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How to discipline a baby

Parents rarely think of disciplining a baby, but do you know discipline is something that must be introduced early on in a child's life. Babies too can be disciplined - at feeding time, bedtime and during the course of the day.

I have seen parents shout, scream and threaten their kids, all in the name of disciplining them, and they make a disturbing sight. If I, as an adult, can become disturbed by their violent threats, imagine what it must do to the psyche of a child.

Of course, parents must discipline their children, but they must also regulate their own behaviour while enforcing discipline. They need to ask themselves a few questions before they punish a child –

  • Does the child understand or know what they did is undesirable
  • Was the child made to understand the consequences of their bad behaviour?
  • Is shouting and hitting correcting the wrong behaviour or is it instilling fear in them?
  • Is the punishment age appropriate for the child?

Instilling fear in a child does not equate to discipline. The child should be taught to do the right things consciously and not because of a fear of reprimand. Discipline is about introducing right values and not about fear of authority.

Here are a few guidelines for introducing age-appropriate discipline methods –

Age appropriate discipline

It is imperative to engage in different methods of discipline, depending on the child's age. What works for a 3-year-old, will not work with a 12-year-old. You need to constantly adjust the methods as the child gets older. It is an ongoing process, because circumstances and situations evolve, as the child grows. So, know that the child's age plays a major part in the kind of discipline measures you want to implement.

This article discusses discipline methods effective for babies.

Discipling a baby

Babies do not need to be disciplined, as such; they are too young to know right from wrong. They are more in awe of everything that surrounds them. At this age, infants just gather knowledge, from the world around them. They are watching and learning and can in the process meddle with things they are not supposed to, as soon as they begin to slither or crawl about. For example, a baby who can slither on the floor will head straight for the power plug point and insert his teeny-weeny fingers into it. At this stage, the infant will not understand the command 'No' but parents must introduce it nevertheless.

In time, the baby will associate 'No' with things that he is not supposed to do. Anyhow, it is adults who must build 'safe' surroundings for their babies, in which they can be adventurous, and safely explore their environment. This is equally important for the child's development.

Divert attention

Give the baby enough opportunities to touch, explore and play with things, under supervision. These can be toys, books, safe household items etc. Let the child touch and feel them, this is important for their growth. However, babies need to learn the difference between things that they can touch and things that should not touch. Introduce them to 'Yes' and 'No' commands, early on.

At first, a small child will not understand the significance of these words, but when you demonstrate through actions, the message will get across. For instance, if the child doesn't refrain from doing something, despite being repeatedly told to not do it, say a firm 'no' and take the item away. Also, try distracting them with something else.

Babies and discipline

Discipline and trust have an equation. Some proponents believe that discipline starts with trust. They say that children who trust that their parents will provide them with food and comfort will learn to trust their commands of "no, don't touch".

Discipling babies require different strategies than disciplining toddlers and older children. Babies cannot comprehend consequences, they do not possess the perspective to know right from wrong. You cannot ground a baby or stop him from playing with his toys, as a form of punishment/discipline. With babies, you need to use love and comfort, clubbed with diversion tactics.

Babies are just evolving and blossoming into little humans. They are just becoming aware of themselves and the world around them. They have a few months to go before they become toddlers, with a better understanding of things. They'll learn to understand consequences better, and discipline will become more a part of their routine. Until that happens, it is the job of the parents to keep the baby safe and from harm's way.

Distract & redirect

Building a safe environment for the baby is important. Apart from that parents must master the knack of distracting and redirecting the baby's attention, especially when there is a need to modify behaviour.

For instance, babies can make quite a fuss when their teeth are being brushed. My daughter cut her first tooth at five-and-a-half months and a second followed soon after. I was particular about her dental hygiene and would regularly clean her primary teeth, using my finger. Needless to say, she hated the 'invasion' in her mouth and would clamp it shut when she'd notice the toothpaste.

I devised a strategy, I began singing to her a song that I invented. It went "who's going to brush their teeth now, teeth now, teeth now? My little baby's going to do it." I would make funny faces and be happy singing it. It became a kind of 'entertaining ritual' of sorts. I was basically distracting her, she would laugh along and began to enjoy the 'ritualistic routine'.

Discipline around daily routines

Similarly, set specific routines for eating and sleeping. I see a lot of mothers and grandmothers feeding young children, on the road or balcony, while pointing out to birds etc. Meal times should not be distractions. A child must, right from infancy, be taught to be seated in one place while being fed.

Bedtime routines must also be set and the child made to sleep without any distractions. Dim the lights and get the baby to bed.


With babies, it is important to be innovative and find imaginative ways to distract them. Another tactic that works with babies is to get them engaged in different activities to keep them from crying. The child picks up your expensive smartphone, you grab it back and the child begins bawling. Instead, say no, and give the child something else, preferably one of the child's toys, while you take the phone away. You let the child know that the phone is not meant for him and in doing so you discipline the child.

Babies have a keen sense of observation. They notice and they learn, so make the best of this natural tendency that exists in your infant and introduce discipline into his life.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

Follow Juana or read 609 articles authored by Juana

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Author: Bala22 Aug 2018 Member Level: Gold   Points : 3

Babies who crawl can be trained with visual aid. We mark no-go areas with a red tape on the floor, like the entry to kitchen or low level electric socket area or any other forbidden areas. The baby will crawl over, and we pick baby and put him back on the safe side, pointing to the red line and emphasizing the ‘No' verbal command sternly. After repeated training, babies get the point that crossing the red line does not find favor with parent. This works well most of the time.

Author: Umesh23 Aug 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

A very nice article on managing babies which is of course a herculean task for the mothers, especially the new mothers.

Babies are innocent and simple. They are more and less like animal puppies in their behavior. Their next action is always unpredictable. They will laugh and then start crying the next moment. Understanding psychology of the babies is difficult even for the expert psychologists.

It requires a lot of patience and innovative ideas when we are dealing with babies. Sometimes they will be having some pain in their stomach or some disorder somewhere but they can not communicate it to us and we think that they are simply weeping and annoying. So sometimes we have to think other reasons also and then take the baby to a doctor.

Now a days some people are providing day care services for the babies. They claim that they are professional in this field and tackle the babies properly. Some working parents are keeping their babies in such places during the day hours.

Author: Sheo Shankar Jha02 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

The article offers valuable tips to discipline the toddlers but we should keep in mind that they need a different treatment in comparison to kids who are older. In the former cases, the toddler is sensitive to the environment and watches how the parents are responding to a particular situation. Suppose the child needs to react to nature's call, he may alert you since he is tuned to this process. What we need to make them realize is how to behave in different circumstances.
We have seen some young mothers screaming unnecessarily so that she is heard by the child. Though the child is having the excellent adaptability to adjust with the environment, such a reaction can change the temperament of the child. So we need to apply such measures which will strengthen the bond of affection between the two and such practice will have the lasting effect in moulding the behaviour of the infants.

Author: Manish Nanda02 Sep 2018 Member Level: Silver   Points : 3

Discipline means to learn to observe. It doesn't mean to conform, to suppress, to imitate others or to imitate the pattern of what our society considers noble or correct.

I strongly believe that we should not discipline the children, in fact, we should learn from them. They live a very natural life. They eat, play, sleep, cry or laugh; whenever they feel like doing that. They do not follow any rule or pattern.

We are becoming slaves to our own conditioning. We hardly live a normal life, we have made too many rules for ourselves and now feel trapped within them.

Author: Reena Upadhya02 Sep 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 10

What do babies understand? Nothing is the right answer. Everything around them seems like a scientific experiment to them taking place on a larger level. They are the curious and anxious little ones who want to touch and feel everything. Their anxiety can be annoying to the elders and that's the reason that elders wish they could discipline these curious little toddlers. Another important point is that elders cannot always allow them to do whatever they want such as pour, bite, poke and stuffs like that.

Babies are innocent but do remember that they are helpless. They are helpless in terms of expressions. Handling them and taking care of them in itself is a wonderful but daunting task. They scream the whole night, vomit on your newly bought clothes and poke you with everything and anything in their hands. Still, you can't discipline them. Neither you can blame them nor punish them. Sometimes, you want to set the limits and make them understand everything.

Stop them as soon as they begin doing something naughty. Most of the parents wait till their babies pick up the habit. Why not stop them as soon as they do it for the first time. Why not stop the temptation and change the gears immediately. Babies' attention span is very short. It is easier to carry out the distraction. As soon as babies indulge in something they must not be doing, distract them. Suppose a baby loves ripping the paper, help it to play with a toy. This kind of distraction will help them forget what they are about to do and they will indulge in some other activity.

Make sure that they have adequately slept. Babies who do not sleep well i.e., those babies who are overtired are extremely difficult to handle. Make sure the babies never remain sleep deprived. If by any chance they are not getting adequate sleep make sure to put them in bed during early hours.

Author: Juana08 Aug 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 6

Yes, Bala, training must begin early, and parents must use every possible ruse to ensure their children do what is right. Discipling a baby seems brutal, but it has to be done, for the babies safety and for discipline's sake.

I didn't remove a single curio around my living room. Each piece of crystal and porcelain were displayed on open shelves and coffee tables. My baby would toddle across the room, look at the items and say, 'no, no, no no' and walk past them.

I did childproof my home. She'd run around the rest of the house but knew that the fragile items and candles were not for her. Even babies must be taught to understand and obey commands. Discipline must start early. I have had instances when guests would drop by with their children and they would touch everything. And by the time they leave, all the ornaments would be on top of the fridge, where the children couldn't reach. Never did I see a parent tell their child not to touch something. It was always, 'he'll break it', and they'd move everything on the fridge or the kitchen. A child can be taught to respect what is not their's, a child can be taught to behave.

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