When should you start to discipline your baby? It’s an issue for every parent, so you should never feel alone. Discipline and guidance are important for all children, but the time to start can be confusing for parents. Is there a milestone or an age that suddenly means you can start to discipline your child? What many parents don’t realize, is that you are disciplining your little one from the day they are born. The original Latin meaning of the word discipline is to teach. You are teaching your little one about the world from the day they enter the world.
Can I Discipline My Baby?Answer: Yes, Positive Discipline Recommended
There are many different ways to teach and discipline your child, every parent has a different way to do this. There are cultural differences, there are individual choices and there are different ideologies that emerge with every generation. There is a common theme however, and that is that parents will teach a desired behavior, and offer consequences when that behavior is not met. Consequences are often linked to punishment, which is defined as using pain or loss as a means to control behavior. There is a difference between discipline and punishment, they are not the same thing.
Discipline For Infants
While you may have horrific images of beating a child, this is definitely not what this means. Discipline for infants is simply teaching them what you want them to learn. Establishing a routine with your little one is discipline. Teaching your baby sign language is a discipline. Helping them learn how to self soothe is a discipline. These are all things that you teach your baby so that they can communicate and function in the world. These lessons will progress to more difficult lessons, they will learn not to throw their food, they will learn to communicate with words, you will teach them manners. All of these simple tasks that you look upon as “just parenting” are in fact a part of disciplining your infant. There is no punishment or harsh words involved, in fact when our little ones are infants, parents are masters of positive reinforcement.
What is Positive Reinforcement?
Rewarding a positive or desirable behavior is positive reinforcement. When a baby does something that we want, perhaps they repeat the word we have taught them for thank you or they manage to bring the spoon to their mouth rather than toss their food to the floor we respond with joy and positivity. We’ve all seen the outburst of clapping and ‘good job’ applied to little one who does what we have asked them to do.
As a parent you have taught them, then reinforced the desired behavior with a positive response.The little one will desire a positive response and will often repeat the infant behavior to repeat the positive reaction from parents and caregivers. Is it realistic to clap and cheer every time your five year old does something right? No. But positive reinforcement is still important, and a ‘good job’ with a smile, quietly mentioned can have the same effect as the clapping and cheering for your little one.
As our little one’s grow, it is often easy to slip into a negative reinforcement pattern. Toddlers learn to establish their independence, they can become defiant and appear to be deliberately naughty and cheeky. Parenting is difficult, it doesn’t come with a manual and every one will make mistakes. Positive reinforcement is one way to teach and discipline your child, and it can be effective in some circumstances.
Discipline Birth to 12 Months – Love and Routine
A little one is developing trust in it’s parents throughout this stage. An infant who has trust and love in its life is likely to have fewer anxieties and be more confident in later life. Their wants and needs are being met, this will help them to grow in confidence and when you do set down boundaries and rules they will know that you love them.
Teaching your child routines, being positive as they complete behaviors that you desire and avoiding corporal punishment of any sort (hitting, smacking, time out etc) is important.
Discipline for 6 to 18 months – Remove and substitute
Like everybody else babies also learn by doing, so if your little one throws the bowl of cereal off the highchair tray, this is due to curiosity to see what is going to happen, not because they want to distress you and make a mess. In saying this it does not mean that you have to stand by and allow your little one to do something you do not like or touch objects that could hurt them. It is far better to take something away or physically move your little one away from it. Will an infant meltdown follow after you have removed them from a situation? Possibly. Tantrums are a part of life, substituting with something else may distract them, or trying again by holding onto the food and feeding your little one is another.
When you explain to your little one, use simple words. Be consistent too, if you are using “no” then stick with no. For example, your 9 month old keeps grabbing the necklace that you are wearing and trying to chew on the beads. Rather than letting your little one to continue to pull at it, you say “no” and remove the necklace from their hand or remove it from your baby’s reach completely. Then hand your little one a teething ring or another chewable toy and do it with a smile and a positive response. This simple example is something that you would do every single day as you parent – you are disciplining every day! Do not ever lose heart, you are doing your best and your baby learns every single day.
Discipline for 12 to 24 months – Right wrongs together
There comes a turning point where your little one will know the difference between right and wrong. There are many different theories as to the age this occurs. You will be able to tell because your little one will look at you and complete an action that is something you don’t like. For example, looking at you, gaining your attention then dropping their plate.
Congratulations, your little one has reached a milestone!
It doesn’t mean that you should start to punish your little one, they are still learning. One way to resolve these actions is to acknowledge the action and resolve it together. If your little one dropped their food all over the floor, complete the clean up together. Their language skills will have improved by this point. A simple, “what a mess you made! We’ll have to clean that up together” and getting them to help you clean up the mess they created. Be positive while you clean up, get them to put it in the bin and be positive that together you are cleaning up the mess.
Always emphasize the positive with your little one.
It is always far better to focus on the positive things that your little one does rather than on the negative, get into the practice of rewarding good behavior, as when you do this your little one will start to focus on good behavior. As an example it is time for bed for your little one, they are resisting your efforts to put them to sleep. What you can do is to start reinforcing anything positive that they are doing, such as “You are trying to take of your socks, the quicker we have your bath done, the quicker you can jump into bed and we can read a story or if we have more time may be we can read two stories.” What is important that you do praise anything positive your little one does. When you do this it will help them to focus on the positive things that they are achieving.
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