Setting Limits for Your Baby

Just Say "Yes!"

An infant, as noted earlier, is not capable of behaving a certain way just because it's "good" (or avoiding certain behaviors because they're "bad"). Infants behave according to the urges and interests of the immediate present. They cannot do otherwise.

Your baby will behave himself (in your eyes) only if he wants to behave the way you want him to behave. Of course, this doesn't mean that you should let your baby do anything he pleases. You still need to provide the guidelines of acceptable behavior, again and again if necessary.


When all else fails, try banishment. Despite hearing you say "No!", your baby may continue to live dangerously. Ignoring your attempts at distraction, he may remain obsessed with a particular forbidden behavior. If this is the case, put him in exile. Pick him up and physically remove him from the "scene of the crime."

If he persists in his efforts to go back and repeat the objectionable behavior, create a physical obstacle (perhaps a safety gate) that blocks him from returning. You may find him much more willing to accept the alternatives you offer once he's in a different room.

You cannot possibly get your infant to renounce bad behavior at this age, but you can get him to embrace good behavior. How? By tricking or enticing him into doing what you want him to do. With a little creative redirection, you can put a positive spin on negative prohibitions, turning a sharp "No!" into a resounding "Yes!"

Your baby has a very short attention span. If something's out of sight, it's out of his mind as well. So if you can distract him, you can probably steer your baby relatively easily away from unsafe or unacceptable behavior. Try to get your child interested in something else, something that's safe and non-destructive. He'll probably forget all about that unsafe thing he wanted to do within seconds.

Similarly, you can redirect your baby's energies from mischief or unsafe behavior toward a safer behavior that involves the same action. For instance, if your baby starts hitting you, offer him an alternative: something safe to hit. You might say, "Oh, you want to hit something now? Okay, these are for hitting." Then steer him toward drums or a tower of soft blocks to knock down. If he's biting, offer him a teether or a biscuit that he can bite on. If he wants to throw something valuable (and breakable), trade it for a ball or a beanbag. That way your child can hit or bite or throw as much as he wants, but in such a way that no one gets hurt.

Another positive way to steer your child toward good behavior is through babyproofing. By limiting your toddler's choices only to safe ones, babyproofing can steer him away from dangerous actions and toward safe behavior without his even knowing it. Thorough babyproofing takes care of two of the four aims of setting rules: keeping your baby safe and your property intact. If babyproofing takes care of these, you can focus your rules and your "Nos" on keeping others safe from your baby and on nurturing respect for the rights and feelings of others.

More on: Babies

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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