Respect toddler's need to explore

August 23, 1998|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Q. My 10 1/2 -month-old son has been crawling for three weeks and has started to get into things.

I tell him "no" firmly and move him away, but he comes back. I smack his little hand and say "no," but he laughs.

How do I make him take me seriously? He's so little, but I believe he can understand me.

A. Don't expect him to take you seriously. He is working toward his own independence.

You are feeling as if your job is to control your son and his explorations. You can't - and you are just setting up provocative behavior between you. Save your "discipline" for important things.

Now is the time to baby-proof your home so that you can let him explore. Distraction is fine, but it's only partly successful. Hitting him is not fine. We live in a violent world, and hitting him says that violence is OK.

Discipline is the second most important thing you can do for a child (love is the first). But discipline means teaching - over a long span. Take it easy and respect his need to explore.

Pub date: 8/23/98

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