18 Month Old Testing Me with Her Behavior

Updated on April 14, 2008
T.G. asks from Fishers, IN
11 answers

I am a SAHM and have 1 child, an 18 month old daughter, who is wonderful. She is still a baby, I know, but she knows what "no" means and some things she is not supposed to do such as pull on the blinds, climb on the dining room chairs, and throw her cup. She will do these things and look at me with this little "what you gonna do about it" smirk on her face! She gets time outs for discipline, but I don't think they are very effective yet. It's like she is too young to know better and I should still just stick to distracting her from these activities, but at the same time she obviously knows they are wrong and is testing me. Also, she makes EVERYTHING a fight! She has always fought going to bed, she finally goes at night without a fight but naps are a nightmare. She also fights getting dressed, washing her hair, getting in her carseat, and is very impatient while waiting for me to fix her meals. I guess all I need to know is that it is just her age making her a monster at times and that I am not doing something wrong! Let me know if you have any advice for me or at least let me know this is normal and I will be happy to work on ways to help her work it out.

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answers from Indianapolis on

my 18 month old niece is at my house every day. I fight with her on the same things. She does know what no means. I think you just have to be patient, and be consistent. My kids did not fight me on everything like she does. She is testing her limits, so if you are consistent in the "punishment" then it will eventually get easier.
good luck

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answers from Indianapolis on

All you have described is normal.....welcome to parenthood!
Just stick to your guns and don't fail the "tests"!
Children want boundaries and limits and it is their job to test them.



answers from Lafayette on

I just want to say my 18 month old girl is the same way right now. I can't keep her out of the fridge, plant soil, DVD's, the list goes on and on. Mine also give me the what are you going to do about it look. I try finding something else for her to do but she remembers what she was doing once she is done with whatever else I gave her to do. When I am cooking she stands near me and screams the whole time. I have started puting her in her boster at the table while I cook and give her something to eat (like some fruit) or something to play with. I think this got better when we went from the highchair to the boster that straps to the chair and still has straps for her. We also got her a mat to keep her plate on so the table stays a bit cleaner. Good luck this mom thing is harder than I ever thought it would be.



answers from Indianapolis on

They can be trying at that age! It's normal for them to "test" you and everything else. They have just grown into a stage where they are beginning to understand that they exist outside of the relationship with you. In the process the are always testing limits. They need to in order to master their little worlds.

My suggestion is that you try to understand that as they develop a sense of mastery, they will become more confident. Think of the tests as a declaration of independence. It isn't until about 4 to 6 years old that children really get to the point where they can consider other's points of view.

As far a discipline goes, distraction and changing the environment is probably best at this stage. They don't have much in the way of long term memory, so time outs and such only upset them (they don't draw a very clear connection between behavior and the punishment). It's also important to note that they need you to guide them and help them to keep from getting upset so that they learn that the world is a safe place. That will pay dividends later when they get older because they will be calmer and more self disciplined (again starting at 4 to 6 years).

Best wishes mom,




answers from Indianapolis on

My kids are older now, but yes it is an age thing and a testing you out thing as well. They do know better, but yet you have to keep in mind that she is only 18 months and they quickly forget as well. I've always told people it's harder to be a disciplinarian than too just let your kids "run wild." It's very hard to stay consistent all the time, but keep in mind kids need consistency and rules or they don't know what to do with themselves. Good luck!!!!!



answers from Columbus on

Hi T.. It's a great thing to hear that what your daughter is doing is normal but at the same time it can be incredibly frustrating. She is testing limits and learning how what she does affects her situation to get what she wants. That being said, my method of coping when my daughters were younger (and will be with my son when he reaches that age) involved a lot of redirection and giving them opportunities to be helpful.

If getting dressed is difficult and you're not going anywhere, have a stash of "dress-up" clothes that she can have fun putting on and then let her start choosing what she wants to wear of her regular clothing. Giving them some control always seems to help and little girls have such wonderful clothing choices (one of my daughters' favorites involved pink rainboots, a green tutu and a knit snow cap all year long) and is a delight to watch (those times won't last long...take lots of pictures).

In the kitchen, find a little toy bin and place play food and play kitchen utensils (pots, pans, spatula, whisk, plastic knife, plate, empty spice containers, etc.) in it that she can use to "cook" with you while you prepare her food. I would scoot a chair (some websites even sell special stools you can purchase for this purpose) up to the counter next to me. That was the best technique to curb my oldest's impatience when she was hungry. Also, having a few finger foods that she can have a few bites of already prepared and waiting in the fridge to "stave off the hunger beast" always helped. I kept cut up fruit and veggies and cheese cubes handy. Place a few pieces in a bowl next to her play kitchen stuff so she can munch a bit while she "cooks" with you. Most of the time my daughter would be having so much fun with me that she didn't have but a few bites of her "appetizers."

I always kept a stash of special toys in the car for the girls that they could only play with in the car. If your car has a dvd player, a favorite dvd that they only watch in the car is good for this too.

If you need some other ideas, please message me. I've actually got a small folder filled with them. Good luck!



answers from Columbus on

Hey T.!

This is very typical 18 month old behavior for a child with her kind of temperament. Some kids are demanding and test limits, and some don't (and everything in between.) At 18 months, they may know what you said last time about the blinds or the dirt, but they do not generalize that to the next time until much later in thier development (3 to 4 years.) They are in the here and now developmentally. You just have to contine to tell her until she makes that developmental leap to generalize what she knows.

Kids come hard wired to be one way or another, which is not to say that you should not continue to be firm with her, try to distract the unwanted behavior, and use conistancy with her to try to guide her actions to those that are more in line with yours, but there is nothing you can do to move her development along any faster than it is.

As she ages you will learn how to handle this better, and so will she, but she will always have her basic personality, what ever it is. Your next child may be the polar oposite, it is really nothing you have done or not done. All you can do is to stay consistant, plan ahead for her outbursts and be loving, kind, and patient.

Good luck, one day it will be better.




answers from Indianapolis on

I think it is the age and temperment. My son is just the same! I have noticed that he is worse when he is teething. He is 22 months old and not grown out of it, but it isn't always like that. Hang in there! As I am always told, whatever it is they are doing to drive you crazy at the moment... it is just a phase!!



answers from Indianapolis on

It sounds like your daughter is great! She's age appropriate and that's always nice to hear. Something that worked with me when I was teaching was to use pictures. It's called PECS. But you can do it at home. Cut out little pictures of things you consistently do, ie: eat, bath, sleep, etc... and glue them onto square paper. Then cover both sides with contact paper and prepare her for what is coming up next. Children often hate change, like the rest of us and by giving her advanced notice, she might transition easier to the next thing in the day. By starting now, you will prepare her to anticipate what is next and not be frantic when things change. You can start saying things like "in five minutes, we're going to clean up and take a bath." Show her a picture of cleaning up and then of a bath as you tell her this. You can even let her hold these pictures as you walk to the bathroom or wherever. Keep them simple at this point in time. Remember a few pictures are enough at a time. As she gets a bit older, you can begin doing sequencing and lining up her day with pictures she can remove as she finishes the things. If you want more information about this, let me know and I can further explain the process. Good luck, and be patient! She likes to know that you're consistent! It makes her feel safe!




answers from Indianapolis on

Sounds to me like she is starting the "terrible two's." One thing you must remember.....each thing that drives you crazy and makes you happiest...is a PHASE, and it will pass, while something else takes it's place. As soon as you adjust to it, it has alread passed.

When she is testing you, try not to react as you want to. She will begin to look for that negative reaction. Make the consequences unpleasant and something she can count on. Always forllow though with your "threats." I firmly believe that you can talk to them and explain what is acceptable and what is UNacceptable and why, and what happens when the acceptable happens versus the UNacceptable. YOu can let her know that having her sippy cup in her possession is a priveledge and you can just take it away if she isn't ready to be a big girl and take care of it without throwing it. She will see a pattern.

As far as naptime, set the mood, and keep it consistant from day to day. Lights low, TV turned off, lullaby CD turns on, you can rock her an denjoy some one on one cuddle time for a limited time (5 minutes) while communicating that she has 5 minutes until she must lie down. Then it is time to lay her down. I think that if they know what to expect, they can cope with it and begin following the expected routine. Always communicate. Children understand more than you think. Also, you must be relaxed for her to relax. I hope you have a few good lullaby CDs. If not I recommend "Brahms- A Sleepytime Serenade" and "Parents- lullaby." I listen to them still, and mine is 6 now. Just good orchestra- piano and violin music.

Good luck and enjoy the phases that sometimes don't last long enough! ;)




answers from Cleveland on

It sounds like my 20 month old lives with you. I feel like you do. I have been trying to do the time outs for 1 minute and he has been testing me with getting up and running but I put him right back and basically it is distracting him just enough to stop the behavior he was doing, to move on to something else. He has alot of energy but if we are very active outdoors I get less of a strugle inside. Maybe a class at the little gym to let her run around and use all of that energy. We are going again this summer.

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