Q&A with Dr. Bradley: Show That Baby Who’s Boss

Dear Dr. Bradley:

My newborn baby is adorable and all, but she doesn’t listen to me when I ask her to stop crying, or to go to sleep! How early can I start disciplining my tiny rapscallion?

Eager New Mom

Dear “Eager New”:

Newborn babies are blank slates, ready and willing for the grown-up near them to scrawl important life lessons all over their brain parts. If the first thing we teach them is “What you say goes,” how do you think the future’s going to pan out? With you nursing Baby until “Baby” is eighteen, that’s how! And no one wants to see your time- and nursing-weathered dugs hauled out in public whenever your teen demands sustenance, my friend.

As much as you might want to hug and kiss Baby, you have to establish firm and healthy boundaries. If this means withholding affection, remember: it’s for Baby’s own good. Do you want to emotionally cripple your child by turning him into someone who loves hugs but can’t hold down a job, or give him the tools he needs to be a self-sufficient professional who may loathe you but can afford to keep you in a luxurious assisted-living facility, when the time comes?

The first thing baby needs to learn is Respect. Say you’re fresh out of school, and at your first job. The Big Boss approaches your cubicle. Which of these statements would you expect from him?

“Jenkins, I expect that report on my desk by 5 sharp—or should I rethink that bonus of yours?”

Or,

“Whozza good girl? Is my baby a good girl? Isshe? Yes! Yessheeiz! Yes! A-booobooooboooo!”

Babies are also new graduates, fresh out of you-school. And you’re the mother of all bosses. Do you think babies don’t appreciate authority or crave an ordered, efficient work environment? Do you think they’re doing anything but silently mocking you as you burble at them for hours at a stretch? Think again!

How to earn your baby’s respect:

    Offer her a firm handshake each morning. No hugs. Hugs disgust Baby.

    Sit behind a desk with a nameplate. Offer baby a chair on the other side of the desk. Prop her up with pillow if necessary, but be sure to communicate your displeasure at this.

    Always make sure you’re in a position to look down on Baby. This shouldn’t be hard to do.

    Send her regular memos. Sure, she can’t read, but the sight of them taped to her mobile will be a welcome reminder that she’s not there to goof off.

    Provide weekly evaluations. It’s important for Baby to receive feedback on how she’s doing.

    Walk ahead to show leadership—her stroller follows you.

    Wait at least fifteen minutes before responding to any cries. When you do respond, make sure you’re eating a sandwich. This tells her, sure, I love you, but I also love sandwiches—and sandwiches don’t hurt my ears.

Alice Bradley, M.D., is not actually a doctor. She just wrote “M.D.” after her name. She has the ability to use a keyboard, but not much else.

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