There are so many personalities of children and mothers, so many strengths and weaknesses, that it would be impossible to give a one size fits all approach to discipline. There’s no formula; no substitute for wisdom. However, sometimes knowing what other people do can help us discern variations that will work for us.
We’ve been deliberately disciplining Laurel (10 months old) for a few months now. Please note that biblical discipline does not equal spanking. Discipline for Laurel is teaching. Here is what we’ve been doing.
We do a lot of telling her in two-word sentences what we want. (Pretty much three commands: no touch or hands off [usually computer]; Give Mommy [when baby is holding something dangerous]; or sit down [bath and high chair]. After we tell her what we want, then we help her do it. In the bathtub I’ll sit her down while I’m saying “sit down.” After four or five times of this, she comes out of the tub. Yes, I could spank her, and she’d get it faster, probably. But I don’t at this age. I know some parents do. Sometimes I redirect her attention, and sometimes I remove the temptation. I don’t think there should be a rule on when; I think it’s a discernment issue. Sometimes it’s wise to remove the temptation (for example, if there are twenty temptations in the living room, mercy might remove most of them so as not to overwhelm or provoke a child). Sometimes I leave the temptation where it is (like when it cannot be moved, or I don’t want to move it). Sometimes we simply (and calmly) enforce what we want.
I put Laurel in her high chair. She starts to cry, and I tell her Mommy’s getting food for baby. She still cries in impatience, but that’s okay. I feed her a few bites of cereal and she’s whining again. she’s been wanting a cup with water while she eats so I tell her Mommy’s getting a drink for baby. When I come back, I tell her, Please drink and wait for her to pause her whining/ crying. At the first pause, I say, good, and hand her the water. I repeat this just about every time she wants water. After a few more bites of cereal and drinks of water, she tips over her drink. I set it upright and she tips it over again. That’s when I realize she’s doing it on purpose. My habit is, when they start playing with the food, they are done. So I said all done in a happy voice and pulled her out to wash her face.
I set her down, and she started to cry. I struggle with this more than some moms, because I hate to hear babies cry. My tendency is to pick her up right away to prevent her from crying, but that’s not always the best choice. I find her a toy she likes and put her down, and still she cries a bit. I try to decide if she’s tired or just crying out of habit, so I decide to leave her be to see if she stops crying. She does. She crawls over to the couch (where I am trying earnestly to post an article) and picks up the phone. I don’t want the phone to be another forbidden object, but I also don’t want her playing with it. So I simply take it away and give her another toy. She accepts this for now, but I know that it won’t be long before she cries when I do this.
Laurel has a pretty laid-back personality, in some ways even more than David. But she’s still a sinner. As her mind develops, so will her sin nature.
And now, my children all need me (yes, all three at once), so I must depart.