At this age, your baby needs love about as much as he needs food. Your hugs, cuddles, and kind words are crucial for his physical, intellectual, and emotional growth. He knows it, too. Why else would he try so hard to win your affection?
More than ever before, your baby really aims to please. He’ll enjoy showing off new skills, and he’ll beam with happiness when you say “way to go” or “good job.” In fact, compliments are often the most effective reward you can give him. If you catch him doing something good — such as petting the cat gently — a few words of praise will buy lots of good behavior in the future.
Of course, there will be times when you catch him doing things that aren’t so good. That’s when discipline comes in. Discipline has to be an important part of your relationship, but you have to pick your battles wisely. If he starts touching something he shouldn’t, you can probably redirect him without much fuss. (In this case, his short attention span will work in your favor.) If you can anticipate his next move, you might be able to steer him away from trouble.
If he’s doing something truly destructive or dangerous — such as chewing on a lamp cord or trying to put a fork in the socket — he needs more than just redirection. A firm “no” and a stern look will definitely get your message across — never hit or shake him. Be sure to stay consistent. If something is allowable one day, it should be allowable the next. And if something is worth a “no” once, it should always be worth a “no.” You’ll need to be prompt, too. He doesn’t have enough memory to get scolded for something that happened five minutes ago.
Needless to say, he won’t always agree with your decisions. He may try to buck the system by complaining, crying, or even ignoring your commands. No matter how pathetic he gets, try not to give in. Your little social animal needs to know his place in the family, and it isn’t his place to make the rules. But don’t get mad — the more you react to the screaming with strong emotions of your own, the more he learns that that is a good way to get your attention.
Also, don’t fume about past behaviors when you correct him, since he won’t understand how anything he’s doing right now has anything to do with the past. Just focus on the present behavior, and be brief, firm, and consistent. Then praise him when you see him exhibiting the behaviors you like. Don’t hold a grudge or keep complaining about behaviors later on in the day after you have made your initial intervention. And don’t complain about your child’s behavior to others in his presence. Children under two are often much more perceptive than we think.
Thankfully, discipline is only a tiny part of your interactions with your baby. The two of you can now connect on many different levels. He loves to listen in on conversations, and may even start using body language such as pointing or gesturing to let you know what he wants. He’s getting better at expressing his own thoughts and moods, too. His mouth, eyes, forehead, and eyebrows will speak volumes about what he is thinking.
For the first time, he really seems to notice how other people are feeling. If he hears another baby cry, he might join in out of empathy. He’s also becoming an expert at reading your moods. He’ll notice your smiles and frowns and take them to heart. Most of all, he’ll notice your gestures of love. As far as he’s concerned, you can’t display them too often.
Sears, William and Martha. The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two. Little, Brown and Company.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five. Bantam Books.
University of Wisconsin Extension. Parenting the first year: month 9-10. http://racine.uwex.edu/flp/documents/PFY9-10.pdf
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Baby Bouncer. Ninth month: fears and insecurities. http://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/chfd/CHFD-E-39-09.pdf