CAN A ONE YEAR OLD LEARN TO NOT TOUCH?

We’ve all seen it: the harried mom (or dad) in the store, with the toddler riding in the shopping cart. Maybe there are one or two other children walking along, looking at all the interesting and exciting things on the shelves…things they don’t have at home. They don’t even have to be toys; they could be cleaning supplies and they’re still fascinating. One reaches out to inspect an item more closely. Another does the same, but he’s reaching for the display where they’re all piled, balanced ever-so-carefully…..Uh oh.

So you tell them, “no touching.” “Look with your eyes, not with your hands.” And anything else you can say to escape the store without being required to pay for an entire spilled or broken bunch of whachamakalits. And they obey.

Now the one year old, he wants to touch too. But you tell him, “no.” And what does he do? He touches anyway. So you take it away from him. And what does he do? He scrunches up his face, takes a deep breath, and….. you guessed it!

Is this you? Or do you leave all the kids at home so you won’t have to deal with this situation? I understand. Believe me.

But, believe this too: it is completely possible to train even a one year old to obey a command to not touch.

Are you in the habit of poking yourself in the eye? Why not? How old were you before you learned to not do that?

Training a child is as simple as learning to not poke yourself in the eye. A baby can learn to not do something if the outcome is undesirable (it doesn’t feel good).

How? Say “No.” and flick his little hand. He’ll look at you, surprised, and then try again. Repeat. Again. Again. Eventually, he’ll start crying. Is he crying because it hurts so badly? No. He’s crying because he finally realizes that he is not being allowed to do what he wants; you are breaking his will. When he makes the choice NOT to touch, and instead does something else, praise him. You have won.

If you are consistent with this, and find or arrange opportunities to practice it, you will train your little guy to respect your word. Eventually, the word alone will be enough to stop him.

Does this work? Sure. My 15 month old LOVES to play with the silverware that’s in the dishwasher. Nothing wrong with this. Except when it’s dirty, or has sharper-than-I’d-like-him-to-play-with things. He also thinks it’s great fun to splash around with the dog’s water bowl. I suppose I could never load the dishwasher until he was occupied elsewhere, or make Fido wait until baby’s asleep to let him quench his thirst. But that doesn’t work for me. (Or the dog.)

We’re all much happier when we know who’s in charge.

Now, where did that crawling guy go? I’d better go see what he’s up to….

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