Discipline for Babies and Toddlers

The best discipline takes place before a baby or toddler does something you wish he or she wouldn’t do. It starts as your baby becomes more mobile and can reach, crawl or scoot toward danger (perhaps as early as 8 months). At this stage, discipline means providing the guidance needed for safety.

  • If your baby is headed toward an object small enough to be a choking hazard, remove the object and place it out of reach.
  • If your baby seems determined to get to a dangerous appliance (such as a woodstove), pick her up and move her to a safer location.
  • And if your baby persists in pulling your hair or your pet’s fur, shift him away so that he can’t.

Along with these actions, try using short, simple words or phrases and a firm, but caring tone—“Hot! Don’t touch,”  “Ouch! Let’s not get hurt” or “No—that will hurt you.” Try distracting your child with a toy or by picking him up. If the baby or toddler persists, you may want to remove him from the room—perhaps even to his crib for awhile.

At around 10 months, your baby will start to remember your words and actions around different behaviors. For now, though, discipline means keeping things simple and safe.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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