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16 Ways to use Gentle Parenting with a One Year Old + Avoid Tantrums

Has your baby started screaming when they don’t get their way? Or maybe they are refusing to listen? It may feel like your baby has grown up overnight and you aren’t quite sure how to handle their new reactions. Using Gentle Parenting with a One Year Old is a great way to build a foundation that will help you to raise a confident, resilient, and respectful child!

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Signs we Needed to Start Parenting

Just before my daughter turned one, we had our first incident out in public. I set her down in Kohls (while I looked through some clothes) and when I went to pick her up, she screamed….. and carried on…. And I had to leave the store.

I was so embarrassed. EVERYONE looked at me as if I was the worst parent ever. Ugh.

That night I realized….

  1. Her behavior was not okay.
  2. My reaction was not okay.
  3. I actually needed some direction in parenting.

Before this point, it felt like my daughter was just a baby. There was no real “parenting” that we needed to do.

Then overnight, my husband and I were in desperate need of learning how to navigate my daughter’s big feelings. That’s when I stumbled on gentle parenting! I loved the concept, but there was nothing I could find that was specifically for one-year olds.

What is Gentle Parenting?

Essentially, gentle parenting is creating a relationship with your child that encourages them to willingly do what is right. There is no yelling or punishment because their actions should not be derived from fear.

You probably found this article because you already knew what gentle parenting was and just wanted to know how to apply it to a one-year old. But in case you aren’t familiar with it, you need to check out Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s book The Gentle Parenting Book.

She has a whole article on What Gentle Parenting is, so you can check that out here.

The goal is to raise confident, respectful, and empathetic children.

What’s my approach to Gentle Parenting?

I think it’s important to note that even though this post is mainly about gentle parenting, we are all going to have a different style. And this is a GOOD THING.

You know your baby best. What works for my family, might not work for yours and that’s okay! There is a lot of trial and error that happens while you are figuring out your style.

Although I love gentle parenting, I’ve also integrated a bit of the Danish way of parenting. I love that their focus is on raising children to be happy, independent, and resilient. Something that you don’t see very often here in the U.S.

[This is my FAVORITE book that kickstarted my parenting philosophy… The Danish Way of Parenting]

For our family, blending these two parenting styles has worked out REALLY well. We haven’t had any major tantrums and (for the most part) our daughter is very easygoing. I credit this all to both the Danish and Gentle Parenting. 

How to use Gentle Parenting for a One Year Old

1. Don’t Yell or Spank

I feel like this is obvious! But, don’t yell or spank your child to “teach them a lesson.” Over time, they will only be acting out of fear, not because they love and respect you. 

Most of us grew up with parents who disciplined us by yelling or spanking (or pinching if they didn’t want it to be so obvious haha). So, it’s easy for this to come second nature.

This leads me to my next point…….

2. Apologize when you slip up

I know what you are thinking, my one year will not understand what is going on. But they are little sponges and will quickly understand what you are doing. 

Teaching them how to act after they’ve made a mistake is really important. By modeling a sincere apology you will be showing your child how to react when they’ve made a mistake.

It’s okay to mess up… because you will…. But apologizing it a huge moment for you and your child.

3. Explain Why Their Behavior is NOT Okay

My daughter loves to splash around in the dog’s water bowl. Before we started gentle parenting, I would simply say “Emmie, No” or “That’s not for Emmie.” There is nothing wrong with these phrases, they are actually useful while disciplining your one year old. 

The problem was that I never told her what she SHOULD or COULD do.

Now when she starts playing in the dog bowl we say something like:

“That’s not for Emmie, that’s Lily’s water. You can play with your toys, would you like to play with your cars or your puzzle?”

This statement:

  1. Sets a boundary.
  2. Tells the purpose of it.
  3. Tells what she could do.
  4. Gives her options, so she can make a choice.

At first, it’s a lot of thinking. But once you are in a routine of thinking this way, it comes pretty naturally.

4. Use a Strong Voice When they Aren’t Listening

When I’m setting a boundary, I try my best to use a strong voice. This is not yelling, it’s not raising my voice.. it’s just being confident in what I’m saying.

I’ve also heard moms call this a firm voice. This terminology might click for you!

5. Make Eye Contact

At first, we really struggled with this. She would be looking around and even laughing while we were trying to talk with her.

This can easily make my blood boil. But I found that when she was able to focus on me what I was trying to teach her seemed to click.

To get her to make eye contact, we actually just worked on pointing to our eyes when we were playing. She caught on really quickly!

When it came time to have a “teaching moment” (I’ll talk about this in a minute), I would ask her to look at my eyes. Which really worked!!!

6. It’s about Teaching

You will have to throw out the mindset of why aren’t you obeying me and look at it as a “teaching moment.” When I made this mindset shift, it drastically changed my response.

Instead of getting upset about something, I found myself feeling excited that I could teach her how to act or respond.

Like I mentioned earlier, you will want to use a strong voice that sets a boundary and then turn it into a teaching moment!

7. Your Actions matter the most

Gentle parenting has more to do with the parents, than it does the kids. If you haven’t noticed, your one year old is a sponge and is learning from EVERYTHING you do.

How you talk to your spouse, your friends, and even your child is teaching them how to engage in relationships. Obviously, we won’t be perfect at this and that’s where apologies come into play – which truly are very important.

8. Give them Choices

I mentioned this earlier in the section about explanations, but I like to give my daughter choices. This doesn’t mean letting them have whatever they want. There is a big difference here.

Something we (try to) do is give her two options. For example….. if she asks for a snack, I ask her if she wants a Banana or Oranges. 

This helps her to learn how to make decisions, all while ensuring that she is getting the nutrients her body needs. This is a win-win for both of us!

9. Ask Your Toddler for Help

When my daughter was about 14 months, I noticed she loved to help. If I was cooking dinner, she wanted to be shaking the seasonings into the bowl. If we went on a walk, she wanted to help hold the dog’s leash.

I don’t remember where, but I heard that toddlers naturally want to be helpful.

How does this apply in parenting? Well, when my daughter is having fun playing with her Lovevery Play kit and doesn’t want to go on a walk – I ask her if she wants to help mama hold the dog’s leash. Usually, this works like a charm.

In the event that we are in a store and she’s found an item she can’t live without (and you don’t want to buy it), I ask her if she can help mama carry the car keys. Since using this trick, she’s hasn’t had a tantrum in public.

10. Go with the Flow

Yes, we are the parent. Yes, our children will need to go along with our schedule. BUT, there is an opportunity for us to find interest in what they want to do, too. 

Last week, we went on a walk and my daughter was insisting on playing in the rocks. At first, I kept redirecting her back on the path, so we could continue on with our walk.

Then it dawned on me, what was it hurting for her to play in the rocks for a few minutes? Absolutely nothing. Yes, this meant our walk would take a little longer, but it wasn’t hurting anything.

Sometimes we need a reminder to slow down and let our kiddos explore. Plus, this helps when they are on the brink of a tantrum. 

11. Observing Your Kiddo

If you’ve been around the blog for a while, I have given this tip of advice time and time again. When you take the time to observe your child, it helps you to be a better parent.

If you haven’t already, just sit and watch your kiddo. Notice what triggers them to get upset, what makes them happy, and simply what they are interested in. When you know these things it can help you to prevent a tantrum and encourage your child in the things that interest them.

12. The Art of Distraction

This is my #1 tip when it comes to preventing tantrums. After you start to notice what triggers a tantrum before it happens use distraction.

My daughter tends to get pretty upset when she doesn’t get her way. Before the situation even arises, we have been using distraction as a way to prevent a tantrum. It seems really easy… and that’s because it is!

Here is an example:

We are out in public. She keeps putting rocks in her mouth. If we just took them away, just would have a meltdown. Instead, we say:

“Em, you can’t put rocks in your mouth. I don’t want you to choke. Hey, look is that a squirrel?”

She’s obsessed with squirrels… and they are an awesome distraction!!! We still engage in a teaching moment but have some distractions ready to avoid a potential tantrum.

13. Big Feelings

Even if you try your best to avoid a tantrum, they are still going to have them.

If we aren’t out in public, we typically don’t use a distraction. In the example I used about putting rocks in her mouth, if we are home, we use this as a teaching moment. Following this typically ensues what we call “Big Feelings”

I’ve actually been cringing every time I’ve written tantrums in this post. We (try) not to use that word and replace it with “big feelings.”

14. Affirming their Feelings

Obviously, our baby doesn’t know what they are feeling. We are here to acknowledge their big feelings and let them know what that is called.

It’s also really important to let them know that you see them and you hear what’s going on. Even though they may not be able to fully communicate what they are feeling, we have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.

Use this as another teaching moment!

15. We don’t Compare

If you have multiple kiddos, this is a very easy trap to fall into. We need to keep in mind that our children are unique. They have different personalities, triggers, and desires. It’s our job to remember that. 

Here are a couple of phrases we try to refrain from:

Big kids do this…..

Your brother doesn’t do that…

16. Don’t over praise

When our child does something good or right, it comes second nature to praise them! But be careful, overpraising them for simple tasks can cause them to become addicted to this kind of response.


She picks hands me a rock instead of putting it in her mouth. 

I say “Thank you, Em!” And we move on!

Instead of “Wow Em! I’m so proud of you, you didn’t eat the rock! Good job Hunny!”

17. Repeat

You will repeat yourself 100x before they actually understand it. Okay, maybe not that much… but it will feel like it.

Stick with it. They will eventually understand what you are saying. Remember we are building a foundation, which takes repetition and time!

Is Gentle Parenting Biblical?

If we look at what the Bible says, gentle parenting is Biblical. That’s because the basis of our discipline is rooted in patience and love.

I believe that gentle parenting will reflect the same relationship that we should have with Christ. It models His love. Giving our kids this foundation will encourage them to have a long-lasting relationship with God.

When our children have a natural desire to love God, they will do what is right because of that. At the end of the day, our job as a parent is to model this relationship.

[What is your job as a Christian mom? You need to do these 12 things!]

My thoughts….

At the end of the day, we all just want to raise good children, who love the Lord and seek His will. When you start to use gentle parenting for one year olds, you will find yourself having more patience and in return, you will have a happier kiddo! I hope these tips help you to be a better mama!

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