Disciplining a baby can be a challenging experience and tends to bring out the best and worst in parents. Every parent will tell you that it is quite hard to watch your infant throwing his food around or hitting his sister even after being asked so many times to stop. On the flip side disciplining your baby can make you a better parent. This is because discipline starts with trust, a child who trusts his mother to give him food and comfort when required will also trust the mother even when disciplined.
According to Clair Lerner, director of parenting resources at Zero to Three in Washington D.C, setting limits is a critical part of your responsibility. You are helping your child to understand wrong and right, to follow rules, cope with frustrations and as well as disappointment. Basically a misbehaving baby is not doing so intentionally. When she tugs at your glasses, she is not being mischievous but simply exploring the world around her. Babies are constantly making observations about the world, so when he mushes his food and drops something from a high chair he is simply trying to discover how the world around him functions.
Getting out of yourself and into your child’s world will save you a lot of mental strain. Understanding your child’s behavior and seeing things from their perspective will help you respond appropriately to guide his or her behavior. This will help you during those moments when your child does something that threatens to frazzle your last nerve.
Grabbing or touching dangerous stuff
Babies are hopelessly curious and will always try to pull, drop and push as well as throw items. Exploring the world through touching and biting is the way babies learn about the world around them. Rather than shouting No! Try to distract and divert the child from mischief or danger. You can try calling out the child’s name loudly. Hearing his or her name will most likely surprise the child and cause them to momentary forget his mischievous quest. Once you have the child’s attention, you should consider redirecting his interest before he gets into trouble.
Rather than scold him give your young explorer word association to help him sort out what he may or may not touch. Say “yes touch” to refer to safe things and “no touch” for dangerous items. To tame an impulsive grabber, try encouraging the kid to touch hot items with one finger. You can use words such as “hot touch” for hot kitchen objects and fireplaces; however this does not mean that you should leave hot appliances within reach of your baby.
Disciplining your baby by showing him what is off-limits is good enough, however showing her what is hers at the same time is also critical. If you are in the kitchen chopping onions with your knife and your 18-month old wants to join the fun, you can consider offering the child a spoon rather than just saying ‘No!’ This technique commonly known as substituting and redirecting is helpful as it teaches the child what to touch or use and what not to touch.
Throwing utensils from a height or spilling food
Part of the learning process that your child goes through involves learning what she can do with her hands. At the same time your child is discovering the phenomenon known as gravity. If you have time and energy, you can consider going with the flow and playing drop-and-pick game until your baby gets bored. Alternatively you can leave the dropped item or food on the floor to send a message to the baby that play time is over. When your baby realizes that there is no one to play with, she will change the game.
If your baby spills food, keep in mind that he/she is not rejecting the food you prepared or trying to be mischievous. She simply wants to interact and play with you. If you do not want to play fetch with the sippy cup, get the baby out of the chair and give him real toys to play with. You may be surprised to realize that even a couple of minutes playing with your child will get the baby to a point where he is ready to eat.
Alternatively you can simply ignore the sippy cup on the floor where she threw it, sit facing the child and eat your own food just as you would want him to eat his. If you keep it fun and interactive, your baby will eventually follow your lead.
Hitting and biting
Babies engage in this behavior because they have not yet developed the words to communicate their emotions, as a result they use the tools they have. These include hands and teeth. Your child uses these tools to experiment on familiar people such as his sibling, babysitter, mom or day-care provider. Normally these early smacks and nips are simply playful expressions and not necessary aggressive tendencies.
Since your baby’s nips and smacks are most likely not malicious, but misdirected techniques of expressing frustration or affection, you should avoid scolding or yelling at the child. Playing show-and-tell instead of yelling at the child will help the child understand how to express different emotions. She may not understand everything you do to help express her emotions but soon she will get your tone and adapt to your good example.