What? Discipline for a baby? Yes, even babies need discipline, but not in the way you might think. We often assume that discipline is synonymous with the word punishment. However, this is only one of the many definitions of the word discipline. It can also be defined as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Merriam Webster). Most people would agree that babies need that just as much as the rest of us.
Here are some suggestions for “disciplining” or training your baby during his first year: [*Please note that the time frames are based on typical child development – your baby may have different developmental needs or abilities]
- Quickly respond to his cries of hunger, fatigue, boredom, cold, or wet (0-3 months).
- Gradually encourage any efforts at self-soothing once you have met all of the baby’s physical needs (3-6 months).
- Use actions to communicate your dislike of certain normal but undesirable exploratory behaviors (such as biting while nursing, pinching or slapping). You can simply say, “Ouch!,” put him down somewhere safe, and then busy yourself with something in the same room (6-9 months).
- When he attempts to touch things that are “off limits,” use a signal word (such as “stop”), gently remove him and then place him in front of an age appropriate toy. Repeat as often as necessary (8-12 months).
- Use simple baby signs to help him find ways to communicate his needs and desires (up, down, help, more) (9-12 months).
- Continue to use actions more than words to discipline. If he throws food from the high chair, simply say, “All done ” and gently remove him from the chair. You can try again a few minutes later (9-12 months).
Regardless of age, your ultimate goal is to develop a positive, warm and healthy relationship with your child. It will provide the foundation upon which all future training and discipline will be built. Read to your baby, smile at your baby and play with him as often as possible. Consistency, security and predictability are some of the things that will communicate your love to him in a language he can understand.
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