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Do You Discipline Your Infant?

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Notes from a New Mom: She's barely talking, yet she definitely knows what she wants and cries when she doesn't get it. Uh oh: Am I in for a case of the terrible twos with my not-yet-1-year-old?


I have noticed a great difference in my baby from just several weeks ago. Changing her diaper has become a nearly impossible task; she absolutely does not like it and lets the entire apartment complex know about it. If she wants something, she cries when she doesn't get it. Suddenly, she hates the stroller. Hmm ....

I took her to the pediatrician to get checked out (I really thought she was acting different), and apart from a very mild ear infection, she was fine. The doctor told me that the problem is likely behavioral. My question: How do I -- and do I -- discipline a baby who doesn't really "get" discipline? 

There have been times, believe me, when my instinct is to just yell. But I don't. Will she understand the meaning of "no"? What has worked for you moms out there who have been through the same thing?

I'm thinking I should just become a little tougher, but maybe there are some tactics that I can try. (Distracting her seems to work, but only temporarily.)

Can I discipline my baby?

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19 comments so far | Post a comment now
laura October 12, 2010, 5:57 AM

Could her molars be coming in? My daughter went through a super fussy phase, like you mentioned. By about 13 months (she also had an ear infection in the interim) her teeth had finally poked through all the way and she started riding in her car seat, stroller, etc patiently and stopped screaming and having melt downs. I just responded with a mix of tylenol, motrin, TLC and occassional trips to the pack n play where she could thrash around angrily and not hurt herself/cool down.

Cathy October 12, 2010, 9:02 AM

Crying, screaming, having a fit is normal for a baby, it’s how they communicate, share their frustration, etc. Kind of “Hey Mom! Why aren’t you getting what I’m trying to tell you?!” It’s frustrating for them, and can be for ustoo. This is when you teach them to talk, she wants her cup, keep saying “cup” show her the “cup” and when she gives a good effort instead of a scream, give her her cup. The diaper deal…we used to laugh at the backwards crawl walk our one daughter did, eventually you just do your best to get the diaper on and leave it go. She’s growing up!

KS October 12, 2010, 10:13 AM

Nothing you posted is out of the ordinary or actually bad behavior. She is developing preferences and expressing herself. If there are things you don’t want her to do, such as turning over at diaper changes then every time she tries to roll hold her still and tell her not to roll over. Diaper time is going to take longer until she gets it but she will.

You are entering into the toddler phase. The first time in any new parents life when you want to pull your own hair out. It’s not the terrible twos it’s just simply not the baby stage anymore. You have to be consistent. And by consistent I mean EVERY SINGLE TIME she does something you don’t want her to do there should be either removal from the situation, verbal reinforcement or punishment.

It’s tedious. It’s aggravating and by the time your will finally wins out you will be at your wits end. But if you pick your battles, stick to them then give your toddler room to wiggle in other areas it wont be to horribly bad.

We found a play pen to work wonders for our children when they were very young. If they got into something we didn’t want them into a few minutes in the play pen as time out was a great behavior modification tool.

stephanie October 12, 2010, 10:45 AM

My son was the same way…you can definitely TEACH them without the negative implications of “discipline.”

Suggestion #1 - buy sign language DVDs! My son was highly communicative for his age and his frustration started to show around 10 months that I wasn’t getting what he was trying to say. Simple signs for water and milk and food eliminated nearly 90% of the early tantrums.

He also responded well to multiple choices - when he started to scream in the stroller, I bought one of those push cars and then gave him the option of car or stroller. 9 times out of 10 he chose one or the other without a fight. And if he did fight, I was just stern about him going in one of them. They’re just trying to push your limits, so you kinda need to show them who’s boss, but without being bossy.

The same worked for food - once he learned the sign for banana and fish, he quickly started trying to say other foods, or would respond to my words with smiles or head shakes. It’s tedious on the parent’s part, but I think children respond to descriptive language much better than short words with brisk actions. They feed off of you, if you’re frustrated, they will just amplify that 10 times.

Just stay calm and be consistent. Give choices, but make sure they know that one of those WILL be chosen. It’s all about control, if you let them think they have some, they’ll thank you for it. At least that’s what’s worked for me.

Sara October 12, 2010, 11:34 AM

You can discipline your baby but you should not punish your baby.

Distraction works wonders for kids that age as does saying no and redirecting. Kids should not be punished until they are old enough to tell you what they did wrong and what they should do instead of the thing they did.

Liz October 12, 2010, 1:45 PM

I agree with Sara: discipline, not punish. Use distraction for diaper changes. Give her the diaper cream, a diaper, or the wipes to hold to “help” you. You might also try waiting until she gets uncomfortable with her dirty diaper (this rarely works for my son, but works for other moms I know.)

It’s hard for her to really get it at her age, but start helping her feel like she’s getting choices. Let her choose the diaper; let her play with the stroller for a little while before you put her in it. Let her walk around outside before you put her in the car seat (those struggles will come soon). I find that if my son (19-mo) feels like he’s got some say in what we’re doing he’s a lot easier to get along with.

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