Baby discipline: When and how?

Just because your baby doesn’t understand that pulling mom’s hair out or sticking bananas in the VCR is wrong, doesn’t mean that they won’t still do it. Infants pose a difficult disciplinary conundrum. They become mobile and capable of doing dangerous and naughty things, but haven’t developed mentally enough to comprehend concepts like right and wrong, action and reaction, crime and punishment, and positive reinforcement. Truthfully, even if they did, they don’t have the attention span or memory for it to do any good as far as behavioral improvement. I know sometimes staring into those big baby eyes you could swear they know just what they’re doing and are doing it just the thwart you, and it’s in that moment as a parent you’re stuck wondering, “What do I do now?”baby discipline

When should you start disciplining your baby?

The thing is, every baby develops at a different rate. Your baby may be developmentally advanced enough to understand one or more of the concepts required for discipline and praise to be effective. He or she may have the memory and attention span for it too. The great thing is starting discipline right away doesn’t hurt anything. Even if it isn’t doing any good at all, it’s also not doing any harm. Plus, it leaves you feeling like you did something, which can help you from becoming overly stressed or feeling helpless or angry when behavior becomes especially trying. You can start discipline and praise from the day your baby is born.

How can you discipline an infant exactly?

Never spank, hit, or criticize. I don’t take stance on the to-spank-or-not-to-spank subject; in my opinion it’s to each his/her own. However, when it comes to an infant, which the discipline is likely wasted on anyway, you should never use physical punishment. Your baby is still developing in an array of ways, and while babies may not be made of glass, if you do accidentally hurt your baby the effects are forever. At any stage, you should also avoid calling your baby bad. Focus your negativity on the act, not the child.

Be consistent. It’s important your reaction to bad behavior is always the same. This is how the reaction becomes committed to memory. Be careful that your reaction is not amusing as well. In the beginning, you can play around with options to find out what works for your baby’s personality type but lock it in before the toddler stage. Some infants react well to strong “NO!,” others find that hilarious. Some infants respond well to momentary removals of attention, while others could care less. In most cases, distraction does work well. Simply redirect the behavior to something new explaining why. At any age, always explain why you are doing what you’re doing, as well as why something is right or wrong. Whether this information is comprehended now is irrelevant. It’s a good habit, helps improve your baby’s vocabulary, and you never know, they may understand. Remember to offer praise for good behavior too.

What else can you do about bad baby behavior?

Sadly, baby geniuses aside, chances are your disciplinary efforts will be more for your sake than for theirs in the beginning. What you can do is keep your baby’s play areas as safe as possible, so that while bad behavior may be annoying, it’s not dangerous. Also try to keep play areas free of safe-but-messy no-nos. You goal is to remove the opportunity to be bad, until the developmental capacity is there to know what bad is.


What Science Actually Says About Spanking

As a mother who sometimes utilizes spanking as a back-up form of discipline for my toddlers and a healthy adult who was indeed spanked, I found this Huffpost article that suggests “science” is one-sided in this debate and proves without doubt that spanking is bad quite—interesting. The funny thing here is, when you read the studies being sourced to support this outlandish claim, you quickly find someone needs to brush up on their reading comprehension. Let’s have a closer look at what science has to say on spanking, shall we…

The first scientific masterpiece we have is sourced using a press release, do you ever wonder why these places link you press releases and not the actual study? Well, hint, it’s so you won’t read it. Here is a link straight to that 2010 study which is being reported as supporting that frequent spanking before age three leads to higher aggressive behavior by age five. Let me just give you a quote to sum things up on this study,

“Given the problem of potential unmeasured confounders, it is not possible to assert causality between CP (corporal punishment) and child aggression in observational studies such as this.“ (page 8)

What does that mean? This study was based off of self-reports from the mother, it also only factored the mother and not the father (meaning the father may or may not have been spanking those kids who supposedly were less aggressive.) In the study itself, it admits that this study does not prove a link. It says there could be one. Science doesn’t work on could be’s friends, and you can’t argue could be’s as factual science.

Moving on, now Huffpost says that spanking doesn’t even work according to science, but they just link two psychologist’s opinions. No studies. No facts. Hmmmm, I wonder how many experts we can find that do think spanking works. Since there is no “science” and only opinion here, some mention of studies with no links or even names, we’ll just keep on keepin’ on…

Next, we have a 2011 study that says spanking is a cycle, kids who are spanked, spank their kids. Why is that relevant if spanking is not scientifically bad? How does it prove by science it is? It doesn’t. Most kids do lots of things their parents did, it’s how they were raised.

Now, here’s a vague home-run for you, “The negative effects of physical punishment are colossal, well into adulthood.” Are they?

The 2012 study they link is supposed to prove that true. Ah, curious, their sources leads to a not-found page. Lucky for them, I read the study they quote, but it was published in 2011. You can read it here. This study suggested that, “harsh physical punishment was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse/dependence, and several personality disorders.” (that’s quoted from the Huffpost article)

First of all, this study wasn’t even about “spanking.” The study sought to discover if harsh physical punishment had lasting psychological effects. To clarify, typical occasional spankings were NOT the subject of the study. Survey respondents were asked the following question, “As a child how often were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or another adult living in your house?” Only respondents who choose a rating above of “sometimes” or above were considered. Acts of severe maltreatment such as sexual abuse were excluded. The majority of parents I know who do spank, including me, do not push and shove their children.

In addition the study included, quoting again, “…acts of physical force beyond that of slapping, which some may consider more severe than that of ‘customary’ physical punishment (ie. spanking).” It actually says in the study in black and white that spanking was not the subject of the study. The study also only found a 6 percent occurrence of harsh physical punishment, and considering that 61 percent of parents condone spanking, you can see how claiming this study proved spanking as a form of discipline has negative psychological effects is a stretch of the facts. This study was also another self-reported and even retroactive study, which you may remember from point one why that’s not fact.

Then they post a retroactive analysis of studies not linked, but source an old Huffpost article (which man, you can trust that for sure) that actually appears to suggest some of the studies already defunked in this blog were analyzed. Most “facts” people claim prove spanking is harmful are observational and tragically flawed in almost every case by admission of the actual researchers. (You find this in “discussion” at the end in most cases.)

What else does science say Huffpost?

“Spanking actually alters kids’ brains.”

Let me just stop to laugh hysterically. First line of their source, “Harsh corporal punishment (HCP) during childhood is a chronic, developmental stressor associated with depression, aggression and addictive behaviors.”

Hmmm, what did this study consider harsh corporal punishment I wonder…was it spanking?

“We defined harsh CP (HCP) as a severe form of CP, in which an object (e.g., belt, paddle, hair brush) was used”

Oh, so again, we’re not talking about spanking per se, we’re talking about hitting kids with shit. Got it. Just to clarify, “Results from this study apply to HCP, they do not apply to exposure to ordinary forms of CP.” What were ordinary forms of CP according to this study again? “Spanking with the hand.”

This study also only involved 55 people, 22 of which were the control group. Other factors were noted as possible explanations such as poverty level in childhood and other abuse in childhood. Science says what?

We can just throw out the CNN article they link there at the end which just rehashes all the non-factual studies they just misrepresented.

The bottom line?
Science doesn’t say jack diddley on spanking. I’m not saying you should beat your kids with sticks, certainly there is proof here that form of punishment is probably harmful, but spanking as the 61 percent of American parents use it, a bare hand, is still a matter of parental choice with no factual evidence to support or deter it.

Toddler Discipline Techniques: Which is Right for You?

If there’s one topic I think my ears are metaphorically bleeding from being filled with advice from it’s toddler discipline. Absolutely everyone I know has a sure-fire, no-fail, you-got-to-do-it method of disciplining a toddler, and I think every last one of them could possibly be right. I think every toddler is different. I think no one single toddler discipline technique will work for every single child, and the real first step is to determine which method of toddler discipline is going to work for your toddling gremlin. So here goes, let’s figure it out together, the best toddler discipline technique for your toddler.

What are the different styles of toddler discipline?

toddler discipline techniques

Positive Toddler Discipline-

This toddler discipline technique focuses on encouragement which may seem the complete opposite of what you want to do with an ornery toddler who is misbehaving, but a little more explanation might put this style on your list. Positive discipline works on the premise that a child that feels encouraged, empowered, and needed doesn’t misbehave in the first place. Positive disciplinarians use methods such as positive time-outs, family meetings, natural consequences (such as I spill my milk on purpose so I don’t have any), and work together with their child to solve behavioral problems. To better explain, in the spilled milk story you may say, “Oh no, we have a problem; now your milk is on the floor. What can we do about this?” and allow your toddler to suggest a solution, such as cleaning it up which makes your toddler feel needed and in control, but the natural consequence of a now empty cup deters the repeat performance.

Gentle Toddler Discipline-

Another nice-guy disciplinary method, gentle discipline, focuses on diffusing, derailing, and preventing bad behavior. The idea of gentle discipline is to eliminate as many opportunities for bad behavior as possible, and then distract rather than punish when they do occur. For example, you may remove no-no items and warn of changes. For example, you take your child to the store, you avoid the candy isle to avoid a tantrum over said candy, but your child still spies with his little eye a play car, an expensive play car. You could zoom-zoom away making funny car sounds to distract from the desire which is fixing to cause a fit. Later you warn we are checking out and we’ll be going home soon, so your child knows what’s going on and feels more comfortable. Gentle discipline uses techniques such as cool-off time outs and anger control for both parent and child, distraction, validation, and a humorous approach to parenting.

Emotional Coaching-

Emotional coaching classifies as a style of discipline but is more an entire style of parenting. This approach focuses on the emotional “why” of bad behavior using methods such as empathetic listening, feeling expression, and identification and methods of self soothing. A parent using this style may sit their child down and talk about why they threw a toy and help their child work through those feelings as well as offer suggestions on a positive vent for those emotions. Emotional coaching is suggested to strengthen the bond between child and parent.

Boundary-Based Toddler Discipline-

Boundary-based discipline follows the belief that a child not only needs but craves boundaries and rules and in turn needs consequences to those boundaries and rules making it the first of the methods that could make you the bad guy. Those that use boundary-based discipline explore choices with their children, use cool-down time outs for their toddler, and combine natural and logical consequence options. A toddler under the boundary-based discipline rule will be presented with options when he or she misbehaves and presented with consequences if compliance is not carried through. For example, your toddler throws a fork at you. The boundary is then set, “We do not throw forks; you can eat with your fork or I can put it away.” If the toddler then threw the fork again, it would be taken away, and the behavior would be deterred by the natural consequence of no fork. A logical consequence such as no dessert or some other meal time related down-side may also be applied.

Behavior Modification-

A slightly more authoritative version of boundary based discipline, behavior modification enacts positive and negative reinforcement. Boundaries and rules are set, but less natural and logical punishments are used. For example, you tell your toddler that we do not climb on the back of the couch, when he or she does so there is a set number of warnings, and then a consequence such as time out or loss of a toy. Some parents may also opt for spanking; though it should be noted a child should never be hit in anger and that there is a big difference between discipline and abuse. Be sure you know where those lines are. On the other side of the cookie, a toddler that often crawls on the couch may be rewarded if he or she doesn’t for a set amount of time using a reward chart or another form of positive reinforcement. Behavior modification rarely offers choice to children, the parents are the boss, they are in control and their word is absolute.

Can I combine toddler discipline techniques?

Absolutely! You and your child may not fit into any style perfectly. The important thing is that you are consistent with whatever method of toddler discipline you choose and that it works. Many of the disciplinary styles combine very well.

What cues might indicate my toddler may behave better under one toddler discipline technique or another?

No one knows your toddler better than you do; in the past year or two, it’s unquestionable you’ve stumbled into likely each disciplinary style at least once. Sit down and think, “What worked the best?” If your child straightens up right quick with a stern word and no wiggle room, behavior modification may be for you. If he or she rebels dramatically to any stern rules, you may look at one of the more flexible paths such as emotional coaching or gentle discipline.

What happens if I pick a toddler discipline technique and it doesn’t work?

It’s a good idea to try trial and error for awhile. Pay close attention and see what seems to show the most significant change and then decide on that method. Afterward, you may find tweaking, adjustment, and adaption are necessary, and you may not. After your trial and error period, you want to remain pretty solid on your methods. Be patient, be consistent, and remember there is no right or wrong way to parent.

You may also find helpful:
Toddler Discipline: Handling the Grey Area