Our babies are learning from us from the day they are born. As a mother you have to understand your position in the world. You are the most important person in their lives and the one person that they would like to have around with them as much as possible. You rank up their with food and sleep. Behaviour has been touched upon in the earlier workshop for newborn babies however it is at this age 6 months + that this becomes in my opinion, the most important stage for behaviour to take centre stage.
Your baby is starting to physically be able to move themselves and this next 6 months sees an explosion in their ability to get themselves where they want to go, and to really make choices about what they want. As parents more often than not fall into a number of games with our baby without realizing the consequences for our child and us.
Let’s talk behaviour. Behaviour is for your baby (and everybody else, partner, parents, friends, workmates) as simple as the following.
“Something” + “Reaction” = “Memory”
Your baby does “something” and there is a “reaction” from you, sibling, grandparents and a “memory” is created. The more often the same “something” happens and the reaction is the same the stronger the memory is.
Quite simply, children think in terms of “is this worthwhile?” if it is they do it again.
If the reaction from you makes it worthwhile, their brain goes BINGO! And the something is repeated.
The main difference between adults and children is this: Adults play the ‘I’m going to make you’ game, that is, I would like you to do this, so I will keep on you till you do it. However, children play the ‘I’ll do whatever you take notice of’ game, which is, if you take notice (aka: it is worthwhile!) then I’ll do it again.
The other difference…Adults think in terms of good and bad behaviour. My child does 8 good things and 2 bad. Children think in terms of worthwhile. They don’t have good and bad behaviours, they have 10 worthwhile behaviours.
In short, we need to understand this and play their game. We need to use this game to our advantage to elicit the behaviours we desire and to eliminate the behaviours we don’t want to see ever again!
Now for the “something” we have no control over this part, our baby does a range of different behaviours for a number of different reasons. At time we try to change this, but this is impossible and leads to a great deal of frustration. Accept that your baby will come up with behaviours for a variety of reasons eg. Developmental age see and do, exploration, tiredness, hungry etc. If is however the next part the “reaction” that we can think about, manipulate, change, use to mold their behaviour for the next occasion.
So what is a reaction? A reaction or make it worthwhile for your baby is simply you and your attention. If your baby gets your attention by “something”, then it just became worthwhile and their brain will remember this to be used again.
How do we make it worthwhile? By looking - listening – touching – noticing. By looking at them, this can be lovingly, glaringly, frustrated, affectionately. By listening to them, giving your time, listening to what they are saying. By touching them, this can be a cuddle, push, slap, grab, kiss. By noticing what they are doing and seeing interested.
Common everyday examples of the “something’s” that your baby will do over the next 6 months - throwing off her hat, pulling off her shoes, pulling Tupperware out of the cupboard, making a mess of his bookcase, throwing her drink bottle off the highchair or food, getting into the bin, crying on the change table, crying when buckled into the car, highchair or pram, crying when you walk away.
Remember the minimize or take no notice at all, it is best to fix problems up later or clean up messes, leave the drink bottle where it falls or you will continually be picking up the drink bottle for ever. Discreetly pick up the fallen hat / shoes if out and reapply 5 minutes later all the time no verbal. Don’t look, listen, touch.
Alternatively, use the look, listening, touch, talking when all is going smoothly, they are still on the change table, buckling into the car is working well, dinner – all is kept in place etc. You can never notice good behaviour too much.
Remember when they are starting to stand and walk there will be lots of falling over – apply this principal. Minimize your reaction to them falling over, cuts etc., they will be more careful and less accident-prone. If they need attention i.e. ice pack, band aids etc. do so with the minimum of fuss and dramatization, be matter of fact as you are teaching your child to be more careful. You will have a child that hurts themselves very little.
Some Common Behaviours
- If they are into cupboards, bins, drawers, close doors of rooms, ignore and pick up later, extension cords – make sure these are nailed, glued or hidden. When your child finds something new to get into, then if it is unsafe eg. Knife, scizzors, remove the item immediately and then proceed to find a new place for the item so it can never be reached again. If it’s not a safety issue ie. A cupboard but you really don’t want them to access this cupboard, wait till they have lost interest as you don’t want to take notice of this, and when they have moved on and are not watching, proceed to tidy and then temporarily fix the cupboard so it can’t be opened. This may involve using heavy duty sticky tape to tape handles together or trying string and securing, or moving something in front of the cupboard. Then if needed attend to placing a childproof lock ASAP. This will soon be forgotten from your toddlers point of view and may go back to check a couple of times and then unlikely to ever go to the cupboard again. If they are in the kitchen with you make sure they have a cupboard they are allowed in, the Tupperware is always one of great interest and discoveries along with a wooden spoon or two.
- Bath time – put in bath without seat, if stand up despite your instructions then put seat back in for a few nights, will not like the removal of freedom and will sit in the bath. Bath toys, pouring, spoon in cup, strainers, bottles etc. An extension of bath time.
- If using a child’s chair and table once up and off chair – remove food instantly, not to be drawn back into giving it because feeling sorry for them – do you want them to do this continuously and have a child who walks around eating rather than sit and eat a meal.