Learning how to discipline an 18 month old can be an uphill battle. At 18 months old your toddler is ready to face the world. You will already see their willingness to be involved in everything they can touch, feel and taste.
This curiosity is an important element of growth and self-discovery.
Related: 18 Month Old Tantrums
Why Most Parents Fail!
Your toddler is exploring the world and testing boundaries to find out what is possible. Whilst this is an exciting time for them it can be a tiring time for you. You have to stay on “high alert” ensuring their quest for independence is a safe one.
Discipline for your 18 month old should be age-appropriate. At this age their minds are developing at an alarming rate, but they still lack the ability to understand what a punishment is and why it is being used to avoid disruptive behaviour.
Your efforts should be aimed around proactive discipline, effective communication and showing by example.
Remember discipline isn’t about harsh punishment but is about guidance and support.
These attributes provide a more harmonious ground for your toddler to learn effective ways of expression and appropriate forms of behaviour for present and future use.
So what are the ways to discipline an 18 month old? And how can we put them into action quickly and effectively?
How To Discipline An 18 Month Old: 5 Powerful Strategies
1. Say “No” & Mean It!
When you give instructions to your toddler ensure that you say them with a stern but polite tone. Your body language should also match your tone to ensure that your child knows that “No” does, in fact, mean “No”
Young children can read what you say at a far deeper level than just the words you say. They are learning from your tone, your body language, your stance, your pitch and several other factors.
This means that if you say “NO, put that down” but everything else is screaming “Yes, it’s OK’ your child will just carry on with the activity.
If your toddler is biting you in a small, non-harmful way and you react to it without giving it much attention then you’ll find they will just test that boundary again until they get another response.
Essentially your child is just trying to find out what pushes your buttons and just how far they can go. This is not done on purpose but more for discovery and learning.
Even if your child is just playing and tries to bite, you need to establish a clear boundary and show that biting in any shape or form is not ok.
“Sweetie, Please Don’t Bite, it hurts and is not funny”
If it happens again then repeat yourself a bit firmer.
Any more incidents will result in a more stern approach and possible removal from the situation to show in no uncertain terms that this behaviour is not acceptable.
You can also try a time out for 18 month old as this can serve as a deterrence for disruptive behaviour.
Distraction plays an important role when learning how to discipline an 18 month old. This is because your toddler can be very easily distracting at this age.
You should use this tactic to your advantage. For example, if they are pulling on your clothes or hair and you’ve constantly asked them to stop to no avail, try to distract them away from the negative behaviour.
“Sweetie, do you want to play with your toy train instead? Let’s go outside for a walk, we can bring your football if you like”
Chances are once they have been distracted away from the behaviour they will stop doing it. The key is to find a distraction activity that is more enjoyable to them then the bad behaviour they initially performed.
If your toddler is throwing food on the ground and you try to distract him with more food, he’ll probably just throw that on the ground as well.
Instead, pull out his favourite book, or put a nursery rhyme on and you’ll soon see a more obedient child that is eating his dinner more contently.
Distraction is a great tool to use for young children as they have shorter attention spans than older children. Use it wisely and you’ll have a more stress-free environment.
3. Ignore Disruptive Behaviour
Most parents find it hard to ignore bad behaviour. Learning how to discipline an 18 month old effectively means taking a conscious effort to reduce your interaction with disruptive attention-seeking behaviour.
Toddlers crave attention and they will try their best to get it from you in any way they can. Attention is given for both positive and negative behaviour.
The lines can be blurred for your little one if they feel they get more attention for being disruptive and defiant then from positive and obedient behaviour.
Try to ignore bad behaviour to overcome this issue.
If your child is constantly knocking things over and pulling toys out just to see you put them back, stop putting them back and ignore the behaviour.
This is clearly a cry for attention and each time you remind them to be tidy and pick up their toys you are falling into their trap.
Instead, leave the toy box to be messy and do not pick up any toys. Inform your toddler that you will wait, all day, if it takes that long, for them to put away all their toys.
Now, as they begin to put the toys away give them lots of praise for doing so.
You’ll soon find that they associate tidiness as an attention-grabbing task and with reminders will start to display this behaviour more often.
Children understand what push your buttons so by ensuring you respond more to the positive triggers then the negative ones you keep your home happy for longer.
4. Sometimes Enough is Enough!
Learning how to discipline an 18 month old for tantrums is not always easy. Sometimes no amount of polite reminders will work and you need to just remove your child from the situation.
An example of this is if your toddler has a temper tantrum and lashes out at you or another child. If you’ve given plenty of warnings to no avail, then sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands.
Pick them up and take them to another environment where they can calm down without any interference.
Explain to them what the appropriate behaviour is. i.e. “I understand that your brother took your toy, but hitting is not the appropriate way to express yourself. Please use your words next time”
Once they have calmed down give them some affection and remind her that you are “here to keep you safe”
This is an important part of proactive parenting and will give your child reassurance as they battle with tougher emotions.
Once you bring them back to the environment a simple reminder to apologies will help calm the situation down.
“Please say sorry to your brother for hitting him”
Now you can promote sharing toys together or give each of them separate toys and help them play together.
Remember, bigger emotions like fear, jealousy and anger, can be difficult to vent. Taking your child away and bringing them into a different environment is an effective way to help them cope better.
It also gives you a clear mind to understand what has happened, how your child is feeling and what you need to do to get her feeling better again.
This is an effective way to learn how to discipline an 18 month old for hitting.
5. Be Consistent
Discovering how to discipline an 18 month old takes repetition and consistency. The more you repeat yourself and the clearer your instructions are, the better your discipline efforts will be.
Children learn from repetition and will remember appropriate ways to behaviour if they have been told again and again how to do it. This can be very tiring especially if you are trying to discipline more then 1 child.
However, it’s the only way to ensure they understand right and wrong and don’t feel the need to continually test boundaries.
Your child’s temperament will have a lot to do with how effective or ineffective your discipline efforts are. Some children just need that extra special care and attention to get the message across whilst others don’t need as much.
If you’ve told your toddler to stop spitting their drink out and they have not listened you will need to continually remind them of the consequences of their actions until they realise.
“Sweetie, if you continue to spill or spit your drink out you will be all wet, then mummy will have to change you again. It’s not funny so please stop”
If your child carries on then you will need to repeat yourself but this time add a consequence for their action.
For example, “If you continue to spill your drink then you will be late for your playgroup. You do want to play in the park today, right?”
This is a great consequence to add as it directly affects them.
Essentially you are saying the more you disobey my instructions the less time you are going to spend the things that you want to do.
It’s an effective way to discipline, but just like everything else you need to show patience and be calm.
Rules And Consequences
Setting rules and giving consequences are an important part of 18 month old emotional development.
You are helping your child see the difference between right and wrong, and helping them deal with big emotions like frustration and regret. This helps frames their mind to deal with the bigger world, as they get older.
Remember, It’s not a one-size-fits-all agenda and each child will need a different style of discipline.
Some children, by their very nature, just push more buttons than others. You will need to be careful that you don’t come down to harshly on those types of children as they learn to explore the consequences of their actions.
Self Discipline & Choices
A crucial element to when learning how to discipline an 18 month old, is giving your toddler the choice of self-discipline. This will help as they get older to draw their own conclusions.
The smart way to do this is to provide them with choices of how they want to behaviour and then the consequences of that behaviour.
For example, if you are trying to promote kindness and empathy in a park and your child is not getting off the slide, you could say this:
“Sweetie, I understand that you want to go down the slide but you have to let other people have a turn too. If you let other children have a turn they will be happy and will want to play with you more. If you don’t then will be sad and will go play with other children.
What do you want to do? Give other children a turn or play by yourself?
This is a fantastic way to teach your toddler self-discipline which promotes sharing and empathy. These skills are important components of social growth and development.
It’s much better than just saying: “Get off the slide and let someone else have a go!”
In the latter example, there is no push for self-discipline or empathy. There is no reason why letting someone have a turn down the slide will benefit your child.
Get Them Involved!
Learning how to discipline an 18 month old involves putting yourself in their shoes and getting them involved in more day to day activities.
Toddlers and young children have difficulty seeing the world from anyone else perspective than their own.
By giving your child independence and freedom but promoting empathy and self-discipline you’ll see a bigger difference in your child.
They will show more willingness to follow simple instructions and this will help them discover the correct ways to behaviour in a variety of situations.