“Discipline Without Distress”: Tools for Discipline of Infants

Yes, we are still going through this book!  I am looking forward to getting through to the end of it, though, because I have another book I really want to delve into on this blog (a surprise! :))

Today’s chapter is Chapter 7:  Discipline Tools for Baby 0-1 Years:  Attachment.  It seems difficult to some of us that we need to even discuss “discipline” of this first year of life, but since a 1994 Canadian study showed that 19 percent of US mothers spanked their children under one year of age, I guess that we must address this.  There is also an attitude, at least here in the United States, that an older  baby could be “manipulating” a mother by his or her behavior  (this one baffles me, but I hear it a lot in mainstream parenting circles, so I thought I would throw it out there!).

Author Judy Arnall writes:  “We discuss discipline tools with a baby for two reasons.  First, the baby year is a time for bonding, attachment and relationship connection; a solid concrete foundation that effective discipline is built upon.  Also, the literal interpretation of the word “discipline” means to teach.  We “teach” babies from the moment they are born, by our responsiveness and nurturing, that they are loved and cared for.” 

An older baby is  mobile and yes, often  “getting into things”.  They are gross motor driven.  They cry and fuss to make their needs known.  They may cry and you may not be able to uncover the reason at all.  They sleep, they make a lot of noise (screeching, gurgling, cooing, babbling, repetitive syllables).  They look at things, they explore things and put things in their mouth to taste them and explore them.  They also  IMITATE YOU.

Judy Arnall also reminds us of the stranger anxiety many babies experience at around eight months (usually 8 to 15 months or so).  Do not expect your baby to be happy to go to and with just anyone!  Ten months is the beginning of separation anxiety and they do not want to leave their main caregiver.  Separation anxiety can last throughout the early years, the baby has an intense need for his or her mother throughout those years.  If you meet his needs to be dependent upon you, he will feel much more secure!

The best discipline tools for a baby are BEING RESPONSIVE when a baby cries, to hold, sing, speak, love your baby with gentle words and gentle hands.  Author Judy Arnall lists the discipline tools for babies as being PARENT time-out, fulfill the baby’s needs, learn about child development, substitution,  supervision, prevention, redirection, change environment, distraction, spending time together, parenting problem-solving, holding, hugs and cuddles.  She also adds using active listening and I-statements.  I guess these tools could sound very radical to a parent who has never heard of them or knows no other ways.  Sometimes these things don’t actually come naturally to parents.  This chapter gives great examples of each of these things.

One thing the author reminds us is that up until age TEN, children need constant supervision by an adult who is engaged with them.  She also writes about the importance of prevention:   if your child is doing something due to a developmental phase, have a plan as to how you will respond to it in the future.  She talks about saying positive things to your baby, such as “I love you!” “I am so glad you are mine!”  I like that idea of that warmth and  joy and love!  So, stop complaining and replace those complaints with positive thinking and positive things to say to your child!

She writes an entire section on sleep issues and how a one-year-old has a very limited memory and almost no cognitive reasoning skills so therefore a baby cannot “manipulate” you regarding sleep.  She writes about the dangers of “crying it out” which I whole heartedly agree with.  She also writes strongly about how the first three years of a child’s life as critical for developing trust in an adult caregiver, and how it is important to respond to your child.  This is important, even at night!  Parenting does not stop at nighttime!

She asks readers to “reconsider co-sleeping” and talks about how to make a safer family bed.  I completely endorse co-sleeping if that works for your family and have written a post about it here a long time ago:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/16/co-sleeping-and-nighttime-parenting/ .  The Dr. Sears books also talk in depth about co-sleeping.  Co-sleeping does not always mean sharing a sleep surface.  For example,  it can also mean a sidecar approach with a crib or co-sleeper, or putting your king sized mattress on the floor so no one can roll off or having a bed in your room for your children.   There are many tips for safer co-sleeping on the Mothering Magazine website, Dr. Sears website (here is just one example of talking about safer cosleeping on the Sears Family website:  http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/t102200.asp)  and in many books.  Check it out and devise a plan that works for your baby and for your family.   

This chapter talks about many ways to soothe a crying baby – go through your mini-checklist:  illness, food, diaper, gas, clothing tags, too hot/too cold, is the baby just waking up and really needs to go back to sleep?, try motion, try white noise, try babywearing, swaddling, rocking, humming, check and see if baby is overstimulated and really just needs a dim, quiet place to calm down. 

She talks about colic, about parents taking a time out, about parental actions that build a child’s sense of security.  She has a whole section on marriage and  how having a baby affects marriage and tips for that season in marriage. 

I recommend this book over and over, and over.  Here is the Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/Discipline-Without-Distress-responsible-punishment/dp/0978050908/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269482616&sr=8-1

Much love,


4 thoughts on ““Discipline Without Distress”: Tools for Discipline of Infants

  1. Carrie, I bought this book after you reviewed Chapter 6. At that point I thought to myself, okay, Carrie is really serious about this book. I was also looking for some tools for dealing better with challenging behavior, or behavior I didn’t understand or was exasperated by. I have observed recently in my parenting, though, that if I can remain deeply connected to my child, the fewer tools I need, or rather that attachment/connection is my tool. When I’m connected, I naturally respond in a positive, empathic, and productive way to challenging behavior. I reread this and I say, yea duh Elizabeth, but it’s actually a very different kind of approach than I hear and see elsewhere. This is one of the strongest messages in your writing Carrie, one of the most important things I’ve learned from you and the most transformative. And I can’t wait for your surprise!!

  2. What do you do if you honestly reach a point where you need a parent time-out. Where your baby (my son is 10 months old) is crying, does not want to be put down – pretty much wants to be held all day … and you reach a point where you could go crazy. Where you actually feel like being forceful or mean? But you don’t because you have control over yourself, but seriously? I had a moment like this. My husband is usually working long hours. I wonder what to do when I’m all alone and this is happening? How do I take a parent time out when I need it?

    • RE,
      If your infant is in a safe place where they cannot hurt themselves, you can set your baby down. Your baby will cry, you may cry too, but again, if your baby is safe, they are not going to die by crying. Sometimes just changing the scenary by going outside together, setting your baby down in the grass, or taking a walk together, can also diffuse the moment.

      But, this leads to another point….
      Attached infants can also learn to be happy and not be held 24/7, it takes time and most ten year olds to three year old attached children do want to be held all day. I am a huge fan of slings, particularly wearing an infant or toddler on my back so I can go about my own work – which is work around my home or garden, not really sitting down… So you can set them down on a blanket whilst you are unloading the dishwasher (take the silverware out of the dishwasher) and set them on the floor and sing to them heartily! Think about distraction and including them whilst they are down there. Or, set them up to play with a small tray of water on a sheet whilst you unload the dishwasher or in the sink. You have to think of distraction, be cheery and confident they can survive without being held for ten minutes so long as they are safe. It is far better for you to start working in ways your child can be on the ground whilst you do some work (or on your back in a sling) and a safe place to have your baby be for a few minutes if you need a good cry and are alone, as opposed to having no plan and “losing it”.

      We all have moments like this in parenting, especially I think with the first one. THink about boundaries for your child and what breaks you need throughout the week, make sure you are eating and sleeping well (nap when your baby naps! for the whole first year or even the whole first two years if you can get it!) think about who you can call to talk you off the ledge at that moment, keep reminding yourself what is normal for that age so you are not expecting too much, love your child, get outside, form a community, pray and develop yourself through your own inner work (religion, spirituality, whatever you call it and whatever it is to you) and enjoy your baby.

      We were not meant to do all this alone for hours on end – I don’t believe. Attachment parenting was based in part on The Continuum Concept, where a group of people in community took care of babies parented in this way. Community is so important!
      Again, make sure you have someone you can call in the moment – a friend, a family member – who could come if you called or you could at least call any day or night. And communicate with your spouse – parenting is hard work, and as your child grows, it is important you have at least some time to yourself each week for a few hours. Parenting with a partner should be just that, working to create a family culture together.

      Many blessings,

  3. Pingback: 5 truths about the development of babies | The Parenting Passageway

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