I get a lot of questions from parents about when to start behavior modification. I think in the “old days” this was called discipline! It is a great question and my answer is “younger is better”. This means that a child of about 9 months can start to be re-directed as they start to get into things that are not appropriate, or throw food, or any number of behaviors that are not desirable.
The interesting thing about starting to let a child know that you do not “like” or approve of what they are doing is how you approach it. So many new parents tell me that they are not going to use the word NO??? Now I guess there must be new words to use like...”stop that” or “please don’t do that” or even this noise that one of my parents used which sounded like ehehehe? I don’t understand why NO has become a forbidden word, but for some parents it seems to be right up there with four letter words. To each his own.
Well, I am still using the word NO and redirecting children of all ages. But whatever word you want to use to connote disapproval, it also needs to be used with voice inflection. In other words you cannot use a sing song happy voice when trying to discipline your child.
This does not mean that you need to scream or yell, on the contrary. But it does mean that it is important to change the tone of your voice to let the baby, child, tween or teen know that you mean what you are saying. My kids named this “the mean Mommy voice”.
I cannot lie and say that I never screamed at my own children as I know that I did (not proud to admit that either). But I really tried to change my voice when I disciplined them, even when toddlers, so that they would understand that this was not Mommy’s happy voice and I did not like what they were doing at that moment.
This became really important as they got a bit older and tried to “push” a bit harder. After several times of asking them to “quit hitting your brother” or to “please stop yelling in the house” or “to share your toy with your brother”, I would really change my voice inflection and they knew i meant business. They understand that they were on the brink and it was only going to get worse once the “mean Mommy voice” came out. For the most part it really seemed to help and kept things from escalating even more!!
The funniest thing is that when they were older they would tell their friends, “she is using the mean Mommy voice and that means she is really angry, we better stop...”
When all else failed I resorted to tears...more on that another time.
That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.