The 18 Month Old Milestones help parents understand the behavior of an 18-month-old, because they can be frustrating at times. Your 18-month-old requires gentle transitions, patience, consistent limits, and respect. One minute he or she insists on independence; the next he or she is clinging fearfully to you, the parent. If your toddler is challenged by a playmate or a sibling, his or her cheerful playing can quickly turn into a screaming tantrum. Much of the energy and drive that was channeled into physical activity is now directed toward more complex tasks and social interactions.
Having learned the concept of choice, your toddler becomes assertive about his or her own wishes. Because his or her repertoire of language and behavior is rather limited, your toddler’s method of expressing himself or herself generally consists of saying “No!” Your toddler can also be strong-willed, collapsing his or her legs rather than walking where adults want him or her to go. The seeming defiance and negativism of an 18-month-old are merely assertions of his or her emerging sense of his or her own identity.
When your toddler bounces a ball 20 times in the kitchen, he or she is not trying to drive you crazy. Rather, he or she is trying to learn about bouncing balls, and repetition is the best teacher. Your toddler resists change and often experiences frustration as he or she attempts to learn new skills. However, he or she responds positively and happily to a stable environment.
Your 18-month-old needs to have strong emotional ties to you, parents. To venture into the world and test his or her newfound assertiveness, your toddler must know that he or she has a safe, emotionally secure place at home. Parents can help your child by not taking his or her assertiveness personally. As your toddler tries out new skills, you can modify his or her environment to avoid as many problem situations as possible. Parents must “choose their battles” carefully to minimize the possibility of continual power struggles with your toddler over minor issues. Extra patience and a sense of humor can help parents with the tough task of continually reinforcing the limits you have set.
Parents who view their toddler’s negativism as budding independence and who provide a physically and emotionally stable environment can support him or her through this sometimes stormy period and be richly rewarded. The 18-month-old can light up a room as she applauds himself or herself and looks around for parental acclaim and reinforcement.
18 Month Old Milestones
- Walks quickly or runs stiffly
- Throws a ball
- Has a vocabulary of 15 to 20 words
- Imitates words
- Uses two-word phrases
- Pulls a toy along the ground
- Stacks two or three blocks
- Uses a spoon and cup
- Listens to a story, looking at pictures and naming objects
- Shows affection, kisses
- Follows simple directions
- Points to some body parts
- May imitate a crayon stroke and scribbles
- Dumps an object from bottle without being shown
Serve your toddler three nutritious meals a day. Provide a highchair or booster seat at table height during family mealtimes. Make mealtimes pleasant and companionable. Encourage conversation. Give your toddler two or three planned nutritious snacks a day. Provide snacks rich in complex carbohydrates, and limit sweets and high-fat snacks. Resist using snacks for emotional reasons (comfort, eward).
Continue encouraging your toddler to feed herself with her hands or a spoon and to drink from a cup. Encourage your toddler to experiment with foods, deciding what and how much to eat from the nutritious foods that you offer. Let your toddler develop food likes and dislikes. Do not allow feeding to serve as the focus of a power struggle.
Expect your toddler to eat a lot one time, not much the next. “Food jags” are common at this age. A toddler’s intake will vary considerably over any 24-hour period, but should be balanced over several days.
Be sure that your toddler’s caregiver provides nutritious foods. Avoid giving your toddler foods that can be inhaled and cause choking (e.g., no peanuts, popcorn, chips, hot dogs or sausages, carrot sticks, whole grapes, raisins, hard candy, large pieces of raw vegetables or fruit, or tough meat).
Promotion of Social Competence
- Praise your toddler for good behavior and accomplishments.
- Model appropriate language. Encourage your toddler’s language development by reading and singing to her, and by talking about what you and she are seeing and doing together.
- Encourage self-expression.
- Promote a sense of competence and control by inviting your toddler to make choices whenever possible. (Be sure you can live with the choices, e.g., “red pants or blue?”).
- Encourage your toddler to be assertive in appropriate situations, yet provide limits when needed.
- Decide what limits are important to you and your toddler. Be specific when setting these limits. Briefly tell your toddler what she did wrong. Be as consistent as possible when enforcing limits.
- Keep “time out” or other disciplinary measures brief. Do not hesitate to pick up or hold your toddler or remove her from danger or conflict.
- Reassure your toddler once the negative behavior has stopped. When correcting her, make a verbal distinction between your toddler and her behavior: “I love you, but I don’t like it when you do _____.” When possible, give your toddler a “yes” as well as a “no.” (For example: “No, you can’t play with the remote control, but you can play with the blocks.”)
- Avoid a power struggle with your toddler. Prepare strategies for sidestepping conflicts and appropriately asserting your power. You can control only your own responses to your toddler’s behavior. For example, you cannot make a toddler sleep, but you can insist that she stay in her room.
- Teach your toddler about limit-setting measures, such as “time out” when she is most capable of learning (e.g., when she is rested, fed, calm).
- Prepare strategies to deal with night waking, night fears, and nightmares.
- Encourage self-quieting behaviors such as quiet play or the use of a transitional object (e.g., a favorite toy or blanket).
- Recognize that toilet training is part of developmentally appropriate learning.
- Delay toilet training until your toddler is dry for periods of about 2 hours, knows the difference between wet and dry, can pull her pants up and down, wants to learn, and can indicate when she is about to have a bowel movement.
The behavior of an 18-month-old can be frustrating at times, but his or her delight in her own emerging competence and achievements can bring a sense of joy and accomplishment to all around her.
To learn more about 18 Month Old Milestones and improve your parenting skills, please refer to great parenting books.