I am going to let you in on a little secret. Your baby is very smart. He knows exactly what he is doing when he looks over his shoulder at you before grabbing the cat’s tail or hurling the remote control at you for the twentieth time. It’s called testing limits.
Around nine months of age, your baby understands the word, “No.” He continues to do the same behavior over and over again because he wants to see if you really meant it when you said No! the first nineteen times. This either a) leads a parent to believe that their child has no idea what No! means or b) makes them think they failed in Parenting 101. Neither is true.
Here’s what you need to know: you are planting the seeds of discipline right now. Do not expect a tree to grow overnight. It may take months (or years!) to see the fruits of your labor. Be patient. Have realistic expectations. And, do not expect instant gratification when you implement your discipline strategy.
So, what constitutes “discipline”? Can you expect your one year old to sit in a naughty chair? Nope. Discipline, is based on the Latin word which means “teaching”. Your job is to teach your child what is appropriate behavior and what isn’t. And, there are many strategies to accomplish this goal.
Here are some take home tips:
Tip #1: Ignore it. A baby will repeat the same offense because it gets your attention. Example: Mommy screams when I yank her hair! Solution: Stop reacting. Or, calmly say, “No hair pulling,” and put your baby down on the floor. Losing your attention is a very big deal. When the offense no longer gets the desired effect, your baby will stop doing it.
Tip #2: Redirect. Example: Your baby pulls the cat’s tail. Solution: Move your baby away from the cat or remove the cat from his play area. If there is no temptation, the offense won’t happen (and you won’t have to keep saying No!).
Tip #3: Teach natural consequences. Your baby learns when he realizes he controls his destiny. Example: Your baby likes throwing food off of his highchair. Solution: Mealtime is over. Your baby learns that food should be eaten and when he has a John Belushi food fight moment, he is telling you that he does not want to eat. (If he is truly hungry, he will change his behavior quickly.)
Tip #4: Stay calm and be a good role model. Your baby is learning from you.