When you look at your sweet, tiny baby, you can’t imagine that she’ll ever have a tantrum or decorate the walls with her crayons. Every child will make her share of mischief, discipline really isn’t about tantrums or writing on the walls. It’s about helping your child to make the right choices in life.
Discipline doesn’t start with the first tantrum; it begins the first day that you hold your baby in your arms. Every interaction you have with your baby teaches her something, and it’s the cumulative effect of all of your life lessons that will come together as the basis for the person that she will become.
Teach your baby by leading the way.
You know the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Apply this principle to your interactions with your baby from birth. She may not say much while she’s young, but make no mistake: She takes in every nuance of your actions. So the principles by which you live are those she will simply accept as the norm.
When your baby is honoring you with a world-class tantrum or a one-year-old is still waking you up all night, parenting under this principle can be difficult. But if you treat her with the respect to which she is due, she will develop trust that will keep the doors for learning open.
Things you do now set patterns for the future.
The ways you respond to your baby’s actions will affect her future behavior. The first time that she rips a page out of a storybook, throws her food off the high chair, or hits a playmate, she will absorb your reaction. It then will become a piece of the information file that she is creating to guide her future actions. Many such situations will occur until she can make proper decisions based on past circumstances.
Always ask yourself, “Why?”
When your baby does something that disturbs you, the first thing to do is to consider why she is behaving that way. For example, if your baby slides a stack of paperclips into your DVD player, take a second to figure out why she would do such a thing. When you do, you’ll realize that she’s watched you slide things into the player, so she’s just mimicking your actions not understanding, of course, that DVDs work just fine, but paperclips don’t. By asking “why,” you’ve just realized that what’s she has done isn’t misbehaving, but rather engaging her developing curiosity about the world.
…Then ask yourself, “How can I teach?”
The next step is to figure out how to teach your baby what she needs to know. This may be as simple as an explanation and demonstration. “We don’t put paper clips in here. We put DVDs in here. See? Want to try one?”
Now’s the time for you to learn, too
No one is born knowing how to be a parent. It’s a job that changes day to day and that sometimes seems to require just a little more skill than we have! The more you learn, the more prepared you will be to take each new step along with your child’s developing personality. Raising your child may well be the most important job of your life. When you are knowledgeable and prepared, it also can be your greatest joy.