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3 Effective Discipline Tips for Infants and Toddlers


Disciplining a child, especially a challenging one, can bring out the best and worst in parents. It’s difficult to not get frustrated when your infant keeps throwing their food, grabbing dangerous stuff, or when they constantly scream and yell. However, it can also make you a better parent.

How? That’s because discipline starts with trust. A child who trusts their parents to give them comfort and food when they need it will also trust them when they say, “Don’t touch!” This is also why, for children below 3 years old, discipline is less about punishments and time-outs; it has more to do with building your child’s trust in you.

DiBiase Baby Steps, a trusted provider of child care in Vineland, New Jersey, offers the following discipline tips for infants and toddlers.

  1. Hitting and/or Biting.

    Since babies can’t speak yet and can’t clearly communicate their emotions, they often resort to using what they have: their hands and mouth. They often use their hands and mouth to experiment on those around them: their parents, siblings, daycare provider, or babysitter. However, these bites and smacks are often just playful communications and not necessarily aggressive tendencies.

    • How to react
      Since these bites and smacks are most likely misdirected gestures of affection and not aggressive tendencies, avoid the temptation to yell. Instead, play show-and-tell. Demonstrate how you can be gentle with your hand. For instance, say “Kiss” to indicate kissing cheeks instead of biting or show them how to hug, instead of hitting others.
  2. Deliberately Spilling/Throwing Food and Utensils.

    Your baby is fascinated by what they can do with their hands, plus, they are also having fun with gravity. Moreover, deliberately spilling/throwing food and utensils often get a reaction from everyone around the dinner table who are otherwise not paying attention to them.

    • How to react

      Go with the flow and play the drop-and-pick-up game until you or your baby gets tired of it. Or, you can just leave the dropped food or item on the floor to show your baby that the game is done. When there’s no one playing with them, your baby will soon stop as well. Remember, your baby is not necessarily rejecting the food that you made; they simply want to play with you. Depending on your time and energy, participate in a few minutes of fun until your baby gets to the point where they are ready to eat. Then, show them how you want them to eat their food and how you eat yours; eventually, they will follow your lead.

  3. Grabbing or Touching Dangerous Stuff.

    Infants and toddlers are naturally curious. They are constantly searching for things that they can grab, throw, pull, and push – whether it’s your mobile phone, tables and chairs, or the hot oven door.

    • How to react

      Instead of the usual, “No!” (which just plants that word into your baby’s vocabulary), give them a more personal reprimand (i.e. “Not for John”). Or, you can simply call out their name; sometimes, it’s enough of a distraction. Once distracted, immediately hide what they were initially trying to grab and redirect their interest before they get into trouble.

As a premier provider of early childhood education in New Jersey, we want parents to learn how to properly discipline their children.

What do you think about these tips?

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