Discipline: Do babies need it?

Here’s the situation. Your little one has just begun to crawl; a happy, exciting and historical event for you and your family. You’ve been spurring him on for weeks to get up on those chubby little hands and knees and put one in front of the other. When he finally does it you are elated, your little bundle of joy has reached a milestone and has found some independence. For a day or two you happily watch him practising his new skill, calling round friends and relatives to inform them of what talented offspring you have. Everything’s great! He’s happy, you’re happy - fantastic!

You continue with your daily duties of washing, cleaning, bed making and ironing and all of a sudden realise that crawling perhaps isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He’s now well practised and can travel faster than you can watch him a lot of the time. Everything has to be thought about more carefully, the stair gate must be closed, the iron must be unplugged and the cord moved away from eager hands wanting to know exactly what happens when they pull this! And that sparkly, twinkly, very inviting-looking fire that he has had his eye on for the past 7 months is now within his reach. He must touch it, he has to touch it, and he will touch it. He won’t care how many times Mummy plays the game where she picks him up and pulls him away saying “no, no – hot, hot”, he has to touch that fire.
So what now? Do you continue with this constant cycle of removing him from danger, just for him to think that this is a funny game? Or do you introduce some discipline? Will discipline work with a child who isn’t yet old enough to understand right from wrong? The “game” isn’t working and you don’t want to chance the possible outcome of not getting to him on time. He cannot comprehend the dangers of this and therefore has no reason to stop.
The word discipline can come across as a little regimental, where military style methods are used to teach right from wrong. Obviously this is not the correct approach for a crawling baby and could possibly do more harm than good in the long term. However, if we look at discipline as more of a training programme, where no actual punishment is involved, then this method begins to sound more suitable. Maybe by using a different voice, perhaps sterner and less playful, and maintaining eye contact when telling your child “no” could result in him realising that this is not a game and he shouldn’t do it.

So, do babies need discipline? There is no easy answer. At first I would say no! Definitely not! They are only babies!! However, there are many obstacles in life that we perhaps don’t think about when initially addressing this question. If gone about in the right way, without aggression or punishment, I believe certain disciplinary methods could perhaps help prevent your baby from getting into playful mischief and resulting in accidental harm.

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