Why you shouldn't punish a baby

Babies--0 to 1 year--do not have a sense of right and wrong, or or "allowed" or "not allowed," and will not develop one until late toddler or even preschool-age. As I personally define punishment as a means to penalize or serve retribution for something done wrong, I do not think that babies should ever be punished. Yes, ever.

Younger babies cry to communicate, and although they can be difficult to soothe, their motives are entirely internal and need-based; they simply do not have the capacity to want more than basic things like love, food, sleep, and diaper changes. This communicative crying, although it can be frustrating if you cannot soothe baby, should never be considered as "misbehaving."

Once baby becomes older and more mobile, he or she will get into things that you have not properly protected or removed from reach. Saying "no" may help, but most likely, it won't, because while some babies understand "no" at 6 months, most don't until between 12 or 18 months. And again, baby is doing what he or she is naturally programmed to do--exploring and learning. It will be far more effective to remove temptation and use distraction than expect a baby to learn what is "right" and "wrong."

Babies don't do "wrong"--they don't have the cognitive development to acknowledge rules, let alone break them, so while you may enforce safety rules and create safe environments, it is my opinion that it is never appropriate to punish a baby.

Moms Expertise
    8Theresa Gould
    I agree, but I do think they can be trained. For example, I trained our children what hot means with my cup of tea. They would reach out to touch it and I'd say, "No, hot." I would allow them to touch the cup and that's how they learned what hot was. I also taught our children to stay off the street at a young age. I would stand at the bottom of our driveway and they would come toddling down either on foot or with a walking toy and I'd say, "No" turn them around and back up they went. I did this until they knew the boundaries.
    About Tish
    Born: Homestead, Pennsylvania
    Current: State College, Pennsylvania
    Birth: March 04
    On Moms.com since: Dec 17, 2013
    Working mom of two, happily married, editor/content manager of scientific publications for a scholarly society in Washington DC, attached parent, extended nurser. Parenting and loving the best way I know how!