Excerpted from Joan Durrant’s Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting

Dr. Joan Durrant was the principal researcher and co-author of the Canadian Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth; a member of the Research Advisory Committee of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children and a co-editor of Eliminating Corporal Punishment: The Way Forward to Constructive Discipline (UNESCO). 

Her book  positive discipline

1. Babies 0 to 6 months

Young infants are brand-new to the world.

They can’t make much sense of things. They are easily frightened. They need to know that they are safe and protected.

It’s very important at this stage that parents provide the baby with plenty of warmth.

Structure is not needed at this stage. Babies can’t understand rules or explanations. They only need to know that their needs will be met.

Young babies don’t know any words. They cry to let us know when they need something. They learn quickly whether they can trust us to listen and respond.

The most important thing parents can do at this stage is to respond to their baby and try their best to figure out what the baby needs.

newborn baby staring

One of the things that babies need most is to be held, cuddled, rocked, and carried.

Cuddling your baby is very important for your relationship. If your baby feels safe with you, she won’t be afraid to learn new things when the time comes.

Cuddling is also important for the development of your baby’s brain. Rocking and carrying are like brain food, building connections among brain cells.

Young babies don’t understand their own feelings. They also don’t know how you feel. When they cry, they aren’t trying to make you mad.

They don’t even know what “mad” is! They don’t even know why they’re crying! Sometimes, their own crying can scare them.

Remember that crying is normal. It is even normal for the crying to continue when you try to comfort your baby. And it is normal for crying to last a long time, especially in the evening.

At this stage, the most important thing that parents can do is show their baby that she is safe. When the baby feels safe with you, she will develop a strong attachment to you.

This attachment will be the basis of your relationship with your child for years to come.

black infant

During this stage, babies learn how to use their muscles. They learn to grasp and chew. They love to grab things and they put everything in their mouths.

Grasping and chewing objects develops your baby’s muscles. By grasping, he learns how to use his hands and fingers. By chewing, he exercises the muscles he will need to eat solid food and to speak.

When your baby grabs your jewelry and puts it in her mouth, she is not being “bad”. She is acting on her instincts. She is using the only method she has to learn about what those objects are. And she is exercising very important muscles.

As soon as babies are able to put things in their mouths, a parent’s job is to make sure that there is nothing nearby that could harm the baby. If babies put small objects in their mouths, they can choke. If they put chemicals or dirt in their mouths they can get sick.

It is extremely important to remove anything from the baby’s environment that could harm her if she touched or chewed it.

Remember that babies of this age do not understand danger. The best solution is to ensure that the environment is safe. Later, as her language and understanding develop, you can begin to teach your child about danger.

1. Problem Solving: 0 to 6 months

The major challenge for parents of young babies is coping with crying.

Imagine this...

Your 10-week-old baby has been crying for several minutes.

Think about what you read above about this developmental stage. Now list as many latina babygirlreasons as you can for your baby’s crying.

Did you include reasons such as:

hunger, thirst,

too warm
, too cold

wet diaper
s, sickness,

, needing to be cuddled

needing to be rocked or carried?

If so, congratulations! You have applied your knowledge of developmental level to figure out why the baby is crying.

Now imagine this...

It is early evening. Your 10-week-old baby has been crying for 30 minutes. You have tried:

feeding her

checking to make sure that nothing is pinching or poking her,

removing clothes or blankets

adding clothes or blankets

checking for a fever

soothing her with rocking, singing, or carrying

rubbing her back ...........and she is still crying.

Think again about what you read above about this developmental stage.

Now list as many reasons as you can for your baby’s continued crying. crying latinochild

Did you include reasons such as: pain that you can’t detect illness that you can’t detect,  stomach gas, normal crying patterns?

If so, congratulations! You have applied your knowledge of developmental level to figure out why your baby is still crying.

Remember that babies never cry to make you mad. Babies don’t understand that you have feelings. They only cry because they have to.



Babies 0-6 months

The aim of positive discipline is to respond to a child’s behaviour in ways that will lead to those long-term goals. To be effective in using positive discipline, your long-term goals should always be uppermost in your mind.

The situation

Your 10-week-old baby has been crying for 5 minutes.

What should you do? Let’s think through each of the following responses to decide which one is best – and why.

1. Shake her to punish her for crying.

2. Ignore her and let her cry it out.

3. Try feeding her


Step 1 – Remember your long-term goals

What are some of your long-term goals that are relevant to this situation?

Check off each response that would lead you toward your long-term goal.

1. Shaking

2. Ignoring

3. Feeding, changing, rocking, singing, cuddling


Step 2 – Focus on warmth

Let’s compare each response with what we know about providing warmth. For each response check off whether it would provide:

emotional security

show unconditional love

show affection

respect her developmental level

show sensitivity to her needs

show empathy with her feelings

It’s important to remember that babies don’t need or benefit from structure. They don’t yet have the language or reasoning abilities that they need to understand expectations, rules or explanations.


Step 3 – Consider how your child thinks and feels

Why do babies of this age cry?


Step 4 – Problem solving

Now let’s compare each response with what we know about the developmental level of young babies. Check off each response that would respect your baby’s developmental level.

1. Shaking

2. Ignoring

3. Feeding, changing, rocking, singing, cuddling



Step 5 – Responding with positive discipline

Now that you have thought about your long-term goal, ways of providing warmth, and your baby’s developmental level, which response would you choose?

If you chose #3, congratulations!
You are on your way to building your positive parenting competence.



A note on postpartum depression

A new baby creates huge change in mothers’ lives. Sometimes, mothers long for the time when they didn't have their baby, when they could eat, sleep and go out when they chose to. Sometimes new mothers can feel completely overwhelmed by the demands of caring for a baby.

In addition to the lifestyle changes a new baby brings, mothers are experiencing major physical changes. Their hormones are fluctuating to speed recovery from the birth and to create milk for the baby.

Even though they love their babies, mothers can become depressed following a birth due to the combination of lifestyle and physical changes they are experiencing. Such depression is not unusual. It does not mean that the woman is a bad mother or a bad person. It is simply a reaction to the huge changes she is experiencing.

If you are crying a lot, feeling “down”, lacking energy or not feeling attached to your baby, you should talk to your doctor or public health nurse right away. You need support, people to talk to and time for yourself. It also can help to read about postpartum depression and to connect with other mothers.

In some cases, this kind of depression can become quite severe. If you feel detached from your baby or if you have thoughts about harming your baby, tell your doctor immediately. Treatment is available. 





Our Mission

The MISSION of the Action Team to End Hitting Children is to gather many people to do small jobs for the purpose of diminishing and finally ending the hitting of children. By "htiting" we mean to include beating, spanking, slapping, shaking, popping, and any other form of physical or emotional punishment that demeans the child and creates emotional, mental, and physical harm. Our strategy is to use many people to do small amounts of work that create momentum to make a difference. 

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