Discipline is Not Punishment

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by Patrice on March 12, 2011 · 2 comments

in Starting Line (0-12 months)

Infants and discipline are two words that don’t seem to go together. How can the pink faced little bundle in your arms smelling sweetly of baby powder possibly misbehave badly enough to warrant any kind of disciplinary action? The single mom knows that a big part of parenting is instilling proper discipline at an early age, but how early?

The first time your baby spits his food out at you, it may be very amusing. You might burst out in laughter when tiny hands upend the bowl containing his meal over his head. Many moms keep a camera handy, hoping for a repeat performance so that the tiny signs of personality can be recorded so that they never escape memory. When the behavior continues, many single moms are no longer amused and search for ways to stop the infant from the mischief.

Teaching the meaning of the word no at the starting line is a task that takes patience and love. A baby who hasn’t yet reached his first birthday will understand the tone of the word, but won’t understand that it means that his actions are inappropriate. He’s just a baby exploring his limited world through arms, legs and little fingers he is just discovering that he can control.

The baby doesn’t understand that he is doing anything wrong, even as he bites, puts any object within his reach in his mouth or grabs and pulls at hair and jewelry. The capacity for understanding right and wrong has not yet been developed. Any attempt at punishment will fail because the child has no concept of what he did that was inappropriate.

The behaviors, however, can’t be allowed to continue, so the first recourse mom has is to say “No”.  In a calm yet stern voice, the word no can alert the child to the fact that his immediate action was not accepted well. Over time, the baby may start reacting badly to the word, so it is important that the single mom follows up her admonishment with a smile or hug when the tiny misbehavior stops.

As the infant becomes mobile and his reach gets longer, it’s more likely that mom will find herself saying “no” over and over again. This repetitive use of the word has its own dangers. The baby might get so used to hearing the word that he just tunes it out. Instead of telling the infant who is biting, “no” over and over again, offer him something he is allowed to bite on, like a teething ring.

Be creative when offering an infant a diversion from activities that aren’t acceptable. Remove objects and place them out of reach when necessary. If the child’s curiosity won’t let him be distracted, it may be necessary to bring the child into another room until his desired objective is forgotten.


About Patrice

Patrice Campbell is a freelance writer working from the Denver area. Campbell started her writing career in the 1980’s, working for several Wisconsin local papers as a news, human interest and features writer, as well as a photographer.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Angie March 14, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I am a preschool teacher and many of my preschoolers do not know the word no. Or they know it but do not listen because they do not hear it at home. I do not think there is anything wrong with telling a child no. They need to hear it sooner or later and the sooner the better.


Taylor March 15, 2011 at 5:23 am

Absolutely true, infants still can’t understand anything you ask them to do, so patience and dedication is really important aspect you must possess.


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