When it comes to bringing up a baby, how to balance discipline and love can be tricky. I think few would disagree that one of the essentials of baby care comes in the form of love. Apart from the obvious need to survive, the need for love continues right through childhood into the teenage years. Most teenagers would not admit it; most young children struggle to express it, and babies cannot express it. But, children of any age need love.
Something else that is needed throughout a child’s upbringing is discipline; a sensible level of discipline from which the child will benefit throughout their adult lives. The application of discipline can seem to become more difficult as a child gets older, in direct proportion to the child’s ability to express themselves assertively. In reality, though, applying discipline to a baby can be every bit as difficult, because it is a much more subtle and less obvious process.
A teenager ignoring your 10 pm curfew is a blatant discipline problem. To some, a one-year-old baby crying because they are being taken from their toys to have a bath and go to bed is not even about discipline, and they may not think of it as such. They love the baby, want it to be happy and, despite knowing that the baby should sleep, feel pity and put her back with her toys.
Does a Baby Need Discipline?
Discipline with a child is usually about testing boundaries; the boundaries of what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do. If they do not like the answer, they protest and test again; and again. If the boundary they are trying to break gives way easily, it encourages them to go back and do it again.
If the boundary holds firm, with a consistent parent being calmly unbending, then the baby or infant will give up…..eventually. Patience and consistency are vital to the discipline, otherwise, the baby will become confused; they will not learn what is acceptable and what is not, if one day you give in to their protests, and on another day you do not.
In the example above, the baby has successfully used tears to get their way against the parent’s better judgement. Bath and bedtime have been delayed, with a two-fold result. Firstly, she will not sleep at the time that is best for her, and she will become crotchety and overtired, and cry even louder with the next attempt to put her to bed. Secondly, her success at preventing the bath will bolster her for next time; she has learnt that yelling will get her own way.
Can Love and Discipline Mix?
The answer is an absolute yes! As an intentional parent, love is not only essential for a happy baby, it is also the parents’ most powerful weapon when it comes to discipline. When it comes to your baby’s needs, they love and adore their parents. As they recognize that you are not happy when they do something wrong; they will seek to make you happy with them. They want you to praise them and to show your love for them.
If a baby’s naughtiness has a negative effect on you; the baby will learn to steer things back to make you happy with them again. They will not only say they are sorry, but they will also mean it because they truly are. To that extent, discipline becomes self-discipline by the baby if there is enough love in the home to make them yearn for that love more than anything else.
I am not saying disciplining any baby is easy, but with sufficient love, it can be a relatively smooth process if you see things from the baby’s point of view, and understand that the baby, deep down, wants to please you more than anything else.
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