Sly is thirteen months old now. He's at an age where he's able to make a lot of trouble in a very short time, but still young enough that I'm not sure he understands which things he's "allowed" to do or not do. We've done our best to baby-proof the house, to stop most trouble and messes before they start. But there are still a few areas of the house or our routine that we can't really do much about.
For example, we have five tall bookshelves in our bedroom, and there's another one in Sly's room with all his kids' books. One of Sly's favorite past-times is ripping books out of the shelves and throwing them onto the floor. Not only does this make a huge mess, but it's harmful to the books, many of which are old. But what can we do to stop it? Block off entire shelves with sheets of cardboard and duct tape? Prevent Sly from ever going into half the rooms in our house? I'd much rather be able to just teach him not to mess with the books.
He always hurts the one cat (the other one steers entirely clear of him). Sly pulls at his fur, and his ears and tail. The cat gets mad and sometimes hisses, but is too gentle to really fight back. It's impossible to "baby-proof" a cat! And he's such a friendly cat that he always wants to be near people - even little ones who pull his fur - and so he's always putting himself right into Sly's path of destruction. On a number of occasions, I've actually had to slap Sly's hands pretty hard to make him let go of a fistful of fur. He does not yet understand the concept of "gentle", no matter how many times I've tried to teach him the right way to touch a kitty.
Another big problem is him throwing food on the ground when he's in the high chair. You think the food is on its way to his mouth, and then suddenly, he throws it triumphantly towards the floor. How do you stop that?
Tom and I have been trying to stop these sorts of behaviors, but with no effect whatsoever. We'll usually tell Sly "no ________" (no throwing food, no touching the books, etc.) while trying to get eye contact with him, and making a "serious" face. If we can, we pull him away from the "danger zone" or try to distract him with something else. But it simply doesn't work. More often than not, he thinks it's funny. I know he throws food just to get attention sometimes. And with the books...when we say no, and pull him away, he's always smiling and sometimes even laughing. He thinks it's a game!
What are we supposed to do about this? I haven't read any books or anything about disciplining. Although I'm not sure I even want to right now. But I wish I did know how old a baby needs to be to connect certain bad behaviors with consequences.
Tom and I have been talking about maybe trying a "time out" system. Neither of us were given time outs as kids, so we don't really know how it works. As far as I can gather, the effectiveness of time outs is that you put a child by themselves in a corner or something, and intentionally don't give them your attention. Because attention is often the thing they were seeking with their misbehavior, and you need to show them that that is not the proper way to get it. Is this right? Maybe there's more to it than that.
Anyways, last night at the dinner table, Sly kept throwing food after repeatedly being "reprimanded" by mom and dad. So I said to Tom, "let's give him a time-out right now. Tell him he's in timeout and turn his chair around so he can't see us anymore." Tom did, and Sly immediately started screaming. Obviously, he didn't like his punishment. But I'm not sure if he's old enough that he will be able to start connecting timeout to the things he does.
Any advice? Should we keep trying the timeout thing, or try a different tactic? Is he old enough to learn this yet?