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How do you discipline a baby?

Tuesday, 30 December 2014  | 

I have a confession to make. When it comes to disciplining my son, I have absolutely no idea where to start.

When you are catapulted into the world of being a parent, you spend so much time getting used to simply keeping your baby alive at first – then you learn how to stimulate him, how to wean him, how to make him happy. But now Millar is starting to be a bit of a monkey – he pulls my hair and scratches my face and I want to tell him that that’s not allowed…but I don’t know how yet. I don’t want to say no to him. He’s too little to really understand – and if I do it aggressively enough for him to stop hurting my face, then he is simply letting go because he’s scared. I don’t want to go down the route of discipline through fear. For starters, I’m not very scary – just ask my students!

In fact, as a teacher, I’m sure discipline should be something that comes naturally. I wouldn’t say I’m the best at classroom management, but I can hold my own with a classroom full of teenage boys – so why does the idea of setting boundaries with my baby scare me so much?

I’ve never really thought about discipline before. I’ve never liked the idea of a ‘naughty step’ or ‘time out’. I don’t like the idea that you spend all of your baby’s early months being there for them no matter what, then when they’ve done something that you perceive to be wrong you separate them from you. I also don’t want to be the kind of parent who repeatedly says ‘no’ – so much so that it just washes over the child.

So…I seem to have a pretty good idea of what I don’t want – but no idea of what I do want to do.

I’ve been doing some research online and the thing I keep coming to is the idea of ‘gentle parenting’. I know next to nothing about it and I’m aware I have lots of reading to do. I’ve ordered some books so that I can get my head around everything. But I like the idea that this kind of parenting nurtures respect and emotional intelligence. I know some people think that means letting children get away with everything and do whatever they like and that’s certainly not what I want to happen. I have enough experience in the classroom to know that a lack of boundaries causes all sorts of problems.

I think what I want is a relationship where Millar feels he can totally rely on me to be there and to be consistent. To be there when he needs me, even if he shows he needs me by having a tantrum or doing something wilfully wrong. I want us to talk about everything – about how he feels, about what he is thinking – about how there are things you mustn’t do. It sounds vague, because at the moment, it is vague in my head. I want my son to have an instinctive understanding of right and wrong. I want him to query things, to ask questions and to make up his own mind about things, but I also want him to be kind, thoughtful and caring. I know this seems to be straying from the idea of discipline, but I think it’s all connected.

People have said that you just do what comes naturally and that you’ll work it out as you go along. I’d love to hear your thoughts on discipline and what works for you – does anyone have any advice?

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