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Your One-Year-Old: Beginning Discipline

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  • Babies do things like act out or cry as a way of coping with stress. Usually it's because she is bored, tired, hungry, frustrated, or worried. Try to identify the underlying cause and address that, along with the behavior.

  • If baby is acting a bit off or cranky, bring out one of her favorite toys. If baby is still impatient or cranky, he's probably tired, hungry, or overstressed. If he's excited to see the toy, he's probably just bored.

  • Notice if the same things cause your baby to become frustrated. If you stop to think about it, you may find a pattern. For example, some babies just don't like toys with too much noise, and some need quiet time in the crib in order to make a bowel movement. Keep your baby in the situations that she naturally likes.

  • The most important rule for beginning discipline is for you to stay consistent. Don't switch gears or rules on the baby. This will only confuse her and it's especially important to consider this if you and your spouse have different rules. For example, one parent lets baby climb on the sofa and the other parent does not.

  • Babies like it when they have your approval, so focus on the good things and praise, praise, praise!

  • Notice if baby is acting out while you are trying to change something—for example, switching from bottle to cup. This could be bothering her and you may not even realize it. If this is true, you can decide to hold off on the weaning for now. It's also a good idea to try to lose a bottle or pacifier while you're on vacation. In new surroundings, baby may become preoccupied and forget that item more easily than she would at home.

  • Think of the simple things when baby becomes fussy. Did I just take away her toy? Do I have any idea what made this happen?

  • Babies are sensitive, protective, and loving, and they feel this way towards others. Don't be surprised if baby is crying because another baby is crying. This is sweet.

  • Keep in mind that baby is independent right now and somewhat stubborn. Let her decide on the activities and your life will be a lot calmer. The key is to create a safe environment, provide boundaries, and then let baby explore and be adventurous. This is how she learns.

  • Don't confuse self-discipline with rewards. If you reward your baby with something physical every time he does something good, he'll begin to do other things less because he doesn't receive a prize. Balance this out by using rewards for only certain things, but teach that kisses and hugs are more valuable rewards.

  • If your baby wants to get down and go when you are trying to hold him on your lap, save yourself a lot of trouble by letting him down to play. Don't be too apologetic. Other parents usually understand these things.

  • Try to react to situations calmly. If you are angry and aggressive in your reaction, you will probably only escalate the situation with the baby.

  • Try these steps if you get overloaded: stop whatever you're doing, take ten deep breaths, relax, think happy thoughts, and take a shower. Put your baby in a safe place like a crib and give yourself a short break.

  • Never, never, never mimic your baby or call your baby names. This will break her spirit for life.

  • In short, if you spank your baby, you're teaching your baby that it's okay to hit and I'm not sure that's the lesson you want to teach.

  • Babies tend to turn up spoiled later because they aren't given consistent rules and boundaries. It's frustrating to them because they don't have rules or don't know what the rules are, so they become angry and act out.

  • Don't give in to baby if she's fussing over your boundaries and limits. I think babies understand this action more than anything else!

Checklist for a contented baby:

  • Lots of rest.
  • Lots of attention.
  • Praise and rewards.
  • Activity and movement.
  • Peace at home.
  • A feeling of protection.

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Copyright © 2006 by Jeanne Murphy. Excerpted from And Baby Turns One with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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