Responding Appropriately To Your Child’s Inappropriate Behaviour

Disciplining your baby is mostly reactive, and how you do it can impact his or her overall upbringing

Disciplining a child can bring out the best and worst in us as parents. It's quite difficult not to get frustrated when your baby keeps throwing away his food or hitting his sister after being begged for many times to stop. However, it can also make us better parents, because discipline begins with trust. The baby who trusts his mom or dad to provide him food and affection when he needs it will also trust them when they say, "Don't touch!" And that's also the reason why discipline is less about naughty corners and punishments than it is about establishing your child's faith in you.

But it’s not as simple as that. As parents, we have to start from scratch in building that trusting relationship with our children. It starts with reacting appropriately to each move they make, so the foundation of what’s right and wrong is strengthened. Below are some tips on how to properly respond to your child’s actions.

Grabbing or touching dangerous stuff

Curious babies are always in search of things to pull, push, grab, drop and throw, whether it's your phone or the hot oven door. Babies learn and explore the world through touching and mouthing, so don’t expect them to completely stop it even when you tell them not to.

Relentless saying “no, no, no!” only adds those negative words to your baby’s fresh vocabulary and will not help at all. Instead, say something more personal like "Not for Jake..." To distract and divert your baby’s attention from danger or mischief, call out his name. Hearing their names will take them by surprise and will cause them to momentarily forget their quest. Once you had their attention, you can now quickly redirect their interest to something safer and fun.

Intentionally dropping food on the floor or throwing away stuff from the table

In the early stages, your baby is learning what he can do with his hands, and he's also discovering the amazing miracle of gravity. Also, throwing or dropping things always gets a reaction from all those around him.

If you have time and energy, you can simply go with the flow and play the drop-and-pick-up game until either you or your baby gets bored, or you can in due course just leave the dropped food or item on the floor to let your baby know that the game is over. When there is no one around to play with, your baby will soon change the game.

Remember that your baby is not necessarily refusing the food that you made or trying to be disobedient. Sometimes, he just wants to play and interact with people. If you don't want to play fetch with the baby spoon, get him out of the high chair and have him play with real toys. Even a couple minutes of fun will get your child to the point where he is ready to sit and eat.

Biting and hitting other people

Your baby has not yet developed the words to express emotions, so he uses the only tools he has: his mouth and hands. He'll use these tools to experiment on familiar people around him, such as his parents, siblings, babysitter or day-care provider. These early nips and smacks are also often playful ways to communicate; don’t readily interpret them as aggressive behavior.

Since your baby's biting and hitting are most likely not malevolent, but rather unguided gestures of affection or frustration, fight the urge to yell. Play show-and-tell instead. Demonstrate how you "pet" and "be gentle" with your hand. Say, "We kiss your brother," "We pet the doggy," or "We hug our friend." If he's lashing out due to frustration, help him with whatever he wants to achieve or get.

Excessive screaming and yelling

Babies are amazed at how their little voices can elicit shock. They enjoy the power of a tiny baby getting a room full of adults to stop and stare.

To address this with a hint of fun, try making a house rule: "Mary, only scream on the grass!" When her scream is about to erupt, usher her outside and let her scream there. If weather and circumstances don’t allow the outdoor vocal release, use an empty room instead. Once your baby develops the words to express her needs, screaming and yelling will eventually reduce.

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