Thursday, November 27

Is wrong right?

When a baby is about 4 months old to about let's say 12 months old, is there ever such a thing as 'wrong' behaviour?

I came across these words earlier this morning, taken from Caring For Your Baby and Young Child, Age 4mths through 7mths chapter.

When you finally begin to discipline your child, it should never be harsh.
Often, the most successful approach is simply to reward desired behaviour and withhold rewards when he [sic] does not behave as desired.

For example, if he cries for no apparent reason, make sure there's nothing wrong physically; then when he stops, reward him.......If he starts up again, wait a little longer before returning your attention to him, and use a firm voice... This time, don't reward him with extra attention or hugs.

My issues?

Well! Firstly, "begin to discipline". At 7 months of age? Isn't a baby still learning to trust and explore?

"Reward and withhold rewards". Oh boy! Withhold attention and love at this age? But here's the real doosie, "cries for no apparent reason". The authors seem oblivious to their own admission that the reason the child cries is not apparent. That means, WE don't realise what it is. It does not mean that there is no reason.

I see any tears at this age as totally acceptable. I've heard people say, "oh, he's just looking for attention". But what they fail to see is that attention-seeking is a valid reality to a child. Boredom, frustration, or even I'm-not-sure-what's-bugging-me moments are all valid.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not rushing to my little one's side. But I am there letting her know that I will never ignore her.

Yes, I am a guide to her. So I guide her with body language that there are peaceful ways to communicate, because she needn't feel anxious or stressed, or believe that crying is the only way to acquire attention. This is for her benefit. To share with her a peaceful way of being. Not a way for me to modify a behaviour that feels unacceptable to me.

Okay, next bit, him understand exactly what he's doing wrong when he breaks a rule. If you notice him doing something that's not allowed, such as pulling your hair, let him know that it's wrong by calmly saying 'no', stopping him, and redirecting his attention to an acceptable activity.

Saying it "calmly" makes the whole premise sound alright doesn't it?

When the Wildflower has pulled my hair, I have smiled at my baby's desire to connect with me, her desire to explore her world, her wonderful eye and hand coordination, and at knowing she is normal and happy.

So here we come to my main concern, is there such as thing as wrong behaviour with babies?

Is pulling my hair 'wrong'? Or is it normal and acceptable as a behaviour in itself, that I might not desire?

If the latter, then there is no need for wthholding attention, stern looks, or being firm with her. I simply wear my hair tied back, or gently pry it out of her little fingers, or accept that a few hard tugs are part of life with long hair.

It all comes down to perception. If I perceive my baby's behaviour as 'wrong', then how I view her, what stress I feel, and how I treat her will all be affected by that perception. If I do not perceive that there is the possibility of wrongness in her at this stage, I subsequently view and treat her very differently. And I experience less stress myself.

I have a friend who perceives her son's boisterous behaviour as 'naughty'. I perceive it as normal toddler behaviour. What matters is that her perception influences how she reacts, which is usually with stern disciplinary action that is followed by exasperation and frustration by both of them. They are both lovely, yet don't experience each other as such.

We convince oursleves that what we perceive is Reality, that it can't be experienced any differently because it simply Is. Knowing that we can change our perception is to me key in experiencing happy and stress-free relationships with our children.


  1. Especially the first excerpt, sounds like me training my puppy.. in fact, it kinda sounded like Cesar Milan. Are you sure you didn't get it from the Dog Whisperer site?

  2. LOL @ Candy Cook.
    It SO sounds like a dog training excerpt!

  3. Oh my! Where was this from?

    I remember when moms started talking about "disciplining" their babies... that was when I really knew how much I differed from the mainstream and set out to find my way.

    Do you know about EnjoyParenting? I think you might enjoy his "daily groove" email. He is a non-coercive, law of attraction, unschooling parent of two. (

  4. Thanks Stacy. I've visited the site before but will subcribe and check it out.
    The book is mentioned at the start of my post. It's not all ad though, there is good advice in there, just not for Ap/CC type parenting obviously, lol.

  5. I absolutely agree with you. At such a young age there's no "wrong" action except what is perceived as wrong by the adults. Mainstream parenting just seems so bizarre to me sometimes.

  6. Welcome Summer. Literally just been reading your blog after twitter add, lol.

  7. Book never to buy- check.

    Ha. Really that's terrible but I would go so far as to say that there isn't "wrong" behaviour for children over 12 months of age either!

    Punishment, rewards, discipline never get the true desired result.

  8. I heartily agree with you Mon and everyone's comments. I find it a bit chilling. Dog training is a very apt analogy.

    So, socialisation=discipline=repression? Yuk.

  9. Oh my. I just don't believe you can superimpose adult behavioral concepts (attention seeking, manipulating, etc.) on babies. They pretty much want food, clean diapers, warmth, enough sleep, and lots of interaction with mama and papa. They don't want to buy your love, or be "naughty" or whatever else people think they're doing!

    I've always believed that it's OK to be authentic with children: if a child hurts me physically, I think it's OK to express that it hurt me. But it's not reasonable to necessarily expect that they will 1) remember it the next time, 2) control their impulses, or 3) feel remorse. Very young children can't do those things, and in the same vein they aren't doing things out of complex psychological reasons. They're just exploring their world and how they can interact with it, or expressing their emotions and physical needs in a very simple way.

    That second bit about redirecting sounds appropriate for a toddler, not a baby. You can have "rules" for a toddler, I think, because they are starting to have some consciousness of themselves and their affect on others. But it's not a reward/punish kind of thing, it's simply redirecting or preventing in the first place (like putting up your hair).

  10. Anthromama - I agree with you about being authentic. I have said 'ouch' on occassions when she's caught me by surprise. I've been mindful not to scare her or make her feel bad though.


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