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Infant Discipline: Are You Kidding?

A great deal of infant care revolves around responsibilities like feeding, sleeping, and diapering, and these are prime times to connect with your infant, talk, laugh, enjoy one another’s company, and begin teaching him about the world.

Love Your Infant—Interactively
Children grow and learn best in an environment in which they feel loved and secure. Spend time playing, snuggling, in conversation, and getting to know one another.

Respond to Your Infant’s Needs
Establishing a general routine is a reasonable goal for new parents and ultimately beneficial to older infants. The sense of security and trust an infant acquires with responsive care is essential for the development of self-control.

Create an Environment of “Yes,” not “No”
If your infant constantly plays with the soil in the potted plant, consider removing the plant. Sure, children need to learn the word “no” but there are plenty of opportunities for that. Eliminate the temptations for undesirable exploration and create a “yes” environment where curiosity and exploration don’t lead to restraints.

Anticipate and Prevent Dangerous Situations
Move breakable objects to higher shelves and put gates near stairs. Create a trouble-free environment.

Ignore Annoying Behavior

Sometimes an infant’s behavior can be annoying but not harmful. If your infant pulls everything out of your sock drawer, just take a deep breath and ignore it. Decide what’s important.

Redirect
Redirect your infant from things you don’t want her to have or do. It’s easier to get an infant involved in something else than to take something away. If she has your keys and you need them, don’t just grab them; instead, interest her in some other toy or activity. She will then let go of the keys.

Reward Good Behavior
Even infants seek approval and attention. Reward your child’s appropriate behavior with words of praise and lots of hugs and kisses. Your attention is your infant’s most important reward. Use it to encourage positive behavior.

Give the Freedom to Explore Within Limits
Infants need freedom to explore but also need limits. You need good judgment to provide both. Infants who spend too much time in playpens or chairs or propped up have too little space and time to learn. Infants need freedom in a safe environment, for example on the floor on their stomachs or backs, or on their hands and knees, to explore and play with a rich variety of objects.

Learning self-control and appropriate behavior is a lifelong process that begins at birth. Actually, it begins when parents learn self-control and appropriate behavior. Children are sure to test our limits and try our patience as they make their presence known in the world. It’s a long journey for them and for us.

Additional Resources
The AAP Parent’s Guide to Discipline describes the difference between discipline and punishment and provides tips on how to encourage good behavior. Methods include using natural consequences, logical consequences, withholding privileges and time-outs. It also includes six tips on making discipline more effective as well as an explanation of why spanking is not the best choice.

Originally published on BrightHorizons

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