Discipline for 17 Month Old

Updated on January 14, 2008
R.B. asks from Valley Village, CA
6 answers

I have a 17 month old girl who has become frustrated with her (just) three year old brother grabbing things from her. The result now is that she hits...and occasionally will bite. This behavior continues to be the way she is dealing with her frustration. Brother is structured for grabbing and she for hitting....but are there any other suggestions. Much, much appreciated.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi R.,
I agree with Brandis. I have a 5 year old daughter and a 17 month old boy. My daughter has the tendency to grab things from her little brother, especially when it's something that's hers. He'll get frustrated and because he's still learning to "use his words", he'll pull her hair, cry, push her, etc. My daughter then gets upset and sometimes will retaliate by pushing back. If I see what's happening I tell my oldest that it is not okay to grab things from her brother's hands and that she should ask for it nicely. She's old enough to understand that it's not right to do it. If my youngest one is doing it, I'll do the same thing. I'm sure he doesn't fully understand it, but eventually he will and also it shows my daughter that they're treated the same. She gets upset that he still doesn't listen, but it's then when I tell her that he's younger and doesn't understand, but that it's our job to teach him and show him what's the right thing to do and wrong thing to do. And if there's hitting or pulling of hair involved then I make them apologize. If your son is grabbing her things then maybe it's a way to get attention, so you have to step back and see if you're not spending enough one on one time with your son. I, too, have that tendency and I do have to make an effort to make sure that I set out some time with my daughter where I'm giving her my undivided attention.
I hope this helps. Good luck! And congrats on baby no. 3. Hope the rest of the pregnancy goes smoothly.

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answers from Los Angeles on

This is a complex problem. I agree with the previous post that I would focus on the older child not grabbing, but I can also see that you are, so I want to first suggest some strategies for him- you didn't state exactly what you do, but I have to tell you from five years of experience with three year olds in child care that time outs do not work for habitual offenses. If he is always taking things away you first have to look at why. The obvious answer is that he still may be a little resentful towards his younger sister. Make sure you are spending one on one time with him so he feels important. Secondly, make just a few of HIS toys (although I'm going to assume it is her toys he's snatching) totally off limits to her- not just things she can't have because she's too little, but things that are his favorites. Grown ups often try to force children to share, but think about your things. Would you share everything? Besides, sharing is difficult for even some three year olds to grasp. If he has a few things that he knows are "his" and that are "safe" from his little sister, he may be more likely to snatch. Thirdly, work on prevention. This requires a little more observation than most moms are able to give with all their other duties, but if you do it for a few days and really pay attention to the when, the how, the why, etc of his snatching things you may be able to step in before he grabs the toy. If you learn to read the signs and jump in before DO NOT scold him, he hasn't done anything yet. Very firmly (no please, no "okay?"- this is not a question) say "if you want sister's toy you need to ask her for it." or something like that. This does two things- it reminds him that you are watching, and it reminds him of the right thing to do. Lastly, if he does grab the toy, do not say no, do not put him in time out. Stand by him with a hand on his back or arm and firmly tell him to give the toy back to his sister, that we don't grab toys. Do this every single time and the problem will eventually stop, but you have to be vigilant, especially at first.

With your toddler- you have to be postive, simple, and firm. Avoid telling her "no." The same as the older child, you have to look at the what, why, etc. Obviously she is frustrated. If the older child takes the toy help her find the words before she has a chance to hit. Say "Sister doesn't like it when you take her toy." Then proceed to what I said to do with the older child. Hopefully if she sees you interveen on her side she will loose some of the frustration and not feel the need to hit. 95% of toddler frustration is based on their inability to express what they want or how they feel. Giving her the words or saying them for her will go a long way. Then, if she does hit, hold her hand (not if she tries to run away, obviously you never want to jerk on a toddler's hand) and say "ouch, hitting hurts- use your words with brother." I know I said not to say "no" to your toddler, but you can encourage her to say, even to yell "no" at her brother if it is a replacement for hitting.

Basic tips that will help with both kids:
-Never yell at them.
-Use positive language (tell them what TO do instead of what NOT to do)
-With any problem, think about whether there is a deeper issue.
-Make sure you have support.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

My one year old may hit when she is tired and/or not getting the attention she wants at the exact moment she wants it. At this point all I do is set her on the floor for a few moments and then she starts crying and I (re)iterate that she doesn't not hit mama or dada. And then I repeat it. I pick her up give her a big hug but then I say it again. At this point, it works but I have no advice how to work things between siblings.


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answers from Los Angeles on

I think I'd work on his grabbing, as much as her hitting. He is old enough to be sharing, or at least working on sharing, and if you remind him constanly, and put him in time out or take away said toy, he will learn, it just takes time. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

OK... If he is grabbing toys from her then she is mad about that. I would give her the toy back and tell him that he wont get hit or bit if he doesnt steal the toys. Have him give her a new toy if he wants the toy she has. Tell her no and its not nice, but at 17 months, those are really the only way she knows to show that she is mad and not ok with having toys taken away from her. My twins were biters, and it stoped as they got words to express how they felt, hope this helps.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi R.;

I raised four children aged 25 yrs daughter and married had daughter already, 21 yrs old son lived in NY and studied video and game designer,16 yrs old daughter in Junior College,14 yrs son freshman in high school. As a mother, you will needed to discipline your children because it is important that the children has to discipline and corrected them when they done something wrong. Grabbing and biting is not a good behavior. They needed to have a time out when they do things like that. If you don't stop them now, it will not stop and it will only getting worse later on in life especially if they started going to school. Especially your 3 yrs old son, he needed to be discipline already because pretty soon, he will go to Pre school, he will needed a lot of discipline and correcting his behavior. The 17 mths old daughter is young but biting also is not a good start of behavior toward her brother. You will needed to be their mother and set up rules and regulations. They needed to know what is right and wrong not only in our house but also when they started going outside the world. I hope this will help you. Take care and good luck.


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