How To Discipline A One-Year-Old Child?

20 July 2009

Please describe the best approach to discipline a one-year-old child.

Many children will begin to gently test the authority of their parents as they approach their first birthday. The confrontations will be minor and infrequent at first, yet the beginnings of future struggles can be seen.

My own daughter, for example, challenged her mother for the first time when she was nine months old. My wife was waxing the kitchen floor when Danae crawled to the edge of the linoleum.

Shirley said, “No, Danae,” gesturing to the child not to enter the kitchen. Since our daughter began talking very early, she clearly understood the meaning of the word no. Nevertheless, she crawled straight onto the sticky wax.

Shirley picked her up and set her down in the doorway while saying no even more strongly as she put her down. Seven times this process was repeated until Danae finally yielded and crawled away in tears. As far as we can recall, that was the first direct confrontation of wills between our daughter and my wife. Many more were to follow.

How does a parent discipline a one-year-old child? Very carefully and gently! A child at this age is easy to distract and divert. Rather than jerking a wristwatch from his or her hands, show him or her a brightly coloured alternative – and then be prepared to catch the watch when it falls. When unavoidable confrontations do occur, as with Danae on the waxy floor, win them by firm persistence but not by punishment. Have the courage to lead the child without being harsh or mean or gruff.

Compared to the months that are to follow, the period around one year of age is usually a tranquil, smooth-functioning time in a child’s life.

This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia ( and the Questions and Answers are extracted from “Complete Family and Marriage Home Reference Guide” by Dr James Dobson with permission.