Wednesday: Mid Week Ramblings—Boundaries and Rules with Infants and Toddlers

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I wanted to share two somewhat conflicting views and advice on boundaries, rules and discipline with our infant and toddlers. I would love to hear your input, opinions and suggestions.

I had a friend summarize the Babywise approach to this as explained in the Book Babywise 2:

Just like in the first Babywise, the authors stressthe importance of developing good habits early.  In the first Babywise, it’s important to develop a good eating/sleeping routine to keep your child happy and healthy.  When your child becomes a pre-toddler and begins exploring, it’s important to stop bad habits before they start and develop good habits.  They give the example of parents who let their kids go anywhere they want in the house so that they can learn to explore.  Those kids then get very frustrated when they are in a store and can’t touch whatever they want.  So you need to teach your child that it’s not ok to touch certain things in your house.  You do that by a gentle hand squeeze and firm language.  In the high chair, if your baby blows bubbles with their mouth, you must stop that behavior.  It isn’t enough to just say “No.”  You need to put your finger on their mouth and tell them firmly that that behavior isn’t acceptable.  By giving a gentle hand squeeze or putting your finger on your child’s mouth, you are demonstrating to them what is unacceptable.

If you let your children touch anything in the house or blow bubbles with their mouth when they are young, then it will be so much harder to fix their behavior later.  They call it “credit card parenting.”  You pay for your mistakes later, with interest.

Babywise II also discusses the importance of teaching sign language as a way for a pre-toddler to communicate.  That way, the pre-toddler will be able to tell you what he/she needs instead of resorting to negative behavior.

It’s a bit extreme, just like the first Babywise, but the main principles: teaching correct behavior in the beginning, giving an outlet (sign language), actually demonstrating correct behavior (putting finger over baby’s mouth) are really good principles.

 And a more relaxed approach from Merkoff authors of What to Expect….

It’s during the pre-toddler years, when children begin to become more independent that the need for discipline, or limit setting, presents itself. Simply the fact that toddlers love to explore and we need to keep them safe is reason enough for a few ground rules.Disciplining pre-toddlers does not mean punishing them. It’s important to avoid hitting, being overly strict or overly reactive. The idea behind setting limits with little tykes is to help guide their behavior so that they’re kept out of harm’s way. Heidi Merkoff author of “What to Expect, The Toddler Years” agrees that “the most important thing to keep in mind when you’re talking about discipline, is what the meaning of the word is. It means to teach and that should be your only objective when disciplining a toddler…teaching them right from wrong. It doesn’t mean to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, to punish.”Toddlers are just learning about the world around them and Merkoff says that expecting too much from their behavior is a mistake. “Parents often set overly high expectations for their toddlers. They expect them to show impulse control, which they lack by nature. They expect them to sit still for long periods of time. They expect them to remember the rules and regulations. Toddlers need constant reminders of the rules.”So when setting rules for a toddler keep a few things in mind. First don’t have too many rules, as this can be overwhelming for a young tyke. Keep the rules simple and reasonable. Then once you’ve established a few limits with your toddler it’s important to stick with them explains Merkoff. “Consistency is very important when it comes to any aspect of parenting, especially with discipline. Toddlers need consistency and to know what is expected of them. You shouldn’t expect too much, but there should be a consistency for those expectations that do exist.”


Share your opinions, thoughts, examples, I would love to hear!

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