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Our baby is really sweet :)

Generally can be considered as a good / easy going baby. There are times though, when he gets totally out of control.

I've had a discussion with a child-psychologist who stated that it is crucial, even for the first months, not to let the child to do things that they're not appropriate, by just changing the tone of the voice. That way you set boundaries to the kid and he supposedly learns not to cross them.

For example, there is this bookcase full of books and magazines, where we usually let him play with the magazines. Many times though he grabs and throws books from the upper part, which is not desirable by us, most importantly because some of them are heavy and he might be injured.

So it is now understood by him, that messing with the books is not an action we are happy about, and some times he's even looking around, to see if we are watching him.

But there are times where he will keep taking those books, even when we are watching him, without listening to us at all.

How much we should insist to not letting him doing such a thing? It seems that he knows pretty much well what he's doing (something that's not appropriate), but there are other moments though were I think that we should not be so strict, and just let him.. throw these books (with care of course) :)

Taken in mind that he's 14 months old, should we keep insisting that this is an unaccepted behavior, or we should loosen up a bit and let him...go wild ?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

My baby's 14 mo. I think it's crucial to divide behavior issues into "danger" and "preference" situations.

"Danger" situations

  • Danger gets the most severe reaction. I reserve yelling for truly bad situations (sticking a hand into a fire, trying to get delicious-looking coins out of mommy's purse, etc.).
  • Danger means taking the kid away from the thing or the thing away from the kid quickly, without waiting to use the situation as an exercise in teaching discipline.
  • Toddlers hear the word "no" so often it becomes meaningless, which can actually increase their likelihood of getting hurt because they don't distinguish between what you think is dangerous and what you just plain don't want them to do.
  • "No" doesn't tell a child anything about why he shouldn't do what he was about to do.
  • I try to use words that specifically pertain to that situation, like "hot" "owch" and "danger" so my baby knows when she hears those words they mean business.
  • Don't expect your child to get it--yet--but keep in mind that you're laying the foundation for later.

For preferences, discipline in steps according to rules

If my baby is doing something I don't want her to do but isn't putting her in imminent danger, I try to give her the chance to revise her behavior before I revise it for her.

  1. I have come up with short, easy to understand rules for just about everything.
  2. When she's beginning to do something that's against the rules, I use a low, ringing tone of voice reserved only for when she's in trouble, and tell her the rule firmly.
  3. If she stops doing the behavior, I praise her by telling her she followed the rule (repeating the rule itself) with a smile and a happy tone of voice and often clap for her. If she doesn't stop, I repeat step 2.
  4. If I get through steps 2 and 3 twice and she still hasn't stopped, I physically remove her from the situation.
  5. If I have to physically remove her, I explain the rule again in short, easy words/phrases.

Examples

One of my rules is "we do not climb." My daughter likes to stack things in general, but also has discovered she can climb on what she stacks. I don't want to stifle her play unnecessarily. If she starts to put her foot onto something, though, I will give her warning number one, telling her in a low, quick, loud tone reserved for trouble that "we do not climb." It usually startles her into pausing and taking her foot down. If she doesn't pause and just tries to climb up and is at risk of hurting herself, I will grab her and cut it off right there, repeating the rule as I do. If, however, she takes her foot off the thing, I praise her by saying something specific like "that's right, you're a good girl, you do not climb." If she takes her foot off and then puts it on again, she gets the warning again. If she continues to not listen to me, or keeps taking her foot on and off again, I will give up and physically remove her from the situation, repeating the rule.

Another example is "you can touch mommy's earrings but you can't pull." As she touches the earrings, I will repeat "you can touch" and things like "good girl," "good baby," "nice babies touch gently." If she starts to pull, I tell her "no, we don't pull." I repeat this if I feel I need to, and switch to praising her immediately if she goes back to just touching. If she's too squirrelly I will just remove her hands, put her down, or take the earrings off. But using this technique, I have not had to stop wearing the long, dangly, sparkly earrings I love. We've also been able to keep her from grabbing peoples' glasses off their faces or yanking on necklaces.

Be Quick, Be Appropriate

  • Remember that the younger the child, the more immediate a world they live in. If you don't discipline right away, they will not associate the discipline with the correct behavior.
  • Your child understands concrete things okay, abstract things barely, if at all. Keep it simple.
  • Your child has a limited vocabulary. Use few and short words.
  • Your tone means more than your words, so keep it consistent and only use your "preferences" voice when the child is doing something against your preferences. Only use your "danger" voice when the child is doing something that risks harm.
  • Timing is everything. Praise the child the second he stops doing a bad behavior and jump on it the second he starts doing something you prefer he didn't.
  • Praise is just as much a key component of discipline as punishment. Most children want to please their parents at that age. Discipline is a win-win scenario when you are vigilant about acknowledging good behavior.
  • Consider other factors when disciplining. A tired, teething, hungry, over-stimulated, or sick child may just need to be removed from the situation even if it isn't overtly dangerous, simply because he doesn't have the patience to figure out your rules.
  • Discipline is just as much about good communication and healthy boundaries as it is about preventing harm to the child. You can't childproof a neighbor's or relative's house, but you can take your healthy boundaries and good communication with you (the clear rule "we do not pull things out of bookcases" is portable). Putting your preferences as a priority teaches your child to respect you as a person.
  • It's fine to not feel that something is worth making a fuss over, but consider whether your child might be doing that behavior in an attempt to elicit some guidance out of you. Your child may be more comfortable when even small things have boundaries that he can learn.

I have had great success with these methods; I wish you luck in figuring out what's best for your child!

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What are your rules? This can be the hardest part for a new parent. –  nGinius Jul 1 '11 at 20:56
    
+1 Fantastic answer! –  Beofett Jul 7 '11 at 12:11
    
The rules include things like "we don't touch glasses" [meaning eyeglasses], "we don't pull mama's earrings," "we don't hit," "we don't throw food on the floor." "We don't touch the shelves" or "we don't touch mama's/dada's books" would be another one for the poster's situation. –  Corvus Melori Jul 7 '11 at 23:03
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but there are other moments though were I think that we should not be so strict, and just let him.. throw these books

Absolutely not. If those books are off limits, then they're always off limits. Not sometimes, whenever you're feeling up to dealing with it. Always.

Consistency is key when dealing with children, especially toddlers that are just starting to test their boundaries like yours is.

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I want to +2 this. Children don't understand exceptions. In our kitchen, the oven door is always hot, even when it's off. The street is always dangerous, even when no car is near. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 31 '11 at 8:02
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Agree for the most part however my children understand that rules vary from location to location. Grandma can have her own rules about behavior on the couch whereas at mom and dad's the rules differ. @torbengb the oven door can potentially be hot...we underestimate the brains of our children and try to speak down to them. They understand more then we give them credit for. –  Aaron McIver Mar 31 '11 at 16:48
    
I agree with this completely, but, I would love to know the best approach "how" not to let them, as that's where we've struggled with our kid (we are consistent in our rules, but we have a hard time finding a way to stop the behavior that doesn't cause him to escalate his behavior). –  NickC Jun 13 '11 at 16:27
    
@Renesis: If that question were easy to answer, parenting would be easy. ;-) –  afrazier Jun 13 '11 at 17:11
    
oh don't worry, I'm not under any pretenses that it is! And to be fair, rereading the question, you've answered what was being asked completely anyway. –  NickC Jun 13 '11 at 17:13
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Boundaries on behavior are important at any age after infancy. Set them and stick to them. Children are very keen on parents giving in. Even though it is easier to give in sometimes, it will only make things more difficult later.

Note that boundaries are not the same as expectations. Boundaries are the minimum requirements for behavior in your child's environment, and they are not negotiable. They cover safety and health issues, as well as simple day-to-day means to maintain your sanity. Expectations are what you work with children to obtain or maintain. Expectations can be modified regularly. Not boundaries.

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Just be consistent. And be strict about your consistency.

Like afrasier said "If those books are off limits, then they're always off limits. Not sometimes, whenever you're feeling up to dealing with it. Always."

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Just move the things that would cause them harm or you don't want them to play with. If I had knives I wouldn't put them on the coffee table. If he can't maintain self-control since he is only 14 months old, then put the books in a box and put some things he can play with on the shelves. When he is older, put the books back and see if he can control himself. Just eliminating the opportunity to make a bad choice, or cause harm to them, works very well.

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Positive Discipline talks about being kind and firm, meaning, its important to have rules, and boundaries, but its also important to be realistic and developmentally appropriate, and to connect with your child.

At 14 months, your baby is, well, a baby. He does not understand if he pulls heavy books off a shelf he is going to get hurt. Yes, learning involves some literal bumps along the way, but it is also important that your house should be baby-proofed so that he can't cause serious injury. I would move the books to someplace he can't reach; exchange them with something lighter. And, make sure he has things he can build and knock over! (shoeboxes are so fun!)

As others have mentioned, consistency is key. It can't be fine one day when you're in a good mood, and a problem the next because you're tired. That's way too confusing! But, provided you are consistent, and preventing as much of this as possible, when he starts doing something he shouldn't, calmly and firmly respond with "No. We don't _ " and then redirect him. Physically move him if you have to (certainly if he is in danger!), but otherwise just get his attention elsewhere onto something he is allowed to do.

Toddlers are fascinating little beings, constantly absorbing information. I avoid both praise and punishment (with all ages) because they are manipulative in the short-term and damaging in the long-run (tons of research I can connect you with if you want). Instead, just re-direct at this age. Certainly as he gets just a bit older you can start to involve him in the process a bit more, but at this age it just isn't helpful or productive.

I recommend reading Positive Discipline, and there's one specifically for young children.

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and keep in mind that he may not fully understand at that age and perhaps move the books or block them off until he does. Try redirection (make sure he has shelves of books he can take and 'read') or show him, each time how to take down one book and then put it back before taking another. My guys went through this stage (with their own books) but with constant reinforcement of how to handle and treat books when they were open to it or rediction when they weren't, they now take down books, one at a time, read it and put it back (most of the time, there are small exceptions).

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