Whenever as a young girl, I saw a kid behave inappropriately in public, I would subconsciously blame the parents for the morals they’ve instilled and the way they’ve disciplined their child (of course in my head :p), and I’m pretty sure most of you did too. (Please say yes! 🙈)
Now, after I’ve become a mother myself, I realise how wrong I was. Kids are kids, and beyond a point, things are not totally in our control. That being said, disciplining them is extremely crucial. Not only so that they obey you in important matters, but also so that they grow up to be well-behaved and well-spoken members of the society.
Contrary to the common belief of training them once they’ve reached a certain age, it’s now being found that the early you start, the more well-behaved the baby becomes.
The real question is: “How to discipline them without hindering their natural instinct of exploring?”
The primary rule that each parent needs to remember here is: “Use your ‘NO’s’ judiciously”. We often say ’no’ to things which actually don’t require to be stopped immediately. For instance, if your child puts a toy in a bucket of water, don’t say no. Let him throw and see how the water splashes or if he throws food from the plate on the floor, don’t scold him. He’s just curious to see how things fall. Say ‘NO’ only when it’s harmful to him or when he’s learning to do something that he shouldn’t.
Coming back to our topic, that is, age-appropriate disciplining. Here are a few things you can do to raise a well-behaved child:
Since babies have no comprehension at this age, nor do they understand our language much, the best thing to do here is prevent undesirable occurrences. Like, if you feel that he’s begun to put things in his mouth, keep hazardous objects away from his sight. Or, he has learnt to pull your hair and you don’t find it desirable, gently move his hand from your hair and quickly give him a toy instead.
Moreover, this is an age when most habits are formed, so if you don’t want your kid to be habituated to something you don’t intend to use/follow for a long duration, it’s better to get rid of those habits at this time. Some of those things can be- use of a cradle, pacifier or preference of sucking to sleep etc. Though sucking to sleep is a great way of ensuring that babies sleep while feeling secure, some mothers have to continue with their jobs or have other issues and don’t find it very practical to follow. If you’re one of those, I’d advise you to gradually reduce the use of those items/habits since this is the only age you can control it to a great extent.
At around this time, most babies learn to crawl and with the help of this newly learnt skill, the desire to touch things and explore increases. During this phase, their understanding of what’s good and what’s not, what’s is safe and what shouldn’t be touched is zilch. So, saying a plain ‘No’ doesn’t help much. That being said, their safety is important and it’s something which we parents can’t compromise on.
Here are a few things you can do:
1. Babyproof your apartment and keep potentially dangerous items out of your baby’s reach.
2. You don’t have to necessarily say no. Just make a peculiar sound that signifies danger. Use your words correctly. That sound/ word should not be said in a strict or unpleasant manner to scare the baby, and at the same time, it shouldn’t be encouraging too. We need the baby to learn to stop the action he’s performing. Saying a simple “ah ah” or “uh oh” while calling him towards you with your arms stretched works like magic.
3. Another trick that I liked was suggested by a friend and fellow blogger, Mumtaz. She practises “show to teach” method with her baby. For this, she asks her husband to pick something in the baby’s presence. She then says “no” to her husband and he keeps that thing down. This is how the baby learns that when “no” is said, the action has to stop or the held item has to be kept down. While, in my opinion, it’s a great trick, the only care one has to take is in the number of times you say ’no’. Like mentioned before, don’t say no unless you sense danger.
Once babies learn to walk, they become unstoppable. This is also the time when a major mental leap occurs, due to which, they become mini-bosses of their own world. At this age, they sense a great deal of independence and thus love to throw and destruct items or simply do things like the way they like and not how they are instructed to. You’ll also notice a huge difference in their eating behaviour. Even those kids who once ate their meals without a fuss, won’t open their mouth to eat food or spit out it out once fed.
How to disciple these young independent humans?
1. The above-mentioned tricks won’t work at this stage, because when you tell them not to do something or even scold them when they do something inappropriate, they get thrilled and will repeat that action even more.
2. What we can do is- work in accordance to their milestone. You’ll notice that babies above 12 months of age love to hit other babies or pull their noses. This is so, not because they want to hurt them or inflict pain, it’s only because they love to see the reaction. Similarly, most of the actions they perform are result-oriented or in simple words, are a result of their curiosity to know the other person responds. What worked for us was- not reacting! So when my girl learnt that she could pull my hair or hit me on my face, I didn’t say anything and simply ignored. She did that for a day or two and when she observed no reaction from me, she completely stopped doing it. This may not be the most correct way of disciplining the child, but it’s way better than saying no, which actually augmented her misbehaviour.
3. The art of distraction: This trick is something most moms swear by. All you have to do is when a child does something inappropriate or misbehaves, you quickly direct his attention towards something else. Since kids of this age have a short attention span, they usually forget what they were previously up to and get involved in the new activity.
4. Channelise their energy: Most of the unpleasant behaviour of kids is due to rush of energy they have and they don’t know how to exert themselves. It is found that kids who are involved in more constructive activities and play are better behaved than other kids.
Before I end, let me share an important message: These are some tricks only to prevent dangerous occurrences and for them to learn to follow important instructions.
You don’t have to always police your child.
Let him jump, let him throw;
Let him fall, that’s how he’ll grow!
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