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My son is 15 months old. When he does something he should'nt be, I try to stop him by saying, 'No', but he won't listen. How can I stop this?

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Hi Lisa,

We don't usually give advice because, without follow up, it can be misunderstood.

But as so many parents completely misunderstand the developmental level of a baby of this age it might help other parents if I make an exception.

At this age a baby will often not understand what you have said or if he does understand he will often not remember it when the situation repeats.

Your son is programmed to explore and search out interesting things. When he appears to be doing what you are telling him it is because this fits in with what he would do naturally.   If you want to avoid certain behaviours you need to get things out of his way or try to get him interested in something else.

He CANNOT  "do something he shouldn't"  in the sense that he is behaving badly.  His genetic need is simple - to explore and to be interested in new things.

You are possibly making the things you DON'T want him to be interested in TOO significant.

He has no concept of your needs, neither can he be trained to take them into account. Your needs - even your need for his safety - are not really of significance for him, and cannot be at this age.

You need to stay calm.   If you overreact, say when he is doing something unsafe, he may become fascinated by your overreaction.   At this age the parents reaction is often the real reason children get fixed on inappropriate behaviour that does not otherwise have enough power to be remembered. A toddler may well get fascinated by and strive to get parents to repeat their angry or insistent "NO's".

If you make an issue of these things (and I sense you are at the moment) you will only draw his attention to the things that you want him to forget about or the behaviour that you want him to stop.

Chill out. He is a baby - he looks and then he goes forward - that is about the extent of his intellect at this age.


Think ahead - he never thinks ahead so this is your real advantage.

Keep a quiet concentration on him so that you can step in early rather than let him learn the one sure way (and the things) to get your attention.

Find things for him to do that would be uncomfortable if left to his timing i.e. "Banging saucepans with a wooden spoon"  was a real hit with my children and can be real fun when it is you that are in control and have decided to let him do it.  Things that you allow him to do will not go on too long (after the first time) and will usually not be repeated at inappropriate times.

Try not to find fault with everything he does unless you have to - if you move precious or dangerous things out of the way first and then let him touch and play with as many things as you can - perhaps with an encouraging   "gently",   you will find that he will not fixate on to any one thing for long.

If you overestimate your child's developmental level and underestimate his instinctive drives it is quiet possible to create an apparently naughty child.   If you have begun to do this you may find it a little hard at first to reverse the process.

Professionals who should know better continue to talk about the  "terrible two's"  when there is no such thing.

The child's first few words give parents completely unrealistic expectations.

Firstly it is unlikely that your child has understood (in the way you think) what you have said and what he is expected to do.   I know it is hard to believe this when what you are asking is so basic.

Secondly it is even more unlikely that he will remember it for more than a few seconds.

Thirdly, even if by some fluke he were to understand and remember he will forget again if you are not calm.   You may just end up teaching him  "how to animate mummy".

I hope this helps

Warwick Dyer
Behaviour Change Consultancy

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