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Learning And Development

The Right Time To Start Disciplining

Your child invariable wants to be a part of activities that may involve danger in some form or another. From eating sand in the park to getting extra comfortable with a pet, you as a parent have every reason to be worried. These kinds of moments make up any given day, and figuring out how to shield your child from harm without breaking their spirit usually leaves a parent totally confused.

At this tender age, traditional discipline methods such as time-out, doesn't work. So then what does…? And at what age is it appropriate to try which tactics?

As you may have guessed, it's as necessary for parents to learn how to discipline properly as it is for children to learn that certain kinds of misbehaviour are unsafe or just socially inappropriate.

Ultimately, it's a long process, but when it's done well, it will be a positive experience that’s bound to help your child.

The Birth of Discipline

  • Setting limits, reinforcing good behavior and discouraging less-desirable behavior can start when your child is a young baby.
  • There are things that even young babies have to learn not to do, such as pulling your hair. Babies have limited language comprehension, memory, and attention spans, so the best strategies to employ early on are more about damage control than about teaching an actual lesson.
  • Distracting (helping him move from a not-so-good activity to something better) and ignoring (just what the name implies) are two very effective strategies.
  • If, for example, your 4-month-old discovers how much fun it is to yank your hair, you might gently remove her hand, give it a kiss, and redirect it toward something fun and appropriate, such as a rattle or other toy.

Of course, you never want to ignore a behavior that's potentially dangerous, but looking the other way when your 7-month-old cheerfully pelts his food or toys from his high chair is a good idea. He's learning how to control his hands and beginning to understand the concept of cause and effect. As annoying as this behavior is, it's important not to get upset or overreact. A lot of parents think their kids are taunting them when the continually change channels on the remote. Many parents become frustrated when a child engages in such behaviors. Your best bet is to maintain a calm demeanor and carry on with what you were doing.

8 to 12 months

  • When your baby starts to crawl, around the 8-month mark, it's time to think about setting limits. Suddenly everything, from the knick-knacks on your side table to those rolls of toilet paper under the bathroom sink – all of them are now available within his/her reach.
  • A child this age only wants to explore (he has no concept of what he should or shouldn't do), so if you don't want him to touch something, place it out of his reach through childproofing and let child-friendly items take center stage.
  • They say this is the best way to help your child stay out of trouble and makes it a lot easier to follow the rules.


Many parents say NO when they catch their little ones getting into mischief. Unfortunately, it's not a reliable disciplining method for kids this age.

Your child can comprehend by the tone of your voice that "no" means something different from "I love you," but she doesn't understand the real meaning of the word.

Furthermore, she doesn't have the self-control to heed your request.

Use other techniques to reinforce the lesson that some things are off-limits.

12 to 24 months

Around this age, your child's communication skills are blossoming, so you can start explaining basic rules like, “don't pull doggy’s/kitty's tail” – this of course if you have pets at home. You can also begin using the word ‘No’ judiciously, especially in serious situations. Too many could wear out the word and eventually render it completely useless.

At this stage, a child’s physical skills are coming into full play too. Your new little walker will be thrilled with his freshly minted independence, and even frustrated because he can't do all the things he'd like.


  • While tantrums require a quick response from you, these emotional thunderstorms are a part of growing up and not cue for harsher discipline techniques, such as taking away a privilege or sending a child to his room.
  • When tantrums strike, it’s best to know your own child. Some kids calm down quickly through distraction; others need a hug.
  • But if a tantrum is lengthy, remove your child from the situation and gently explain what's going on example: "We can't stay in the store if you continue screaming" until he calms down.

Frustration that stems from your toddler's inability to communicate effectively can lead to hitting or biting too. Disciplining such scenarios involves telling your child what not to do quickly and simply and redirecting him towards an appropriate activity.

24 to 36 Months

The 2-year mark ushers in twos' programs, pre-school, and play-dates, which are great for your child's socialization skills but come with a new set of discipline problems.

Sharing -- toys, time, and attention is difficult at this age. What complicates matters further is that people and even children outside your family may end up in the path of a toy-snatching toddler who happens to belong to you.

Toddlers understand easy commands, empathy, and cause and effect, so you can now employ these concepts when you discipline. If your child grabs a crayon from his friend, for example, you can say, "We don't grab toys. Taking Ryan’s crayon hurts his feelings," and then give him a similar crayon to play with.

A key to disciplining toddlers and preschoolers is to keep things very simple. According to research, those moms with long reprimands were less effective than those with short and direct ones.

It’s Time-Out Time!

Kids between the ages of 24 to 36 months are also ready for you to try using time-outs. ‘Time-out’ is when your child misbehaves, for every year of his age, he gets one minute to sit quietly in a chair or in his room to calm himself down (for example, a 3-year-old gets 3 minutes). He gets up when you say ‘time-out’ is over.

Of course, every child is different, and no one disciplining method will work all the time. But the more practice you get doling it out and the more your children understand boundaries, the happier everyone will be!


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