Parenting is a family’s approach to raising a child. Teaching your baby appropriate behaviors and responses is a big part of it. When deciding how to discipline your baby, it is important to research different strategies and choose the approach that works for your child and family. Don’t be afraid to mix the approach and match strategies as long as they work at helping your baby learn in a positive way, and you are consistent with what you do. Remember to model expectations.
As your baby grows out of the newborn stage and becomes more physical and verbal, your child will learn by "doing", which can include learning about what is “okay” versus not. Although we don’t often think of “parenting” a young baby, it’s important for your parenting style and approaches to begin when your child is a baby. This is the stage when you set the foundation for how you as a parent or caregiver respond to your baby when upset, does something you don’t want them to do, and/or is trying new things.
Praise your baby after an accomplishment: high fives, clapping, positive words, smiles, and, of course, lots of love and cuddles are all great ways to reward your baby’s positive behavior.
Keep your voice calm and steady – if you get upset, your baby is more likely to get upset.
Maintain direct eye contact when you explain instructions or model behaviors. Getting your baby’s attention first will help with listening skills.
Give your baby choices (two is usually enough) by saying and showing the options. When your baby is grabbing food at the table, ask, “Do you want applesauce or a banana for snack?”
Show your baby what you want them to do. For example, if your baby is throwing a toy, pick it up and place it down calmly where it should go.
Sing instructions or behaviors you want your baby to do in calm, nursery-rhyme-like rhythms. This will help you from raising your voice without even knowing it. For example, sing the words “It’s time to put the toys away!”
Talk to your baby about what is happening and what you want to happen. Give your baby warnings of transitions and expectations. For example, you can tell your baby, “It’s almost time for your nap, so one more minute of playing, and then it’s nap time.”
During especially hard times, like a national emergency, crisis, or during a pandemic, find more tips on managing stress and parenting here.
If you find yourself getting upset with your baby or can’t handle your baby crying, take a break to collect yourself – and remember to breathe! If possible, let someone else be with your baby for a bit, or, if you’re alone with your child, place your baby in a safe place (like the crib) for a moment. Giving yourself just a few minutes to regroup and calm down will help you know what to do next.