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Disciplining infants and toddlers

Published:Monday | March 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

... do you want them to have no behaviour?

Emma Dalton-Brown, Gleaner Writer

Whether your child is seven months or two years old, it is never too early to start teaching him (or her) good behaviour. A baby might not understand you the first time you tell him 'no', but with repetition, and age, he will.

Just over a year ago, I wrote two articles entitled 'What does it take to discipline a child' and 'What does it take to discipline a teenager'. I asked many parents how they had been bringing up their offspring; I recalled what my mother and father had done with us as kids; and I even spoke to some teens for the latter essay. This time around, my husband and I are now parents to a 10-month-old baby, and we are privy to others who are in a similar circumstance. It is our responsibility to educate our young son with appropriate manners.

This might seem like an odd topic to be studying at this stage, but there have been several instances, in the last three months, involving the little man. I believe that I have briefly touched on the subject before, but let me bring it up again. Over the Christmas season, our cute baby boy started biting. Now he has teeth, which are sharp I might add, and what may seem like gentle gnawing burns like fire! Nothing cute about that! Each time he bit us, his small cousins, or anyone for that matter, we told him off. I know he wasn't even eight months, but we figured it would sink in eventually, if he heard stern words from us right after the fact.

Scold him!

January arrived, and we went to the baby group we are a part of. Well, when he started heading for the other babies, I was mortified. There was no way we were going to be the topic of any gossip session which might come about! I gave all the mummies permission to scold him if they saw any bad conduct. My husband's and my efforts paid off. The wee chap soon learned to go back to sucking, rather than biting.

Through all of this, I was discussing my concerns with a great friend. Her children are a few years older, but she told me of an incident that had occurred with her daughter. Upon coming home from school a couple years ago with a bitten lip, my friend made some calls to find out what had happened. Sure enough, another little girl had drawn blood with the bite. She went on to speak to her mother, who did not seem worried about her child's actions. At this point, my friend told her that she should take it seriously, because what if the person who gets bitten has HIV or AIDS. Surely, that puts the biter in danger! You see, it is not all about protecting the victim of the incident. Food for thought, I'd say.

'Babies will be babies'

Some weeks later, our son was playing with another boy his age, who took one look at his juicy big toe, and sunk his teeth into it. While my baby started bawling, the parents of the other kid just stood there, shrugged their shoulders and laughed. I was horrified. And not about the other child's actions! Fast forward a month, and the same baby grabbed and pulled my son's feet while I was breast-feeding him. Again, his mother and father made no attempt to take him away from my baby, but instead commented that "Babies will be babies." Yes, which is why it is up to the parents to stop them from crossing boundaries.

There is an expression I picked up recently, and I am going to use it here. This family have 'No behaviour'!

Let me tell you that every adult who is around our son has full permission to correct him if he's doing something wrong. In the last couple of days, our baby has begun biting again. While we are sure it's due to four more teeth pushing through his gums, we still maintain the policy that he must be reprimanded with strong words until he ceases to do this. If we do not, our baby boy also runs the risk of growing up with no behaviour!