Our baby has passed the 7 month mark since birth. She’s now able to pull her self up to standing with ease, and can remain standing while holding on to something with one hand. More and more cute noises and sounds are coming out of her mouth, and her eating ability is steadily improving.
It’s a joy to watch her skills improve. However, the more she’s capable of, the more trouble and mischief she can get into as well.
Trying to Manipulate Parents to Get What She Wants
We caught her coughing and crying deliberately. Nothing was irritating her throat or lungs. She just wanted one of us parents to pick her up, and obviously thought that coughing would help her get what she wanted. In short, she was trying to manipulate her parents.
Of course, she’s not trying to be bad. I’m guessing that she subconsciously noticed that we’d come to her quickly when she’s coughing or shows other signs of being hurt or needing attention. So, she decided to try it. A rather logical thing to do.
You may think that it’s kind of cute. And yes, it is. However, my own mother quickly warned me that she’d do it again and again if she gets rewarded. This is a game you don’t want to play. The end result is a child that will try to manipulate others to get what he/she wants. This is selfish egocentric behaviour at the cost of others, and is a path toward a bitter and unfulfilling future. The exact opposite of the future we want for our child.
Raising Babies Into Virtuous & Resilient Adults
Clearly, we don’t want a manipulative child. It’s bad for everyone, especially her. Some might be tempted to punish the child, but I think that’s a bad idea because she’s got no idea that she’s done anything wrong. All she’s doing is trying to get what she wants using every technique she knows. So a punishment would likely leave her confused, frustrated, and scared.
So, what’s the answer? Simply, make sure that your baby isn’t rewarded for bad behaviour. In this case, when we realize that she’s faking coughs for attention, we give her none. That way she realizes it doesn’t work, and will stop. Once she’s able to speak, we’ll also discourage the use of crying to get what she wants. After all, nobody likes a whinging cry baby.
The converse is true for fostering good behaviour. We want our baby to grow into a kind, patient, charitable (generous), diligent,self- disciplined, humble and chaste adult (the seven heavenly virtues). And, we want her to be resilient. So, we show our appreciation when she behaves in a virtuous manner or masters some new skill. This will encourage the child to do more of what works.
It’s all about making sure that the child feels the consequences of their actions. Positive consequences for doing well, and negative consequences for doing something bad. Punishment should generally be reserved for when the child knowingly does something wrong.
The same is true with adults. When I was called up for jury service, I saw first hand the effects of “getting away with it.” During the trial it was really clear that he was remorseful the first time he did it. However, he didn’t receive any punishment for what he knew was wrong. And so he was emboldened to push the boundaries just a little, then a little more, and then escalating until the police were called. None of the rest would have happened if he’d been punished with the first incident.
Is it Really That Easy?
Ensure good behaviour is rewarded, and that bad behaviour doesn’t get rewarded. Is it really that easy? Hehe, not quite. For starters, it’s not always obvious if a child’s behaviour is good, or if detrimental habits are forming. In our baby’s case, her coughing and behaviour were subtly different, and could easily have been overlooked.
Next, we’re all human. I can lose my temper, or be too busy or tired to notice. Or, one of hundreds of other things could get in the way. As with everything parenting, you simply have to do the best you can.
Finally, there’s a lot more to parenting than just discouraging bad behaviour and encouraging good. You also need to help your child discover and develop their talents, form critical thinking, and good habits, just to name a few. Plus, you need to be a good role model, because they’re taking their cues on how to behave from you. And then there’s essentials such as laundry and having fun together…
The First of Many Course Corrections
The fake coughing will disappear soon. Of that I’m certain. Then, she’ll find some other technique to try…
Life is filled with continual course corrections from the day you’re born till the day you die. For example, a few weeks ago, I realized that I need to change how I handle people who really annoy me. This week, I’ll be working on not letting work frustrations get the better of me. As parents, my wife and I need to help our daughter make those course corrections until she’s learnt how to course correct on her own.
Cover photo credit: Image by Gisela Merkuur.