Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

I have a very boisterous 15-month-old girl and she is quite strong willed! How do you approach discipline at this age? For instance when we go to toddlers’ group she just runs in and pulls everything off the shelves; each time I ask her to stop she just runs to something else. She doesn’t seem to be able to concentrate on anything for any period of time.

At 15 months old your daughter’s concentration skills are just beginning to form as well as her social skills. Remember for her everything is new and just needs to be explored and she does need time to do this, however, quite rightly, you do need to start implementing good solid boundaries with her as to what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

You do not want her running into toddlers’ group tipping boxes here there and everywhere, as she is more than likely to repeat that behaviour at friends’ houses, making any visits you make together very uncomfortable.
You do not mention what she is like at home. The skills she learns at home will often be repeated when she is out and about.

You can help develop her social skills as well as her concentration levels by working and playing together at home.

  • You may have too many toys out at any one time for her, and being a typical toddler, her mind will jump from one toy or toy box to another. Pack some of her toys away and swap them around every few days. This will allow her time to play and explore the toys that are available to her.
  • When you do play together, do you have times where she has no other distractions like the TV? At your daughter’s age, playing with toys and concentrating on what she is doing is so much more difficult if you have a cartoon playing in the background distracting her.
  • Find simple toys and games that she will have to concentrate on and you can do together, i.e. peg jigsaw puzzles, shape sorters, story books, large Lego blocks. Stay away from toys that make noises as that will just excite her.
  • Playing together with your daughter is one of the best ways to help her improve her concentration, as she will enjoy the closeness of being with you and listening to you. Praise and reward her for being clever like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Equally with you helping her to do a jigsaw puzzle, her confidence in her own ability will improve, and will make her want to try and do another jigsaw even if you are not watching and helping her.
  • After you have finished playing get her to help pack away what you have being playing with before you move onto the next toy.

With these skills in hand, when you go to toddlers’ group, practice what you have being doing at home. Arriving at toddlers’ group is very exciting for your daughter, but do not let her charge off, think of a toy she might like and go with her to find it and play with her for a little while; if she then starts to run to another toy go with her, help her get what she wants and then let her play with it. Each time she has finished playing with a toy encourage her, with your help, to return it to its box or shelf.

Keep on doing this, until the initial excitement of arriving at the group wears off. This should then allow you time to have a coffee and a chat!

Remember to go back to her and give her some time before she starts to get bored and agitated, leading to her pulling toys off shelves, which is her way of demanding attention from you and everyone else in the group.

This ways both her social skills and her concentration levels will begin to blossom, and you will enjoy going out with your daughter.