Although my son is just the sweetest and usually happiest little guy, sometimes he does things that he shouldn’t do. He pulls my hair HARD! He will reach and try to grab friends’ glasses. He will pick things up and throw them. Sometimes he will even scream at us and hit us.
I’ve heard people say and I’ve read that you SHOULDN’T discipline a baby. But should you let them crunch your friend’s glasses? And scratch your face? I think not. In fact, it is pretty frustrating -not to mention dangerous- to witness a parent who refuses to correct their babies’ (albeit unknowingly) incorrect actions.
The definition of discipline is this:
Discipline- The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.
The definition of comfort is this:
To make (someone) feel less unhappy; console.
In a way comforting and disciplining a 6-18 month old are very similar. Babies usually misbehave when something is wrong or when they need consoling.
Here are five ways to discipline and comfort your baby.
1- Distraction. The art of distraction should be taught to all new parents. When your baby is cranky, you first go through all the possibilities of what it could be. Diaper, hunger, diaper rash, teething, etc. Once you have done your best to eliminate all of the things that could be making your baby upset and he/she is still unhappy, the next thing to do is to distract.
Some things that have worked for my son, Denali are:
- Reading. We read A LOT and Denali loves books. He will choose to play with books over toys 9 times out of 10. So that is distraction number one.
This book Ten Little Lady Bugs is one of his all time favorites.
- Music. He also loves music, so if I put music on or especially if I sing he will calm right down.
- Short videos of himself. If the books and music haven’t worked, I’ll pull out my cell phone and we will watch recordings of when he was happier. He will sit and stare and smile at himself. He just loves it!
- Toys. There are a few toys that my son just loves and that do a great job at distracting if need be. Click here to see his favorite (it has entertained him for hours for months on end!).
- TV. We rarely watch TV and for some reason Denali really doesn’t love it (even the toddler and baby shows), but it will distract him for 10-20 minutes if needed.
- Food. I love these little Gerber puffs that pack about 25 calories per 75 of them (basically like eating air) but my son will be distracted for quite a while if I have him eat one at a time.
- Taking him outside to watch our dog. This is something that will snap him out of even the worst mood.
- Leave the scenery for somewhere else. Getting out of the house, driving around, even shopping helps because he loves to people-watch. In fact, when he had 6 teeth all coming in at once, going on walks, shopping, and driving were the only things I could do to keep him from crying.
2- Cry-it-Out. After about 7 months of not getting more than 3-4 hours of sleep at a time we used the cry-it-out method. Even though the first few nights were rough, he started sleeping for 5-6 maybe even 7 hours which was a welcome relief. After I saw how well self-soothing worked, I wondered if we should’ve tried earlier.
One caution, if you are new to the cry-it-out concept, it is good to study about how to start before trying. I love this resource here.
3- Tone. Babies are able to distinguish tones better than words. When our son is approaching an object that he shouldn’t we use our low tone and say, “no”. Almost every single time we lower our tone he stops and looks at us curiously. He may change course or may come back to us. If he doesn’t and carries on to the object we distract him with something else to do. While tone could also seem like a distraction we only use our low tone when he is approaching specific items – i.e. the expensive camera, exposed stairs, the table cloth, or other things we want him to understand are not to be touched.
4- Trading. Whenever Denali has grabbed on to something I do not want him to have (i.e. my cell phone, etc.) I find another object that is either new, interesting, or a sure favorite and say, “trade, trade” while I slip the new object into his hand or hold it in front of him. When he reaches for it I take the valuable thing away and hide it. Most of the time, it works like a charm. If it doesn’t, I find another object more interesting or go back to trying to distract him.
To test my trade-theory I took my son’s favorite spoon away from him without trading him while he was very happy. Less than 30 seconds later he was screaming and looked like this. Unlike this experience, trading usually always results in a happy transaction.
5- Removal. When my son starts yanking my hair hard or hitting me, I gently take his hand away and put him down away from me. He is not allowed to be held or be near enough to me to continue his actions. I look at him and tell him, “You are not allowed to pull my hair. I love you.” If he is throwing food off of his high chair or spitting it out for fun, I take him down and he isn’t allowed to eat his food for a few minutes. Usually, after a few minutes of removal (when he is introduced back into the situation) he no longer engages in the unwanted behavior. Sometimes removal will actually make babies cry, but I have found it is short lived and they usually get over it pretty quick. If he won’t stop crying I start with the distraction process again.
Am I disciplining my son? I think if he could talk he would say that taking his favorite phone away and not letting him grab people’s glasses is a punishment. If you asked some experts they would say making him learn how to self soothe at night is discipline. And the power of constantly using a deep tone and removing him from situations is starting the process to train him to recognize those behaviors & objects and avoid them.
I also let A LOT slide. I mean he is just a little baby. If he has my spatula I let him play with it and just rewash it. I’m in no way saying you should be uptight about the little non-consequential things. What I am trying to say is that typically, when people think of discipline and punishment they have negative ideas of what it is. Many even have a no-discipline stance towards babies. But by incorporating these techniques, you can help correct your babies’ unwanted behavior in a positive and constructive way.
How have you disciplined/comforted your baby?
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