A More Natural Approach to Parenting


("Treat me like I'm someone you love")

Children are emotionally pure, loving, and trusting. When they behave in ways that we think are wrong, they are not intentionally being bad, just learning and exploring.

Discipline is from a Latin word "discipulus," which means "learner". The corresponding role of the parent is "teacher".

Children need your help in learning how to behave. Discipline is a form of training that helps them to develop self-control. Guiding young children's behavior is challenging work, but it is the most important job of the parent. Eventually your child will possess the internal ability to guide his/her behavior and actions in proper ways in all situations, even when you are not there. Through all the stages of development, children need to know in advance what is expected and which behaviors are unacceptable.

By giving approval and withholding approval, parents are a necessary authority figure for the child. This is not the same as being authoritarian. A parent of authority incorporates firmness with a loving, gentle, approach, while an authoritarian parent is demanding, controlling, inflexible and distant.

It is not your job to make your child happy, but to teach appropriate behavior that will have the potential to foster happiness. Don't hesitate to say "no"' for fear of upsetting the child. Children want the security of having somebody in charge.

Babies, the first year

At around the age of 9 months, your baby is entering the age of independence, no longer completely in need of mother for mobility and nourishment. This is the time when it is appropriate to begin to teach basic rules about behavior. Even at such a young age, babies respond to their parents' approval and are encouraged to continue the behavior that elicits such approval. For instance, when parents delight in a baby's first word, the child is likely to continue to repeat the word many times over.

A 9-month-old is beginning to understand what you say as well as nuances of your facial expressions and tone of voice. Because they don’t understand much language yet, your demeanor might well be more important than the actual words spoken. Your immediate strong reaction when your child is doing something that might be dangerous is far more important than the actual words in getting across the message.

Babies, the second year

Mother talking with baby

This is a big change from that adorable little bundle of joy where every little whimper was responded to patiently, all was calm, and love was all around.

Older babies are becoming independent and learning about the world. Parents are often surprised that their child "knows what he wants" or "has a mind of her own." All children do this. They need to explore, run, climb and touch.

A child of this age is never deliberately "misbehaving". Your challenge is to know when to give in and when to be firm, so that your child knows which behavior is acceptable and what is not allowed.

These babies need you to teach them how to act, and to help them manage their feelings. You need to have rules about behavior. Say "no" when you need to. Direct the child's interest somewhere else. Stick to your rules, and be consistent so your baby will know what to expect. Children need to feel safe by having rules to guide them.

It is very common for some babies to kick, hit and bite other children. They get angry and frustrated. They don’t have the words to let other children know that they are upset. If your child does any of these things, the first thing to do is remove your child from the situation.

At all ages, try to find ways to say "Yes". Remember to praise the good things that your child does.

Toddler Behavior

This age group is discussed in a separate section.

Consistency is the key

By being consistent, you can teach appropriate behavior. In contrast, if your reactions are inconsistent, your child will never learn the desired behavior and this can only lead to frustration on both of your parts, as you feel thwarted and your child does things which you might interpret as "being bad", which is not the case.

If "consistency" is practiced by the child instead of the parent (persistent whining or tantrums), parents will eventually be worn down and confused about why the child "doesn’t listen". The problem is that the child has "consistently" learned how to get his or her way.

"Treat me like I'm someone you love"

Refrain from doing something to negate the wonderful natural traits that your child was born with. Avoid quashing children's joy or projecting onto them a malicious intent regarding what they were doing. Most likely, they haven't a clue as to why you are getting upset with them. They just end up feeling bad by observing your tone of voice and facial expressions. This sets them up to think that something is wrong with them. You can help your children feel good about themselves by not judging them.

How can you be an effective disciplinarian? Not by losing control. Not by yelling. It is frightening for a child when a parent is out of control. Speak to your child the way that you speak to adults. Speak clearly and concisely. Explain: "That is not appropriate behavior" using vocabulary that a child can understand. If you say that there are going to be consequences, it is important that you follow through. If not, you will only be ignored and you will be setting up a pattern there.

Clearly express to your child what constitutes acceptable behavior in all sorts of daily situations. If you need to reprimand, no matter what the age of your child, always do so privately. Respect the child's self-esteem and the child's sense of worth by being firm, but kind. Maintain control of yourself and your emotions. Remember how important your child is to you.

Inspire good behavior by giving realistic praise, which builds self-esteem and a desire to please again. If you find yourself getting angry at your child, make a conscious decision to avoid "attacking words" which only leave a child feeling defensive and helpless. It is your own desire to change that will be the first step toward your child's more reasonable behavior.

Teaching correct behavior

Behavior is not taught to children by talking about it. Rather, correct behavior is demonstrated, observed, and experienced. Children learn kindness and compassion through watching you and other adults behaving kindly and sympathetically to others. They learn to be nice by having someone be nice to them. They learn to be peaceful and non-violent by having other people demonstrate what it is to be peaceful.

  • Respect children as people.
  • Teach kindness by being kind.

"If there is to be peace in the world we must begin with the children."

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