Why You Can Give Your Baby Rules and boundaries. The benefits of starting moral training early with your baby. You can correct a baby.
Did you know that you can give a baby rules and expectations. You can actually teach a baby to listen and respond to you so that when you say, “Please do not touch that” baby would actually stop? This really can be done!
Giving a Baby Boundaries
The fact that your baby doesn’t have a moral understanding as to why she shouldn’t do certain things does not mean that you should allow her to do those things. You also do not need to withhold correction when she does those things that aren’t okay (On Becoming Babywise, page 29).
Around 5-7 months, your child will start to do things that you don’t want her to do. Many parents worry that baby is too young to be able to do anything about it. They don’t want to expect too much of their young baby.
It is good to apply proper expectations to our children, but generally speaking, we expect less of them than they can give. If you are the oldest child parenting your oldest child who is a toddler, there is a good chance your expectations will be too high, but for most, expectations are low for babies.
Part of this is probably due to the fact that society accepts this behavior in young babies, even thinking it is cute. Okay, I know, it is cute. When your little baby blows her first raspberry while eating, your first reaction is to laugh. It is fun to see personality emerging from your baby.
Let me offer some advice: when your baby does something that is really cute and funny, but you know it is something you don’t want to see again, go ahead and laugh, but hide your face, walk out of the room, whatever it takes so baby does not see this is something that amuses you. Baby loves to entertain. She will be confused if what was once so cute is now forbidden.
Actions Precede Beliefs
On Becoming Babywise II points out that while adults turn to their beliefs before acting, babies just act. Actions precede beliefs (page 29). You need to first teach your child how to act morally, then when he is ready (in the toddler years), you start to teach moral concepts.
Your baby is not too young to start to learn how to patiently wait for something (like food). If you have been applying Babywise principles from the beginning, she might already be good at this. If not, she should be able to learn quickly. You can start to teach how to sign so she can learn to communicate needs rather than have fits to communicate her needs. Read The Non-Verbal Baby/Toddler for more on this and How To Teach Your Baby Sign Language.
How and When To Teach Baby Boundaries
Most moral training before baby is mobile seems to happen in the highchair. Come up with your rules before your baby gets the idea for trying things. She might not ever test boundaries you have thought of, but it is good to be prepared.
For example, raspberries were not okay with me. Brayden never tried it. Kaitlyn did one day and loved it. So I never needed to address it with Brayden, but did need to with Kaitlyn.
Try to think through possible problems you will encounter so you know how you feel about it before baby tries it. Some things will never cross your mind until baby does it though. For more on highchair manners, see How To Teach Your Baby Highchair Manners.
If your baby is not your first child, be especially mindful. It can be hard to find the balance of proper expectations when it isn’t your first child. For one thing, baby seems young. She is so much younger than her siblings and we can often not realize we are expecting far less of her than we did her older sister at that age.
Blanket Time is a great tool for teaching boundaries. Read all about it here.
Conversely, we can also expect more than we should, putting our children on more even playing fields. We might not want older sister to feel picked on that baby isn’t expected to do things the same way. We need to work to parent each child as the individual she is, not based on the emotions of the other siblings.
I want to share a moral training example I have experienced. For most things, I am sure I lean on the side of expecting too much from Brayden. I am an oldest, he is an oldest…I do try to be ever conscious of it, but with him, I am always a first-time parent. Kaitlyn showed us, though, that there is something we had too low of expectations for him on. That is prayer.
We always said a prayer with Brayden. We said it before bed and before each meal from the first bite he ever took. But we didn’t apply proper expectations for his behavior. One night as we were about to say family prayer, 15-month-old Kaitlyn went to my husband as he was on his knees and told him to fold his arms, close his eyes, and bow his head.
I was shocked. I realized if 15-month-old Kaitlyn knew these were the proper steps before a prayer, 3-year-old Brayden could be expected to do all of them. We expected him to fold his arms, but that was it. We had taught him the other steps, but hadn’t enforced them yet.
For a few months, they were on the same “level of performance” during a prayer. Once we set the expectation, Brayden moved beyond Kaitlyn, which is appropriate given the two year gap. He responded well. Every so often he started trying to tell Kaitlyn what to do (“close your eyes Kaitlyn”) during a prayer, or after a prayer is over he informed us what Kaitlyn didn’t do right, to which we remind him that it means he didn’t do things right either.
Starting your training at an early age makes training much easier later on. For one thing, you don’t have to re-train your child. For another, they are quite willing to obey as a younger child. Don’t expect 100% perfection and consistency. That isn’t reasonable. But you can strive for 100% perfection and consistency in yourself so that your child will be as good as possible.