When should I start disciplining my child?

The short answer: not for quite a while. In the long run, it is your and your partner’s job to teach your little one about how to keep themselves safe, and how to behave in polite company. Right now, though, and for the next few months of his life he is going to be too busy learning how to function physically and cognitively to learn anything more advanced. It wouldn’t be fair, healthy, or useful to begin scolding at such a tender age. But it’s true that, when he&;s older, you’ll need to teach Baby that certain kinds of behavior are neither safe nor socially acceptable. Consider this chronological timeline for gradually taking the parental gloves off.

0 to 6 months:

The first 6 months of Baby’s life are the most innocent. Keep in mind that he is experiencing everything, including his own mechanical abilities, for the very first time. It might be frustrating when Baby keeps dribbling pureed peas onto the floor during feeding time, but this isn’t deliberate provocation: it’s an act of curiosity. So when episodes like these happen, resist the urge to get upset and do your best to maintain a calm and collected demeanor. A time will come for those beginner etiquette lessons.

7 to 12 months:

Many childhood experts agree that soft discipline should begin once a baby has mastered crawling – “soft discipline” mostly meaning “letting him know that some things aren’t for touching.” Once Baby has achieved the ability to explore the world without your help, it’s important to establish boundaries. Keeping potentially harmful items out of his reach and childproofing sections of your home will help, but you should also begin vocally communicating with him about common household “no-no zones” such as electrical outlets. It’s probably too soon for Baby to understand the meaning of the word “no,” so instead, you can try adopting a scary or worried tone of voice whenever he approaches something dangerous. Before long, Baby should learn to respond to that tone in your voice appropriately. Sometimes he might even mimic the noise you’re making.

1 to 2 years:

As Baby’s communication skills and physical confidence grow, you can start explaining that it’s not okay to toss household objects or grab the dog’s tail. Just brace yourself for some vocal backlash: these sudden limits upon his newfound freedom through crawling – or walking – can bring about Baby‘s first tantrum. And while it’s still too early to send him to his room or take away certain privileges, early childhood tantrums should be met with a response. Most parents find that a hug, a distracting toy, or even a calm, informative talking-to (“You can’t go down the stairs yet: they’re too dangerous”) can resolve these meltdowns.

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