 15 months all behavior is some sort of communication. "Pay attention to me", "I'm not happy" I want something, etc etc. Look at what your responses are and see what sort of "payoff" he is getting for that sort of behavior. If he does something wrong and you drop everything and attend to him you are rewarding the very behavior you want to eliminate.
You also want to really pay attention to catching him in the act of doing something good, being kind, waiting nicely, sharing, using good manners, etc. The more you can catch him doing that stuff and give him attention for those things the better.

By all means! At an even younger age they quickly learn the meaning of a firm "no." It'll make it easier for you later!

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