Now that your baby is moving around and starting to get into things, should you begin disciplining him or her?
No, says Sandy Bailey, a certified family life educator. Your job right now is to keep your baby safe, secure, and stimulated.
Your baby isn't old enough to learn the difference between right and wrong. Real discipline – the kind that teaches lessons and changes behaviors – will have to wait.
Even though your baby can't grasp discipline, this is a great time to start practicing techniques that will work in the months and years to come. When your baby pulls on a lamp cord or reaches for the stove, firmly say "no" and quickly redirect him or her to a safer activity. With a short attention span, your baby will quickly forget about causing trouble.
Don't wait for your baby to do something wrong – instead, acknowledge good behavior. Disciplinary action you take later will be more effective if your baby can compare it to the good reaction you give when he or she is behaving in a desirable way.
No matter what your baby does, spanking, swatting, and yelling are never appropriate responses. Harsh discipline will only scare your baby and can even cause an injury. Shaking a baby can cause lifelong brain damage or death. If you feel angry, put your baby down in a safe place, like the crib or play yard, and give yourself a short break to calm down.
You can head off many problems by giving your baby a safe place to explore. Babyproofing your home – covering up outlets, putting dangerous things out of reach, blocking "off-limit" places with baby gates, and so on – is the best way to ensure good behavior.