close-up of baby girl crying

Surviving Your 12-Month-Old

By Amalah

Hi, I have a 12 month old daughter and lately she’s been so whiny.

She’ll screech at me for what seems like no reason. She gets incredibly fussy during the day and fights her sleep so badly. She’ll be content one second and then screaming at me the next. She gets angry when I take things from her that she knows she shouldn’t have. Her daddy’s vape, tv remote, etc. Her dad doesn’t understand the whining and gets immediately angry with her and tells her to stop. Please give us some advice.

Ma’am, I regret to inform you that you have a 12-month-old. I’m sorry. This transition between baby and toddler can be a tough one.

One-year-olds don’t know what behavior is expected from them

So first off, I can assure you that she — at 12 months old — most certainly doesn’t “know” what things she should or shouldn’t have. If it’s within her reach, it’s perfectly fair game. In fact, to her, it IS a game.

Childproofing is important now

This is why the childproofing sections of the big baby stores are bonkers. Babies and toddlers are extremely skilled at 1) hurting/maiming/poisoning themselves, and 2) breaking/wrecking/destroying other people’s things.

Move the TV remote up and out of reach. Relocate cleaning supplies from under the sink to a higher cabinet. Put OTC and prescription medicines under lock and key. And for the love of God, get Daddy to keep his vape up and out of reach! If she grabs that (and then, in typical baby/toddler fashion, mimics what she sees Daddy do with it) that is entirely ON HIM, HIS FAULT, and not hers.

Sample script on how to respond to your baby

Of course, there will always be something accidentally lying around that she shouldn’t have — no household can ever be perfectly childproofed, we’re humans — and when that happens, respond calmly and if possible, redirect her attention immediately. “Whoops, that’s not for you, baby! Here’s your toy/cup/book instead.” If she screeches, cover your ears and say something like, “Ow! I don’t like that! Can we sing a song/play a game instead?” If you raise your voice or respond in a similar angry tone, you are basically reinforcing to her that yelling and screeching is a perfectly acceptable reaction to the situation.

What’s behind your baby’s whininess

As for the general 12-month-old frustration and tantrums over anything and everything, remember that it has EVERYTHING to do with her lack of expressive language. How else can she let you know what she needs or wants, beyond babbling and pointing and the (very few) other communication tools at her disposal? This is why VOLUME becomes such a big thing at this age — she still doesn’t know how to ask you for a specific snack, but she’s at least figured out that she can scream at you when offered the wrong one. It’s maddening, but if you can extend a little empathy and understanding of being a very small person with very big feelings and no real way to let the big people around her understand those feelings, it can really help you get through those low day-to-day moments with her. (And this goes for Daddy too. Stop yelling at her! She’s a baby!)

Learn and teach basic Baby Sign Language

My go-to piece of advice for parents struggling to communicate with a not-yet-verbal kid is for both of you to learn some basic baby sign language. More, all done, no, yes, eat, drink, go, Mama, Dada are good basics. Once she gets the concept, it can be really fun to expand her “vocabulary” to things she’s interested in — colors, animals, trains, playground, etc. — and teach her positive things like “I love you” or “happy” that you can both use. There are tons of books and videos for baby sign language, but you don’t really need those to get started. Just Google “ASL” or “baby sign language” and you’ll find plenty of free resources and demonstrations of the signs. I did this with all three of my children (including my oldest, who had a significant speech delay) and oh my LANDS, it really made SUCH of difference. For them AND for me, and my general sanity.

Take breaks, mama

Also, it’s okay to need and take a break. Just a few minutes in the bathroom or anywhere with a DOOR you can CLOSE so you can BREATHE or SILENTLY SCREAM INTO A PILLOW can be a much-needed reset when dealing with these small, irrational, adorable people.

(Seriously tho pls keep the vape out of her reach at all time that’s rlly rlly important thank u.)

More on Infant Behavior from Alpha Mom:

1. Discipline vs. Correction vs. the Mighty Redirection
2. The Screaming Phase
3. Baby Sign Language 101

Photo source: DepositPhotos/erlire


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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