Ideas for Strong Will 17 Month Old Boy

Updated on March 07, 2008
M.M. asks from Crowley, TX
28 answers

Hello Moms,

I am looking for advice on my 17 month old son. His brother is 5 and of course they are very different so I don't have much experience on this. So my 17 month old is very smart but he is quite a handful. He loves to do exactly what I tell him not to do. I know this is normal as this age so sometimes it's no problem. But he pulls hair every chance he gets. When I tell him "No hair pulling" or "Hurts bubba" he just does it more and with more intensity. I have tried telling him no as above, slapping his hand lightly and telling him no that hurts, and also spanked him lightly. But that is not working. I know that hitting and pushing is right around the corner. He is also into everything like my files, the clothes drawers, and the toilet. I know I can latch the drawers and the toilet but I am looking for other ways if there are any to help him understand what no means. What kind of advice/tips/techniques can you give me in this area? What have you done with your children to teach them and discipline them? Is it too early for a time out? If not, how would I do that because he is the child who will not sit there for sure. He is also a jumper. He gets on tables and chairs and tries to jump/fly off. He is always bruised and banged up. He has no fear. He likes to sit in the toy box not just get a couple of toys out. He rather get in, throw out all the toys then jump out and move on to the next thing he can find. I don't want to restrict him too much because I know exploring is how they learn but I am always picking up and cleaning up after him. I am also worried about him getting hurt. Just when I think I have the house child proof he finds something else to tear up. I am sure some of you have had children like this. What did you do? How did you protect them yet give them room to be creative and have fun? My oldest son was and still is very cautious and never did any of these things. It's so funny how kids are so different. Thanks for your help Have a great weekend.

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L.T.

answers from Dallas on

I have read a wonderful book called Parenting with Love and Logic. It has lots of different suggestions etc. It might be of help to you.

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G.S.

answers from Dallas on

I believe in bottom spankings as a method of discipline, and it is more effective for some children than others. In my experience, it will not work if it is done the wrong way - it needs to get their attention. This may be one way of indicating you mean business when you say no, don't, or whatever you say. If he is not taught to comply on the spot, what guarantees that he will comply when it is a matter of life or death?

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H.D.

answers from Dallas on

I am in a similar situation with my 21 month old boy. I use redirection as much as possible when he is hitting or throwing things at me, his brother or the dogs and time outs on occasion. He doesn't even cry when I put him on the time out spot and then move to another room where he can't see me. I'm in trouble, I know! He will climb off the spot, but I put him back for a few more seconds and then end it. It is amazing how different two children with the same parents and upbringing can be! I feel like I'm having to learn all over again! Best of luck. hd

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C.F.

answers from Dallas on

Your son sounds like my 13 mo old! I deffinitely don't have all the answers but I can tell you we have been doing time out in the crib since he was 10 mos (already walking and talking!) and it is the only thing that has worked. I read so many places he was too young to disciple. But I totally agree with the person who said he is probably acting this way because he is highly intelligent. The whole world is an experiment and test of limits and a brains that goes non-stop is taking in a lot. My first attempt at discipline was a hand slap and firm "NO" to which I received hysterical laughter. I thought okay I wasn't hard enough, next time a really hard slap on the hand and firm NO. Again HYSTERICAL laughter. So I gave up on that , maybe he has a high pain tolerance who knows. Then the biting started around 10 -11 mos. My mom said bite him back. You guessed it hysterical laughter! I tried harder and harder - it bacame a game for him. Finally I bit him REALLY hard he looked confused and started screaming. 20 mins later he had a big bite bruise on his arm. I felt like a horrible mother. Oh yeah and he kept biting! So I decided time out (I really thought he would be too young to understand). I would say "no biting or you go in time out for 2 minutes" as a warning. Then if he did it again I would say "no biting now you have to go in timeout for 2 minutes" and I put hi, in and explain to him why he was in the crib. 2 minutes later I come back and explain why he was in time out and get a big hug. It has worked to stop biting, food throwing, outlet touching, and pulling the cat's tail. I try to not over do it and ussually a simple no works, but he is non-stop with no fear and time out is one thing he understands and does not like. I really think he is just very intelligent and very experimental with the world around him. I know I will be explaining why he can't do things in no time. maybe you should plan activities he can do to have a controlled creative outlet, and have a scheduled outdoor time, art time, music time or something everyday. I have started doing this with our 13 month old (I can't believe I am planning daily activities with such a young child) but it has really helped cut back on the search and emty throughout the house. We play music, go outside and maybe draw in a day. All the acttivity keeps him busy and he doesn't seem to get into everything as much now. I really think he will be reading early, and doing math early. He has a really busy brain. Hope that helps.

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S.D.

answers from Dallas on

My almost 4 year old son was just like yours at that age. Your boy is wired a little different than most kids, but do not let that discourage you!

When my son was that age and he misbehaved I would do a little time out, we had the big playpen set in the living room and if he was disobeying we would set the kitchen timer for 1 minute 30 seconds and place him in the playpen which he didn't like, and then when it was over we would tell him not to do whatever it was that got him there, again. When your son makes good choices shower him with hugs and kisses or give high fives. Stay consistent on discipline, but I am sure you already are. I am very consistent and my son still decides what he wants in that moment (good or bad) is worth any consequence that will follow. He isn't a people pleaser either. There will be judgemental parents out there with no experience with strong willed children, so just ignore them.

That's all you can really do, but I would save the spankings for those occassions he is about to put himself or others in danger. I have heard that "Love and Logic" is an effective parenting method and I am about to buy that book so I can find good tips to use for my son. I read "Strong Willed Child" by Dr. James Dobson but in my opinion it didn't offer me any new solutions.

Good luck!

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J.N.

answers from Lubbock on

Dear M.:

This isn't great advice, but I hope it helps anyway. I have a 16 year old son who sounds much like your son when he was that age. He would simply not conform to my will or anyone elses will either. He was very smart and active.

I found that the only true "fix" was teaching him not only what to do, but why he should do it. It takes time, and the pre-school years or tough, but it WILL pay off. Time out is not a bad idea if your child understands why he is being put in time out, it can be a learning tool.

Now my son is now an awesome kid who is a true leader. He understands WHY he should make good choices and always looks to the future. Just like I could not sway him, his peers cannot sway him.

All the activity stimulated his brain - he started reading at age 2 (good activities with you ,like reading may wear you out, but keep him out of trouble). He is now a 4. student taking all Pre-AP classes.

Even though he had to be taught social skills (he also pulled hair and even ripped my earings out). He did learn to treat people with kindness. He is even a class officer at his school.

All of the physical activity will lead to a strong, healthy body. Encourage large motor activity especially in the morning to channel his energy. It takes time, but it is really an investment in a happier family. (My son is on Varsity in 2 sports as a sophomore)

My son was eventually diagnosed with several things. I am not saying that your son will ever be diagnosed with any of these (Tourettes syndrome, ADHD, and a IQ that indicates giftedness). I am just mentioning these things because each child is different and people made me feel so bad because my child would not conform. Some children are just different. I have come to believe that each thing that is unique about your child leads to an equal number of blessings and challenges. For example, gifted children are more challenging to raise, and children with Tourettes Syndrome tend to have athletic ability and compassion.

E-mail me @ [email protected]____.com if I can help you in anyu way. Good luck and take care of yourself - chin up!

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N.L.

answers from Dallas on

Hi. We've had the exact same issues with our now three-year old boy. Do NOT hit, attack his character, or show aggression toward him in anyway (verbal or physical) - not even slapping the hand. Praise, praise praise any remotely good behavior. Talk often and in front of him and to him about how good is he, how helpful, how gentle, how you love him and how proud you are of him. Get social support to step in to care of him when he has exhausted you - and he WILL! Give him lots of attention and play with him often, with and without brother. Talk about how much brother loves him. Have brother model gentle behavior. Be firm in your voice when he breaks a rule or is rough. Remove him from the fun when he hurts someone (natural consequence for hurting someone is to deny them access to the person he hurt for a while and all the fun that's associated with what he was doing at the timei). This is sort of like a time-out but he is still a little young to really get "time-out." Ignore any bad behavior you can that is not hurtful. Read LOVE and LOGIC - it's all about natural consequences, which all kids can get, regardless of age. I'm a psychologist and have been totally at my wits end with my son, who is sandwiched between a 5 year old girl and a 1 year old girl. It is very tough, and I have lost it with him on more than one occasion, which just exacerbated his behavior. So, what ever you do, do NOT hit or demean him in anyway. Just remember that this too shall pass. Get as much relief as you can -including mother's day out a day or so a week so you can recharge and gain perspective. If used consistently, expect this approach to take 6-weeks to longer than a month to exact behavior change. But, some little progress can be seen immediately. Also, this is likely just his personality - very assertive and strong-willed. Also a good indicator of how bright he is. I finally had my son evaluated because I was afraid he had some type of mental disorder. Nope, the conclusion was just that he is "very, very, very bright." Bright kids see the loop holes in any consequence and are "very difficult to parent." It's a blessing and a curse - well, children are all blessings, regardless of their personality make-ups. Just try to enjoy him for his uniqueness. Good luck!

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L.J.

answers from Dallas on

What has always worked for me, in both my teaching career and in parenting, is the Love and Logic system of discipline. It's really basic common sense, but all put together in an way that's user-friendly and easy to use. In a nutshell, it's a way to teach your kids to make good choices, teach them that there are always consequences for bad choices, and keep your sanity in the process. I've used it with my 2 kids from birth up (and my husband for nearly 8 years), and it has really been a lifesaver for us. For example, I can't tolerate toys in the kitchen. Whenever my 2-year old would leave a toy on the floor there all I'd have to say was, "Uh-oh. Don't worry, Mr. Tricycle. I'll take care of you in a minute...", because my son knew that "I'll take care of it" means he won't like what I do--put the trike in the garage for a day or two. Basically, he has a hissy fit the first time I follow through on something like that, but he remembers how it felt to have it taken away and is quick to rescue his toys now when he hears my, "uh-oh."

That's a simple example, and I know that you don't have a simple problem with your son. But if that type of parenting appeals to you (the kind where you stay a mental step ahead of your kid, decide on your limits, and teach them to make good decisions so that they can stay within your limits), feel free to contact me or check out their website: www.loveandlogic.com. You might be especially interested in the book "Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood". All the best to you in your parenting endeavors--it's tough stuff sometimes!

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A.M.

answers from Dallas on

Your youngest sounds like an average toddler boy. My son was this way as well as all of my nephews (there are 8) and my friends boys too. It sounds like your oldest is more the exception to the rule. No wonder you are having a hard time. It is like having your first boy! LOL. I think distration and redirection work well at that age. Also really praise him when he plays gently with his brother or helps you clean up toys. In other words give him a lot more attention and interaction when he behaves in a way you want. Toddlers LOVE attention as I'm sure you know. Partly, he keeps doing the negative behaviors even though he gets a negative consequence because he is getting some payoff for (probably the attention). The other part is he just isn't old enough to really connect one behavior with the consequence. He's too busy going on his little adventures Mom ! YOu can try time-outs, but I have my doubts that they really work on kids his age and especially in combination with his personality. You will probably end up having to practically sit on him to get him to stay in time out. I found time outs to not be very effective for my son until 2.5 or 3 yrs. old. He will be 5 in June and he still does time outs, they've just evolved over time into standing facing the corner or mini-groundings to his room where he can't watch tv, play outside or play with others (this is hard for him-he hates being "grounded"!). Thank goodness that "this too shall pass" applies here. Good luck and hang in there!

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J.S.

answers from Abilene on

Sounds like he is bored and needs more one on one time... not neccessarily more rules. Get him outside to run around as much as possible. Let him make messes out there.

Water, sandbox etc....

Toddlerwise is a GREAT book on addressing this subject. It is a short easy read that will change your life

Good luch

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L.B.

answers from Dallas on

Dare to Discipline and The Strong Willed Child won't do it. You need a book entitled "Back in Control." And, believe me, if you don't get control now, you are in for a hard ride when this child reaches his teens. Been there.

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W.W.

answers from Tyler on

I am a foster parent, and I don't think I have yet to get a child who wasn't strong willed. I agree with the time-out suggestion. I have a 20 month old who I have put in time-out. I have to use a crib or playpen or high chair because he won't stay sitting on the floor. We've been using time-out for about 4 months, and he's getting the picture. I can ask "Do you want time-out?" and he'll stop. We also use what we call "Gentle Touch" with him. He was really bad about slapping at my 3 and 5 year old, so I started taking his hand and stroking their faces gently while repeating "gentle touch". Now I'll hear the little ones doing this with him, and he generally responds well. Having a strong will is a good thing...we just want it shaped in the right direction. :)

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P.R.

answers from Dallas on

I don't really have a lot of advise other than just to stay calm and be consistant in whatever you decide to do, but your msg sounds so much like my house. I have 4 kids, but the two youngest are 4 and 16 month boys and their dispositions are exactly like you explained. Good Luck!

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T.H.

answers from Abilene on

M.,

My youngest is ten and I have three children. I know what your going thru. My advice is to be sure and really praise him when he is treating brother right. I mean high fives and everything. When he sees the opposite negitive response, trust me he'll want the better of the two. I also told the one who was getting hurt how sorry I am that he got hurt and really showed emotion. This will also help teach the little one compasion to others. Hang is there girl your doing a great job.

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S.A.

answers from Dallas on

he sounds just like my 2yr old daughter!!! except she bites instead of pulls hair. I put her in time out and (doctor says 1 min for every year of age is the max) but she gives me the "whatever" look and refuses to say sorry. I have started this and so far is it working... I tell her to stop once - if she ignores me I tell her 1 more time louder - if she still ignores me I say "mommy is counting to 3 then she is going to pick a baby (or toy) and throw it in the trash... start counting.... if she is still ignoring me i go get a baby and tell her "you should have listened"...I then "pretend" to throw the toy away (I am not crazy to throw away money). the toy stays hidden for 1 month. then I will come home from the store with the toy in a bag (if she has been good) and tell her I got her another one for being a good girl. She is getting to where she will respond on the second correction, I am hoping to get it to the point of stopping on the first.
hope this helps!

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R.E.

answers from Dallas on

I am taking a course called Love and Logic and am trying to follow it with my 2 year old son. Tell your child no and if he stills continues, Come up with a phrase as "Uh-Oh" and take your child to his room, crib, play pen etc. Pretty soon he knows that Uh-Oh means going to his room and that he can't be around family/friends with bad behavior. Hard part be consistant :) Good Luck!

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A.Y.

answers from Dallas on

Hi M.
Ok..I'm a grandmom of 2 and one is now 14 so he survived me being his grandma. He is ADHD and was just as rambunctious as your 17 month old believe me. Hair pulling...Pull his hair back just as long and hard as he does. Telling him it hurts and showing it hurts are 2 different things at that age. I had 3. Restrict him! If he don't learn the rules he won't ever change. Time out is wonderful!!! Start with 3 minutes and work your way up. Creative is one thing, dangerous and distructive is another. Time out chairs in the corner do work.

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A.J.

answers from Dallas on

I am really interested to see the responses . I have a 5 yr old gr son who was like this and I sure made some mistakes along the way I know.
Yours is not to young for a time out. He is not to young to have to sit and watch bubba play because he isn't playing nice. Everybody told me mine was 100% boy and they laughed. I did feel as if watching the Nanny helped me, if only because Mine wasn't that far out of control. As to the hair pulling, He is not to young to have his hair pulled gently but firmly after the 2nd time he has pulled hair, so that he knows what he is making his brother feel. When he says ow! gently tell him that he gave brother an ow! and make him say sorry and give brother a hug.

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T.N.

answers from Dallas on

I am sorry for your frustration but relieved as well to see that I am not the only one who is having the same problems. My son hits me, throws things, he is a jumper/climber. The more I tell him NO, the worse he gets, I have tried redirection which is supposed to be the way to help with this but he is tooo smart and goes right back to it with in a minute. Mine also does the toy box routine. we've tried time out, and you are correct, they don't stay. he knows what it means but makes it a game if you try to keep him there. I've talked with his pediatrician and thats how I was told about redirection and ignoring. well neither are working so I would love to see if you have any success with the helpful tips you'll get. My son will be 2 in May and we've been gradually getting worse.

I know its not much help but maybe some re assurance that your not alone. ;)

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J.C.

answers from Amarillo on

I am very new to this site, and in fact this will be my first response. I just can't help but comment on this one because it sounded like you were describing my 18 month old son to a tee! We have a 9 year old girl, 8 year old boy and the baby our 18 month old son. My 18 month old is really rough with his brother. It has been the hardest thing with him but honestly what I've found to work the best with the hair pulling is to have my 8 year old gently pull his hair back when he does it to him. He will cry and I will have them hug and we will explain to him that pulling hair hurts and that is why we can't do it. The 18 month old is very tough and has a super pain tollerence but I think it hurts his feelings when bubu pulls his hair back. He has gone about 3 weeks without pulling anyone's hair. As for the climbing and getting into things, let me know when you figure it out because I'm in the same boat. I'm just worried people will think I beat my child because he is so bruised up all the time. My Dr. says that he will learn from his injuries but so far that is not true. I don't know about you but it seems the bigger deal I make of the climbing the more he wants to do it. So I will just get him down and walk away when the fit comes along. If I can make him think it's not that big of a deal to me then he tends to wonder off to do something else, but if he hears me gasp then he is going to jump twice as high. I hope this helps you out a little bit. Good luck!

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V.T.

answers from Dallas on

My almost 3 year old is also very strong willed and rambunctious, and there's no way he would at that age (or even now at this age) stay in one place for a time out. Time outs help him sometimes simply because it takes him away from whatever he was enjoying doing at the moment, and completely took him away from any attention he was getting. If your son is not already climbing out his crib or playpen, I found those good places for a short time out because it isolated him and confined him in a safe place ( I would always remind him before and after the time out why he was there-"No hit" or whatever it was). If he's climbing out of those things, which my son did between 18 and 20 months, I took one of his booster high chairs and strap him into it for a time out. I can move the chair to any place where he's more isolated and ignore him for the time he's in it. He's confined, and it's safe. That has helped me, hopefully it will help you as well.

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M.H.

answers from Lubbock on

It's not to early for time outs. The rule is 1 minutes for every year of age they are. Sometimes it's more effective than hand slapping and spanking. Plus you don't want to teach him that way simply because it's a case of do what I say not what I do.

Be patient. Tell him NO put him in time out (use a kitchen timer that buzzes at the end of the time) and tell him when the time is over why he was there and why it's not acceptable. This isn't something that works the first few times but it will eventually. The key is you MUST be consistent. You have to to this each and every time in order for it to be effective

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E.H.

answers from Dallas on

Hi M.,

It sounds like you have your hands full! I have three kids ages 15,12 and 9. It is always a challenge to try to find the kind of discipline that works with each individual child. I have two suggestions for your 17 month old that are worth trying. The first suggestion is an easy one. I would first try to go off his emotion. If he were to pull your hair could you overreact to the pain and pretend to be very sad and very hurt? Then tell him, "Owie Owie" then keep pretend crying. My oldest son was also very rambunctious, but would respond to emotions so this may help. The alternative suggestion would be the total opposite. What you need is a way to confine him. Maybe a sturdy playpen. When he pulls your hair calmly say to him. " Not nice" then place him in the playpen and walk away. Leave him there for a min then go back pick him up and take his hand and have it stroke your hair and say, "nice nice" then allow him to continue playing. I am thinking the isolation might help him to understand that when you are hurtful to others you get your privilages taken away. I hope this helps.

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S.S.

answers from Wichita Falls on

On my own children I used the child training methods advocated at nogreaterjoy.org. My kids are pretty good, and they're now receptive to the discipline the schools use (time out, conduct cut, etc.)

To make a child who will not stay in time out stay - you may find it necessary to get a child sized chair, sit him on it, use your leg to hold his legs down and your hands to hold his hands together in his lap.

The key is to not look at or talk to him until he's sat like that for 1 minute. (I also use one minute for each year of age). Eventually, he should get the idea.

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T.O.

answers from Dallas on

Be careful that you are not giving him too much attention when he does something "bad". And the bad stuff he's doing is perfectly normal by the way.

Tell him "time out for hair pulling" calmly etc and set a timer to indicate the end of the time out (though at that age I just made them sit on the floor with their head touching the floor..in a corner or somewhere out of the way).
But don't yell if he comes out etc etc. Just be very bored about his bad behavior. And be very interested and happy when he's being "good". "I like the way you shared your cookie!" "That was sweet of you to play cars with ___" But don't use words all the time, sometimes just rub his neck or back when he's doing something "good".

He's not really able to plot being bad at this age, so I think he's jsut going for attention. Be careful when you give that attention.

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C.G.

answers from Amarillo on

Hi. I had a friend that went through the exact same thing... she ended up buying her son a little pony tail holder that had "faux" hair on it... now he plays with that and he leaves hers alone... she's also run into other moms that went through the same thing.... and they were doing the exact same thing that she was doing and it was working for them as well.... Hope that this helps!

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K.S.

answers from Dallas on

I am reading a book called 'Dare to Discipline', by Dr. James Dobson...I think it will be perfect for what you are needing.

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H.R.

answers from Dallas on

If you are not firm in letting him know what is and what is not appropriate behavior now, it will be much harder in the future. I suggest you watch super nanny and employ her tactics. Otherwise your "dont want to restrict him" will turn into a nightmare when he starts school. Have you considered that he needs boundaries? Get the upper hand now before you regret it later.
amanda

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