Distracting, ignoring, modeling, and time-outs are great discipline alternatives. Here's how to use them effectively.

By Kathryn Perrotti Leavitt
April 11, 2006

Don't expect your baby to remember rules. Instead, use these discipline tactics to set limits for your child.


Best age: Birth to about 15 months.

How to: Replace a forbidden object or activity with a more appropriate one.

Why it works: You're not just taking something away, which leaves a void. Plus, kids have such a short attention span at this age that they won't remember what they were distracted from.

Why it may not: If your baby is hungry or tired, he won't stop fussing no matter what.


Best age: Birth to 3 years.

How to: Don't respond or react to your child's behavior.

Why it works: Babies often don't know they're doing something harmless but annoying, and will eventually stop on their own if you let the behavior pass. Toddlers whine and say bad words to get a parent's attention. If you respond, you reinforce the behavior. If you ignore it, it will likely go away.

Why it may not: Some children are persistent, regardless of your non-reaction.


Best age: 12 months and up.

How to: Help a child do something more appropriate with a forbidden object. If your son is shoveling a bunch of rocks into his mouth, show him how to drop them into a bucket instead.

Why it works: It shows a kid what to do, rather than what not to do, and kids respond well to this positive spin.

Why it may not: If your child is very stubborn, you may just have to remove him or the rocks.


Best age: Toddler and up.

How to: Tell the child that he needs a few minutes to calm down, and follow up with a talk about what happened.

Why it works: It stops the problem and gives everyone a minute to regroup.

Why it may not: Some experts feel that a time-out is more of a punishment than a learning experience.

Kathryn Perrotti Leavitt is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, April 2006.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

American Baby

Comments (1)

December 3, 2018
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