Taking a positive approach to discipline from the very start.
Parents often spend a great deal of time in the early days invested in attending and understanding their babies cries and cues.
When baby cries, you try to figure out what is needed. When baby is hungry you offer nourishment. When baby is tired, you help him find sleep. And so, your relationship bond is nourished and trust becomes central to your daily interactions.
With each of these interactions, your baby feels reassured, safe, at ease. And you begin to build an understanding of who your child is, what he needs and how to best respond. Often it’s a trial and error kind of process. A best efforts and patience building, patience draining endeavor. At times it’s very tiring, but you know your baby is depending on you to grow and thrive. So you stay the course.
And then baby begins to move about, investigate and explore. Offer behaviors you hadn’t had to decipher before:
Climbing chairs. Pulling kitty tails. Biting your shoulder, grabbing a toy. Ripping a book, smashing peas, dumping water on the floor. Opening drawers, touching the vase, shaking his head NO with a straight face. Unrolling the toilet paper everywhere…
You may begin to ask yourself… Is it time to introduce some discipline?
What kind of discipline does a baby or toddler need?
There is a lot of information out there on how to discipline young children. How to discipline toddlers in particular.
A lot of the information available focuses on just stopping or forcing behaviors to change.
The books and programs are often very well marketed. Yet mostly unhelpful. Short lived tricks that confuse the whole family and perpetuate tears, headaches and risk your relationship bond. Toddler behaviors become worse, not better.
And why? Because the quick fixes of most behavior programs ignore what is at the core of the active baby and toddler years of smashing peas and paper unrolling moments: The child’s natural and necessary drive to fulfill important needs.
Children are by design curious, intelligent, capable, and wired to cooperate. From birth infants are programmed to seek ways to fulfill their needs and to connect to their parents – and this programming continues into the toddler years.
And so, the discipline a baby and toddler needs really is one that sustains learning, relationship and trust building. And this kind of discipline doesn’t start when the kitten gets hurt or the chairs become the jungle gym. It started already on day one.
Guidance from the very start
Here is the beauty of striving to take a positive approach to parenting. That attuned way of responding you had at the start , in babyhood, sets the very foundation needed for practicing positive discipline.
Because discipline is all about creating attuned, helpful, trust building responses to your child’s needs. Finding opportunities to teach and learn. So, discipline, positive discipline, can start from day one. The moment your eyes first met. The moment you counted those little fingers and toes. That was the moment you started guiding your child and working together.
Any moment that you invest in your relationship with your child, however brief, is an investment in their well being and in your ability to influence and guide your child.
Because discipline that teaches starts with your relationship. With your bond and the trust you build and re-build each day with your child. Its that same trial and error approach of understanding a babies cries. It’s your willingness to work WITH your child and find the most helpful and respectful response. And you might get it wrong. And your child may make mistakes. And that is all part of the process too.
So when do you start disciplining your baby and toddler?
Every time you strive to see the mistakes that your child makes, and the ones that you make as well, as opportunities. Opportunities to work together, to understand each situation and to find solutions that are aligned with your family values and your child’s needs.
“Mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn”
– Jane Nelsen, D.Ed. author of The Positive Discipline Series
As your baby grows, you may begin to notice behaviors that are unhelpful, unwanted, or unnecessary. There might be moments when you have certain expectations and would like to help your child align her choices to your values and needs. You set limits early and respectfully. You make boundaries clear and communicate with kindness.
Each time you pause and guide your child, you are practicing discipline. Each time you look your child in the eye, hold her hand and kindly place the toilet paper out of reach, you are practicing discipline. Each time you listen to the tears but keep your limit and trust your child to feel her feelings, you are practicing discipline.
Discipline really is not about counting, choosing the consequences or setting the timer. It’s about how you choose to work together with your child and how you trust your own ability to guide your child.
Two wonderful guiding questions I learned to use with my children from practicing positive discipline: What can my child learn from this? What can I learn from this?
As your baby becomes a curious, active toddler, I encourage you not to see discipline as something you must start, but simply as something to continue.
- Keep building that relationship.
- Keep working together.
- Keep aiming to understand and provide guidance.
- Always respect yourself and your child.
- Keep learning, adapting and listening.
- Keep trusting yourself and your child.
Do you have a current challenge related to discipline with your baby or toddler? Want to know how positive discipline can help? Tell me in comments and I will do my best to share an answer with you.
Peace & Be Well,
Taming Tantrums App by Parent Educator Andrea Nair
The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting, Second Edition by Rebecca Eanes
Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, Revised and Updated Edition: From Infant to Toddler Laying the Foundation. by Jane Nelsen and Cheryl Erwin
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson