Respectful Discipline

As the mother of a very curious and interactive seven-month-old, I’m constantly having to redirect her correct some of her less-than-desirable behaviors. She’s so interested in her world and eager to interact with anyone and everyone who will give her the time of day. At our last pediatrician’s appointment, we were told that socially, she’s way ahead of their expectations. I’m not really surprised, considering she has highly social parents; she comes by it honestly. She loves talking to people and even gets her feelings hurt when someone enters the room without acknowledging her presence.

Arbor socializing with her new friend, Shelby.

We recently went out of town to visit friends and family and introduce her to a few people who still hadn’t had the chance to meet her. Her social nature really shined through while she met all of these new people. She gladly demonstrated her new “tricks” like giving hugs and singing. As she became more comfortable in her temporary environment, she would explore and find things that she could get into. Her favorite things, whether at home or a home away from home, are wires and cords. This means I’m always having to get up, redirect her, and find replacements. I’ve been told time and time again that she’ll stop it if I just swat her hand. While I can appreciate how that would work, I don’t want to start punitive discipline with my child and get in the habit of it all now. I’d much rather physically move her and tell her why she can’t do what it is she’s trying to do. It’s definitely more work than just a quick swat but I’m already seeing the benefits of it.

There’s the obvious benefit of not starting the bad habit of using physical force as a means of discipline. I’m getting myself in the habit of using my words to help teach her what is okay and what is not. This in turn is teaching her to understand words and respond appropriately. Arbor has been great about understanding the good “trigger words” that I’ve been using to help teach her. She doesn’t talk much yet but she really seems to have a great understanding of a lot of these words. Some of the ones I’ve been effectively using are

  • danger
  • unh-unh
  • gentle touch
  • owie

I’ve been finding that repetitive use of these trigger words usually work a lot better than when I get irritated and begin to raise my voice or simply move her from whatever it is that she’s into. It’s taken consistency, repetition and having my husband on board. It requires regular communication between the two of us about what it is I’m working on teaching her and with his support, we are gently disciplining our infant.

It’s really encouraging as a parent to see that even at this really young age, before she has become verbal, she’s responding well to verbal direction. I don’t have to resort to violent behavior. I don’t have to hit to teach. As a first time mom who has chosen to use AP principles and peaceful parenting techniques, I’ve been a bit skeptical of this whole non-violent parenting technique. Either I won’t be able to stick with it or I’ll have an unruly child who doesn’t listen to me. She’s only seven months old and is already proving me wrong. We’re learning together how to communicate with each other. She’s learned that I will respond to her when she shows me she wants or needs something and it has set the foundation for a trusting relationship between the two of us. Because I listen to her, she also listens to me. I am loving that we have a relationship built on mutual respect. If I didn’t believe it before, I definitely believe you can respect and be respected by an infant.  We are establishing the framework for a loving relationship. It won’t be without its struggles but it is definitely reaffirming of the principles I have been learning about developing a healthy attachment with my daughter.