Gentle, firm disciplne is best when it comes to tots and their squabbles.

How to Discipline a 1-Year-Old Who Slaps and Scratches

by Jenivieve Elly

Slapping and scratching are a normal part of a tot's development, but when it’s your kid starting the next MMA fight on the playground, it can be frustrating and embarrassing. A 1-year-old is so young that correcting the situation is tricky; discipline requires a level of understanding that he just hasn't reached yet. Rather than losing control yourself and becoming aggravated with your toddler, try using techniques that offer meaningful results.

Take Action Immediately!

If your 1-year-old slaps or scratches another kid, you must do something. The other parent will not appreciate you sitting back and waiting for the little ones to work it out. In a firm but nonthreatening tone, say, "No, we don't hit! That hurts!"

Pay lots of attention to the child who was slapped or scratched instead of making a big deal about it with your child. "Oh, Danny! Are you okay? I am so sorry that Billy scratched you! That must have hurt!" Danny's parents will also appreciate you acknowledging their child's pain. Likewise, praise any good behavior you see from your tot in the aftermath. "Billy! How nice of you to share your truck with Danny! That is being a good friend!"

Tune in to your child's feelings. It may sound simple, but your 1-year-old may be getting physical because he's frustrated or overstimulated. At this age, kids have limited communication skills, so slapping or scratching may be his way of telling you he needs help. Try to nip the behavior in the bud when you see him ramping up. If he is becoming aggressive, recognize what's really going on. "Danny, are you mad because Billy snatched your toy? Why don't you try the truck over there instead?" If he's overstimulated, remove him from the situation and take him somewhere calm and quiet to readjust.

Give your child as much of your day as you can. Spending lots of positive, focused time with your 1-year-old will prevent him from seeking out attention in the wrong way. Be sure he knows being bad is not the only way to get your full attention. Give toddlers the time they need while you're free, and they won't need to grab your attention at inopportune moments.


  • It is important to remember that even adults have days where they could have behaved better. Your 1-year-old is still learning to communicate. Patience is a virtue!

About the Author

Jenivieve Elly has been an entertainment writer since 2006 and also has experience in public relations. She writes for Right Celebrity and its sister websites, serving as senior marketing consultant and fashion editor. Elly holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from the University of South Florida.

Photo Credits

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