What's the appropriate age to start disciplining a child?

Amanda - posted on 06/08/2011 ( 12 moms have responded )

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My son is just over a year old and I've noticed he's started to "test" me as some people have put it. There are times that he knows that he shouldn't be doing something, like splash in the cat water dish or pick up their food, and he looks at me while he's doing it. He gets his hand just over it and looks at me like "I'm going to do this". And after constantly telling him no, or making a sound to divert him away he does it anyways. There are some other things he does as well, but my question is, when is it appropriate to start to actually discipline him? I've had other parents tell me I should swat him on his butt, since he's wearing a diaper it shouldn't effect him too much and put him in his crib or play pen for a minute after I told him no or to stop. My mom on the other hand has told me that he can't comprehend what I'm punishing him for and I should wait until he's about 2. But I've been doing the swatting on the diaper and time out for a minute and he seems to be improving a little bit. There are days when he still wants to keep me on my toes, but if he crawls by something, he tries to test me once and then I say no and then he moves on. He's getting better I suppose. Should I continue doing what I'm doing or wait like my mom said? I've also read that babies at around 10 months I think are starting to learn cause and effect, well isn't this considered that as well? Do something you're told not to do, and get punished for it....right?

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Pamela - posted on 06/18/2011

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I firmly think that swatting a kid teaches them....but it teaches them that people who are bigger get to hit. When he has a younger sibling he will know to hit to keep him/her away from his stuff. As a kindergarten teacher, I have excellent command of my class, and I never need to be rough...so I know it can be done. I do find that discipline does not need to be rough. For example, when my one year old grab my glasses, I put her down and move away from her. She hates that, so she learns the natural consequence. Can the cat food be moved to the other side of the baby gate? He is just trying so hard to learn about his world, so it's hard for him to stop! He's not bad...just so curious. You are so lucky to have a child who is full of wonder, ambition, and desire to learn! Keep nurturing it!

Casey - posted on 06/08/2011

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I dont see anything wrong with a firm no and relocating him, thats what I do when my DS does this kind of thing. Though I wouldnt use the crib for time out. He might start to think going to bed means he did something wrong.

Jamie - posted on 06/22/2011

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As the mom of 3 ranging in age from 9 yrs to 13 months, I have always had sucess with many of these techniques, I personally believe that babies are much smarter than the adults often give them credit for. If you treat them as a small person, they will quickly behave as such. Beginning with the creeper stage, relocation and distraction work very well. toy throwing, a firm not nice and grumpy look, 3 strikes the toy gets put away. Not for You, and replacing the object with a toy as the testing stage begins. a light swat on the hand, accompanied with a Stern " don't touch, Hurt the baby" followed by a loving snuggle and kiss. The boundaries should really begin at birth, it is just Your enforcement of the rules that needs to be adjusted, based more on your childs comprehension level, than any real age guidelines, when relocation no longer works, step it up a notch. Always be consistent, never let any safety issue slide, and always follow up with lots of love and snuggles, and when age appropriate explain to your child in terms they understand, why mommy says no, or took the toy away. And let them know that their safety and well being is not only your priority, but your purpose as a parent. Discipline has many forms, you as the parent need to decide what is appropriate in your family. However I suggest that you speak to your child openly about safe and unsafe choices, from the time they begin to respond to their names, as you cannot always be there to protect them, and the more you repeat it, the more confident they are...You should have heard my 3 yr old lecturing her friends about "choking hazards" when her baby sister was born! Whatevever form of discipline you choose, just remember consistantcy and moderation. And Always back it up with positive reinforcment and love love love! hope this was helpful.

Kristi - posted on 06/17/2011

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From the time my son was able to pick things up on his own, we started using the phrase "Not for babies". I use this for little things like touching the remote, the stereo, rocks at the playground etc. We have always saved "no" for the big things like hot surfaces, stairs etc.

I read somewhere that "no" gets tossed around a lot and tends to loose meaning. The theory (and hope!) is that my son will stop in his tracks when he hears a firm NO, and that "not for babies" is a gentle reminder. He is 13 months now and totally gets it. He freezes when he hears me say "no". He also backs off when he hears "not for babies", or if he has something in his hand, he will just give it to me. Sure he tests me all the time! I also find distraction with another activity works too :)

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Vicky - posted on 06/23/2011

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I don't think it is too early. If our son tries to touch anything electrical or the cupboards, we give him a smack on the hand (not too hard but enough for him to look at you) or if he is doing other things he knows he isn't allowed to do (including playing up over meal times), we put him in his highchair and turn him around to face the wall for a minute. After we have disciplined him, we always give him a hug and tell him why we did it and ask him to say sorry (which usually involves a kiss). He is learning.

Rebecca - posted on 06/22/2011

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my son does that with the dog bowl and the bin, i tell him a firm no then pick him up put him in his play pen and sit on the settie and ignore him for 2-3 mins then i take him out, if he does it again then i repeat this action. It is time consuming though after a few times he stopped and left it alone, he still does it now and again though is much better now you need to be consistant with it as bein put in the play pen and ignored for 2 mins is worse to him then a tap on the bum, good luck :)

Karen - posted on 06/20/2011

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If you wait til he's two to discipline you are going to be in BIG trouble. He is looking at you while doing something he knows he's not suppose to be doing - of course he understands. I don't think a lite smack on the fingers and saying a firm 'no' or 'don't touch' is unreasonable. If after a few times pick them up and move them. Whatever you do if you say something to him "no', 'don't touch', you HAVE to follow through and not ignore it other wise they'll figure out you're not being consistant and constantly test everything - because if it happened once......

Sarah - posted on 06/19/2011

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I started discipling my son alittle before he turned a 1yr old. He has a thing about smacking people in the face so I had to start wooping him then so he could take me serious. He thought it was a game and he smacks pretty hard too.

Candyce - posted on 06/17/2011

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Imo, he should have had some discipline even before that. Once they start realizing cause and effect, like you said, it's appropriate to discipline. It's nothing but giving them the rules for life, whether it's through a swat on the hand or behind or a time-out, or whatever method you choose. My son got his first "smack" right before he turned one, when he decided to explore the electrical outlets. Sure they had covers, but it's the principle of the thing. These next few years are going to be hell as far as repetitive discipline, but stick with it, bc it will pay off. Only you can know when he's ready for his training, and from what you've said, it looks like you think he is - especially since you see him testing you, rather than just exploring. Once they can show defiance and disobedience, they can be disciplined.

Irene - posted on 06/13/2011

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Hi Amanda,

It really depends on what you mean by discipline. It's never too early to start "teaching" your child in gentle ways, but at this point, he still does not understand that he shouldn't be playing in the cat's bowl. Sure, a firm "no" is good, and relocating him too, but also distract him with something else. Give him one of his toys and play with him. To each their own, but I personally am firmly against any kind of hitting or timeouts. Hitting teaches them that it's ok to hit others, and timeouts are just a form of emotional punishment. Here's a great article from Aha Parenting on "Positive Parenting". It gives strategies on how to discipline without punishment. Good luck!!

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