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healthy boundaries for a one year old

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  • healthy boundaries for a one year old

    I have a 14 month old son who lately has been testing my patience! I'm trying very hard to practice gentle parenting techniques but I'm struggling.
    Are boundaries appropriate for this age and if so, how do I establish those? Examples: tonight in the bathtub I had to tell him to sit down at least 15 times. I would help him sit down, explain that standing in the bathtub is dangerous and we want him to be safe. Moments later he was standing again. The really frustrating thing about it is he thinks it's funny. The more stern I sound, the funnier he thinks it is. He also likes to unplug electrical cords. We try to hide them as much as possible, but some of them are in view. He thinks it's funny when we tell him to stop and explain why. We try to distract him with something else, but he typically heads right back to the electrical cord and laughs harder like it's a game. He also does this with throwing food on the floor. He takes one bite and the next one hits the floor, two bites and then three are thrown on the floor. We try to explain that his food stays on his tray, but he gives us a big, cheesy grin and drops another bite on the floor. These probably sound trivial, but add them all up multiplied by all day and I'm exhausted!! I'm losing my patience with him lately and I need some

  • #2
    Hi MSmama,

    Awww....I know it can be frustrating when you are tired and your little one is so busy learning about his world. It sounds like your son is actually behaving age-appropriately! Try to think of him as a scientist who is exploring cause and effect, sights, sounds, textures, up and down and everything about his world. The challenge is, you want him to be able to explore and you want him to learn and you also want him to be safe.

    Since children that age don't understand much of our verbal words but can understand our expressions and tones better, repeating yourself over and over will likely only add to your frustration. Redirection is a gentle discipline technique that might work will with him. Examples below.

    In thinking about your examples, I can think of adding a non slip bath mat to his bath and letting him stand with you always present. Or try showering instead. You could also show him once to sit, if this is a rule that you want to keep and if he does not and you are not feeling ready for the up and down up and down calmly and gently end the bath. That bath ending has to do with your level of patience, not as a punishment. If you feel you can keep being patient, keep the bath water in the tub. For redirection give him some new bath activities - thing that pour, bath crayons, bowls to mix baking soda in (this is fine in your bath and good for him, but not so tasty), perhaps a washcloth puppet show that you perform under that water. Children that age aren't really meant to sit, they are meant to move. Can you make the bath shallower so he can stretch out and "swim?"

    The electrical cords could be taped with heavy duty tape. And outlet plugs in all other outlets. He cant understand electricity, shocks, etc, so explain this later and keep him from doing it by your toddler proofing. When he is playing this game, he likely wants to you play with him. So to redirect when he seems playful ...Can you turn it into a game of hide and seek, or chase where he always gets away? Or peek aboo, even?

    Food on the floor. When he starts throwing food, I would say he is finished eating. If you don't want to clean up a lot then you can end his meal. If you don't mind him exploring gravity, let it continue. Perhaps if he doesn't see the cause and effect his food dropping causes in you, he will conclude his experiment earlier.

    So besides a hug to you, I offer redirection, understanding his need to explore and discover the world and ask, how can you reframe your view of what he is doing and try to allow him to meet those needs? Gently ending the exploration when it is unsafe or has pushed you past your limits.

    And congratulations, it sounds like you have a very fun. creative, busy and happy child!



    • #3
      Hello MSMama!

      First of all hugs to you! I know how frustrating it can be to feel so stuck in a cycle that doesn't seem to have any sort of positive resolution in sight.

      I have two personal recommendations to help with your frustration which have both worked for me. The first is to do some research into toddler behavior and development. Understanding that our child's more frustrating behaviors are normal and necessary for their growth and development can sometimes instantly remove the frustration. It's always easier to deal with a behavior when we understand the motivation behind it. In your son's case it sounds like a lot of cause and effect exploring which is exactly what he should be doing at his age. So I agree with Kathryn in congratulating you for having a child developmentally right where he should be! Second I would recommend reminding yourself that this behavior is reflective of what a solid attachment you've made to your child. Your child is securely enough bonded to you as his primary caregiver that he is able to explore his environment. That is quite the complement from your little one. At least it helps me to think of it that way.

      Regarding the specific behaviors I have a few recommendations. When it comes to throwing food the solution I found was to limit the amount of food available to my little guy. I would keep a plate with his food outside of his reach and then provide him with one to two bites at a time on his tray. Once he has eaten his fill and more food was hitting the floor than his mouth, I cleaned up dinner and we were finished. Of course I always made sure to provide lots of other opportunities for exploration such as having a variety of toys with chutes and pipes so he had other ways to explore throwing and dropping. Regarding the bath tub adventures I second Kathryn's suggestion of moving to showers. We had to do with this my little guy as he was simply too rambunctious to bathe alone in a bath tub at that age. So I changed my shower schedule from morning to evening and we bathed together until just a few months ago when we tried baths again. My little (at 2.5) is now old enough to listen when we ask him to sit and capable of having seated bath fun.

      Good luck and let us know how things are going!