Babies are not naughty!
For at least the first year or so, babies have no understanding of behaviour or misbehaviour. There is no such thing as a naughty or bad baby – just a baby who is doing things that adults find inconvenient, annoying or painful.
But, in the first year or so, you can lay the foundations for a happy and well-behaved childhood. It all depends on how you respond to what your baby does.
My baby is doing something I don’t want!
Babies do all kinds of things that we wish they would not. They crawl off somewhere, grab something, pull hair, mash or throw food, refuse food, throw toys, and so on. It can feel like it is on purpose – but it is not. Babies just don’t have the brain structures for being naughty.
What is usually happening is that your baby is doing exactly what he or she is meant to do, which is to explore the world, and try things out.
So what if they do something you don’t like? Here are some ideas:
- make sure you sound and act calmly. It won’t get any better if your baby gets scared
- label what is happening with language – use a calm and gentle voice. “Mummy is sore if you pull her hair”, “Ooh, you’ve got my phone – can I have it back, please?”. Your baby won’t understand the words, but will understand the tone and the body language – he or she will realise you need them to do something
- try distraction or redirection – you can gently disengage your baby from what they are doing if you interest him or her in something else
- think ahead and try and avoid things you know might go wrong. Keep precious things out of reach
- never rely on discipline to keep your baby safe. If there is a hot stove in reach, your baby will make a bee-line for it, and saying stop will not be enough. Make sure your house is baby proof!
- if you can, just accept what your baby is doing. See it as exploration. If your baby is mashing the food around, then finger practice is clearly more important to him or her at the moment than eating. Let them do what they need and then they’ll be ready to do what you want.
Finally, look out for the time, sometime after 11-12 months when your baby will start to tease you. This is part of how he or she learns about cause and effect, but it is also for fun! Could be by throwing things down to see you pick them back up, or refusing a toy or some food. Enjoy the joke – it is OK to stop the game after a while!