Should I ever punish my baby?

Kid laughing

No. You should never hit, slap or shake a baby. No punishment is effective for infants less than a year old because they are too young to understand. If your baby does something dangerous, say a firm, “No” as you pull him/her away. You will have to keep preventing him/her from getting into trouble. Babies are easily distracted, so offer redirection with another activity or toy.

Sharing discipline

Many dads have taken on the role of disciplinarian. They are expected to discipline their children when mothers are not successful or become frustrated in this role. Discipline involves teaching limits and rules to children and praising them when they do the right thing. Both parents need to learn realistic expectations for their child.

The person taking care of the child at these teaching times should set the limits. Thus, the child can make immediate connections between his or her behavior and the lesson. Discipline should not be held over until Dad gets home. If fathers only hear about the problems with their children, it will affect their relationship with them. It’s unfair to have someone discipline a child if he or she was not there to witness the behavior and teach from personal observation. A conversation about the behavior can be held when the other parent gets home or learns of the event. It’s a good opportunity to see what the child learned from the incident and how he or she feels about the discipline given.

How to use “time out” as an alternative to spanking

Johnnie has thrown his third tantrum of the afternoon. Should Mom spank Johnnie, because she remembers how her parents would have treated her as a child if she had done the same thing? Should she tell Johnnie to go to the corner for a time out and, if so, for how long? Does the timeout result in the desired change of behavior?

The early years are an important time for children to develop self-esteem. If parents can create an environment where children are respected, children will appreciate the world as a loving, caring place. This will give children self-confidence, emotional control and coping skills and, ultimately, give parents what they desire — good behavior.

Seven important guidelines for using time out:

  1. Use time out only as a time for the child to regain control or for the adult to gain composure.
  2. Do not put a child in a frightening place; a safe place will help the child pull it together.
  3. Time out is not a punishment and should not be used to embarrass. Rather, it is an opportunity for the child to clear the mind and return to previous activity.
  4. Avoid using time out for infants and toddlers. Children this age are too young to understand time out.
  5. Time outs should only be for the length of time it takes to calm down.
  6. Once the time out is over, hug your child and spend time explaining specifically what behavior you disapproved of, and why. Make this short and to the point, and then continue with the previous activity.
  7. Don’t hit or spank your child before or after time out. This will teach the child poor self-control.

What are some guidelines to follow when disciplining my child?

  • Be the model for all behaviors you want in your child.
  • Respect the child’s stage of development.
  • Match the discipline with the child’s state of development.
  • Make sure you use what you know about your child’s temperament.
  • When your child is with other children; try not to hover.
  • Be sure to explain the actions that were taken, this way you help your child understand his/her actions and feelings.
  • Stop and think about when discipline does not work: What does it mean? What is my child telling me? Are my actions causing this?
  • When all is done, give your child the love he/she needs. Tell your child that you care for him/her and that you know it is hard to learn self-control.

What can I do to stop from saying “No” all of the time?

When your baby becomes mobile and begins to get into everything, it is hard to avoid saying “No” all the time. Try several things. First, make sure your home is baby “safe”; remove items that are tempting where the baby spends time and block ones that are dangerous. Offer your baby as many positive activities and words as often as possible. The fewer conflicts, the better.

When do I know if I am too strict with my child?

Effective discipline will “teach” your child how to channel emotions and feelings into acceptable behavior. Sometimes parents can be too strict. Think about what you are doing and examine your daily interactions. It may be time to reconsider your practices. Here are some things to watch for in your child:

  • Does not express negative feelings. Too good or too quiet.
  • Sensitive to mild criticism.
  • Does not have a sense of humor and joy of life.
  • Irritable or anxious most of the time.
  • Shows symptoms of pressure in feeding, sleeping or toileting. Will regress to earlier development of a toddler or baby.
  • Does not test you in age-appropriate ways.

When I get angry, I begin shouting. Is this appropriate?

Shouting eventually will lose its effectiveness. Try speaking in a quiet voice the next time you are angry. Your pre-schooler may be surprised and may listen to you.

How can I cope with my child when his/her behavior becomes difficult?


  1. Establish Rules: Make simple rules for your child. Start with a few “things we do and don’t do.” Talk with your child about them.
  2. Prevention Is Better Than Cure: If you feel that your child’s behavior is beginning to get out of control, “nip it in the bud.” Distract your child’s attention by doing another activity.
  3. Take Five:When tensions and anger rise in you or your child, “Take five”? Take five minutes to cool down and ask yourself, “Why am I getting so angry?” Try to identify the real problem, then find the solution.
  4. Avoid Striking Your Child: Hitting does not teach children good behavior.
  5. No Yelling Allowed: Avoid yelling at your children in anger. If they break a rule, tell them what they did wrong and why that makes you angry.
  6. Get Away: When you are stressed and upset, get help and support.

Discipline: Keys to successful discipline include setting clear limits, reinforcing those limits with reminders and consequences, such as taking away a privilege or having the child spend a short time alone, without play. Praising good behavior, especially when your child isn’t expecting praise, reinforces the actions you want to see.

Ages 6-18 months

While playing together, your baby suddenly bites your arm. What do you do?


  • Pull the baby away and firmly say, “No biting. Biting hurts.”
  • Show alternative behavior such as hugging.
  • Give babies who are teething something soft to bite.


Babies, scream, hit, cry and bite to communicate their needs. They touch and explore to learn about their bodies and environment, not to hurt or willfully disobey. Our goal is to help our babies show their feelings without hurting themselves or others.


  • Watch for signals that to tell when your baby is overexcited or upset.
  • Show babies how to express their needs in different ways, such as clapping or laughing.
  • Be consistent in your responses.

Ages 2 to 3

What do you do if your child throws a tantrum on the floor of the toy store because you won’t buy the toy he/she wants?


  • Stay calm and don’t worry about what others think.
  • Ignore the fuss. Give your child as little attention as possible.
  • Hold your child, if necessary, to prevent injury or damage to property.
  • Leave the store if the tantrum continues.
  • Reward good behavior by spending some special time together as soon after as possible.


When children become defiant and hard to manage, children need to discover their own abilities to separate themselves from their parents, and to learn self-control. We can teach our children to behave properly by rewarding good behavior, ignoring poor behavior, and preventing them from injuring themselves or others.


Before entering the store, describe the behavior you expect and the consequences of poor behavior.

Ages 3 to 4

What do I do if my child pushes or pinches a playmate, or uses bad language?


  • Listen to your child’s reason for getting angry.
  • Tell your child the correct words to use in expressing feelings.
  • Explain your feelings to your child
  • Talk to your child on how he/she can change their feelings.


Children at this age are beginning to learn rules and limits, but they make mistakes. They need reminders and immediate consequences that respect their growing self-esteem.


  • Observe how your child plays, and compliment good behavior. For example, “I really liked how you asked for your turn on the swing.”
  • Be sure you and other adults in your child’s life are good role models in expressing feelings.

Ages 5 +

What do I do if I tell my child to clean up the blocks and he/she refuses, even after several requests?


  • Calmly and clearly say, “You need to pick up all the blocks and put them in their box.”
  • Set a time limit for doing the task and say what will happen if the task is not done. For example, “This needs to be done by lunch time, or we won’t be able to have your friends over to play.”
  • Make sure that the task is fair and that the child cares about it.
  • After one warning, but no repeated threats, follow through with your plan if the child hasn’t completed the task to your satisfaction.


At this age, children are aware of the rules of good behavior, but they still have trouble following through with their responsibilities. It’s important that you give kids this age lots of praise.


  • Provide chores fairly among family members, according to their ages.
  • Be clear about what the task is and what the consequences are.
  • Praise and reward the child for doing chores. For example: “Because you’ve done such a good job clearing the table, we’ll have time for a special story or game together!”

Most child development experts now support the concept of positive discipline — discipline without negative put-downs, harsh criticism or physical punishment. These experts consider spanking to be negative, ineffective and humiliating to a child.

If “spanking” is not the right thing to do, what works better?


Teach your children how to talk about their feelings, rather than act them out in misbehavior.

Monitor your own levels of anger and be aware of what may trigger angry responses.

Be patient. Young children need lots of reminders before they can understand and remember what they are supposed to do. Express affection regularly.

Top 12 Discipline Principles

  1. Get connected early.
  2. Know your child.
  3. Know age-appropriate behavior.
  4. Get behind the eyes of your child.
  5. Help the child respect authority.
  6. Set limits; provide structure.
  7. Expect obedience.
  8. Model discipline.
  9. Nurture your child’s self-confidence.
  10. Shape your child’s behavior.
  11. Raise kids with care.
  12. Talk and listen.