How to Navigate the Complexities of a One-Year-Old’s Development and Behavior

Kate Chered
4 min readDec 23, 2023

What is the Significance of Attention and Play in a One-Year-Old’s Life?

In the first year of life, a child undergoes significant developmental changes, both mentally and physically. An intense curiosity marks this period to explore the world. By the time they reach 10–12 months, children can grasp and hold objects that were previously out of reach and start to take their first steps. This newfound ability makes them perceive themselves as more independent and capable than they are, which is crucial in understanding their behavior.

Children at this age require constant attention and engagement. Their world revolves around exploration and play, not mere leisure activities but crucial cognitive and physical development components. When engaged in play, children learn about their environment, develop motor skills, and begin to understand basic concepts of cause and effect. Play is also vital for parents and caregivers to connect with the child, providing a window into their evolving interests and abilities.

Where Do the Challenges in Parenting One-Year-Olds Stem From?

The primary challenge in parenting one-year-olds arises from a misunderstanding of their developmental needs and capabilities. As children assert their independence, they may resist adult intervention, leading to what is commonly called the “first-year crisis.” This period is characterized by the child’s desire to do things independently, like eating or walking without assistance and reacting negatively to restrictions.

Parents often continue to interact with their growing children as they did when they were younger, leading to frustration. When faced with resistance or aggression from the child, parents might respond inappropriately with anger or even physical discipline, exacerbating the situation. This highlights the need for parents to adapt their approach, respect the child’s growing autonomy and treat them with the understanding that they are no longer infants but developing individuals with their desires and capabilities.

How Long Does This Developmental Crisis Last?

The duration of this developmental crisis varies greatly from one child to another, typically ranging from a week to a year. This variation largely depends on the child’s temperament and the parent’s ability to recognize and adapt to their child’s changing needs. Sometimes, parents may not notice any significant crisis, especially if the child is calm. Their opinions and desires are consistently respected within the family.

How to Effectively Address and Manage a One-Year-Old’s Changing Needs?

Psychologists suggest several strategies for dealing with the challenges posed by a one-year-old’s development:

  1. Minimize unnecessary prohibitions. Instead of constantly forbidding the child from touching things, rearrange the environment to make dangerous or breakable items inaccessible.
  2. Encourage and support the child’s initiatives. If a child shows interest in doing something independently, allow them to try rather than immediately stepping in to help.
  3. Respect the child’s appetite. If they refuse to eat, do not force them; offer food and wait until they are hungry.
  4. Understand and respond to your child’s non-verbal cues. Although they cannot articulate their thoughts, parents can often intuitively sense their child’s needs and desires.
  5. Be a friend, not just a disciplinarian. Build a relationship based on understanding and mutual respect.

In conclusion, navigating the developmental challenges of a one-year-old requires a balance of guidance, understanding, and adaptability from parents. Recognizing and respecting the child’s growing need for independence while providing a safe and nurturing environment is key to fostering healthy development during this critical stage.


What are the Key Signs of the “First-Year Crisis” in Toddlers?

The “first-year crisis” is marked by a toddler’s increasing desire for independence and can be identified by certain key behaviors. These include strong resistance to adult help in activities like eating or walking, frustration or tantrums when faced with restrictions, and a marked interest in exploring their environment. This phase reflects the child’s growing self-awareness and desire to assert autonomy.

How Can Parents Identify If Their One-Year-Old is Experiencing a Developmental Crisis?

Parents can identify a developmental crisis in their one-year-old by observing changes in the child’s behavior. This might include increased tantrums, a desire to perform tasks independently, and frustration when they cannot do so or are restricted. Parents should note changes in how their child interacts with them and their environment, such as a newfound interest in objects they previously ignored.

Where Should Parents Focus Their Attention When Dealing with a One-Year-Old’s Tantrums?

When dealing with a one-year-old’s tantrums, parents should focus their attention on understanding the underlying cause. Tantrums often stem from the child’s frustration at their inability to communicate or do things independently. Parents should remain calm and empathetic, trying to understand the child’s perspective and needs rather than focusing solely on stopping the tantrum.

When is the Right Time for Parents to Start Treating Their Child as an Independent Individual?

The transition to treating a child as an independent individual should begin as soon as they start showing signs of wanting to do things by themselves, usually around the age of one. This is when children explore their environment more actively and desire to engage in tasks independently. Parents should start respecting their children’s autonomy in small ways, adapting their parenting style as the child grows.

How Can Parents Effectively Communicate with Their One-Year-Old During a Crisis Phase?

Effective communication with a one-year-old during a crisis phase involves a lot of non-verbal cues and patience. Parents should maintain calm, use simple words, and pay attention to the child’s body language. Acknowledging the child’s feelings and offering comfort can be more effective than verbal explanations. It’s also important for parents to consistently demonstrate love and support, ensuring the child feels safe and understood.

Originally published at on December 23, 2023.