Disciplining An Infant

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 6 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How To Rear Infants)

The last chapter in this book covers the general subject of the discipline and punishment of children; hence, we will deal in this brief chapter only with the unique way to discipline infants. Disciplining infants is extremely difficult, but it must be done. Discipline teaches that there are limits in life and that within those limitations life can be beautiful. It must teach, however, that living outside those limitations is painful. Because of this, the parent must see to it that pain of some kind is inflicted when wrong is done-pain of loneliness, pain of being hurt because you disappointed someone you love. It may be physical pain, but the child must be taught that doing wrong hurts in some way and that the hurt that wrong brings is far greater than the enjoyment it gives. Proper discipline teaches a child to learn to accept these limitations. It must be understood that a child is going to test a parent concerning his discipline. Because of this, the parents must be consistent. The punishment for a certain crime must be consistent. Some rules to follow are:

1. Always have the same punishment for the same crime. The child then can associate certain types of pain to certain types of deeds. He can remember that pain that follows each deed. In other words, there is a predictability and steadiness in the punishment of a child.

2. Always inflict the punishment for the crime. If the child knows or feels that there are times when he can get by with committing the crime, and if there is at least a possibility of his escaping the punishment, he may well choose to run the risk. However, if he comes to the conclusion that punishment is always given, he will come nearer deciding against the doing of the wrong deed.

If a child gets the idea that he has freedom of expression that will not be repressed at all, he is being given a false impression of what society will expect of him later. The parent should, by his discipline and punishment of the child, teach him what to expect in years to come. Parents must prepare him to be a law-abiding citizen. The child must be taught the boundaries of the law and the penalty received by living outside those boundaries.

Spanking should begin by the time the child is able to walk. I'm not talking about beatings, slappings, etc.  I am talking about firm, but gentle and loving spankings. There are things, for example, that will endanger a child's life, such as crawling too close to the window or playing with the electrical plug. It would be far better for a child to receive the pain of a spanking than the pain of serious injury or death by being electrocuted or falling from the window.

3. Develop a consistent pattern in your behavior. The infant will probably repeat his actions several times. In order to establish for sure that you are responsible, always be the same. Be sure that your response is the same so that the infant will see a predictability about it.

When our children first learned to walk, I took them on a tour of the house. I pointed to certain objects and said, "No, no, no, no, no!" Again I pointed to the objects and said, "No, no, no, no, no!" I did this until the children associated the object with "No!" When I felt that they had associated the word "no" with objects they should not touch and things they should not do, I then proceeded to let them know that pain was associated with disobedience. I did not take a stick and hit the child; neither did I beat him with my fist, but lovingly and gently and tearfully I used the place that God has provided for spankings, and I gave him a spanking with whatever intensity I felt the crime demanded. The intensity should not be determined by the anger of the parents or the discomfort that the crime caused them. It should be commensurate with the crime. The parent should remember that the most important thing is to develop a close relationship with the child. I recall when my mother used to give me long talks. I would rather have had a spanking any day because the worst thing about the punishment was that Mother was displeased and that our fellowship was broken. When the parent and child have a sweet, close, intimate relationship, it enables the punishment of a breech of fellowship to be the worst punishment of all. This does not mean that the child should never be spanked. It means that even in spanking the child knows that Mother or Father is displeased.


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