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Discipline

It is never okay to physically punish a baby; in fact, it is against the law in Canada to hit a child under two or over 12 ‐ hitting is assault.

Babies should never be physically punished (spanked, slapped, hit) because infants are too young to understand cause and effect. If a caregiver slaps a baby's hand to teach her that touching an electrical outlet is dangerous, all she understands is the caregiver hurt her. She does not learn that touching an electrical outlet is dangerous.

It's also very important to understand that babies don't ever do something on purpose to irritate or upset caregivers. Remember: babies don't understand cause and effect so they aren't able to understand that their actions (crying) will cause their caregiver to feel upset. It just isn't possible. This also means that you cannot spoil your baby by responding to her cries.

If your baby is doing something that is dangerous, distracting or redirecting them is often the best way to get the behaviour to stop.

As we learn more about child development, and brain development specifically, we can change our parenting practices to fit our children's development. Thoughts about discipline have changed over time and will likely continue to change in response to research in child development and parenting. Positive discipline is one example of the way research can inform parenting practices; positive discipline allows parents to respond to their children while taking their developmental stages into consideration.

Babies who learn to feel safe and trust their caregivers are easier to discipline as they grow into preschoolers and even as they get older. Hitting your baby will only make her feel pain or fear, and this can make it much more difficult to create a loving, trusting bond between baby and caregiver.

Sometimes parents get frustrated when their baby cries for a long time even though the parent has tried feeding, rocking, changing, singing, walking and seemingly every trick in the book. The best thing to do? Continue to hold and comfort your child. He needs to know that you'll always be there for him. Cuddling your child while he's crying can be challenging, but keep in mind that you are creating a lifelong bond of protection, trust and love. And know that most parents will experience at least one time when they have difficulty calming their child's cries.

If you find yourself very frustrated or upset, are thinking of harming yourself or your baby, or if you are worried you might shake or harm your infant, put her somewhere safe – like her crib – and take a few minutes to calm down or call someone to come help you. Though all new parents feel overwhelmed at times, it is never okay to hit, shake or hurt your child.

If you do not have someone you can call or can't reach someone right away, call the 24 hour Klinic Crisis Line at 204-786-8686 or toll free at 1-888-322-3019.

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