Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) Prevention Model

Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention: Suggested Parent Education Protocol for Parents With Children Ages 1 – 3 years old*

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Help parents set realistic expectations of their child’s development

Difficult Developmental Phases in Young Children That May Trigger Abuse

  • Night Crying

Eliminate long, daytime naps
Allow for plenty of physical activity during the day, outside if possible

  • Separation Anxiety

Rehearse separations by playing peek-a-boo and hide and seek, etc
Allow for brief periods of care taking by another adult

  • Normal Exploratory Behavior

Structure an environment that encourages positive behavior and permits exploration

  • Normal Negativism

    Give some independence (minimize the rules and give the child more real choices)

  • Normal Poor Appetite

Reduce milk intake to a pint or less per day (many toddlers fill up on milk and leave little room for other nutritious foods)

  • Toilet Training Resistance

Make sure the child is ready before you try to toilet train (around age 2)
Don’t punish for any aspects of toilet training, it’s your child’s body, trust them to learn its natural functions
Be supportive, sympathetic and kind

Disciplining Young Children

  • Communicate to the child what needs to be done at that moment
  • Redirect the child’s attention from undesirable activities by using neutral or positive language
  • Say no while maintaining love and avoid arguing with the child
  • Give the reason for the rule at a basic level
  • Give limited tasks and be specific in your request
  • Acknowledge children’s feelings, but set limits and hold to them
  • Help children see how their actions affect others
  • Help children see how they can use their words to communicate their feelings
  • Acknowledge and reward positive behavior

Caregivers of Young Children**

  • Choose caregivers carefully. Talk with them about their attitudes and behavior in relation to discipline. Do not permit corporal punishment.                        

Twelve Alternatives to Lashing Out at Your Child ***

The next time everyday pressures build up to the point where you feel like lashing out – STOP! Try any of these simple alternatives. You’ll feel better… and so will your child.

  • Take a deep breath…and another. Then remember you are the adult.
  • Close your eyes and imagine you’re hearing what your child is about to hear.
  • Press your lips together and count to 10…or better yet, to 20
  • Put your child in a time-out chair (remember this  rule: one time-out minutes for each year of age.)
  • Put yourself in a time-out chair. Think about why you are angry; is it your child, or is your child simply a convenient target for your anger?
  • Phone a friend
  • If someone can watch the children, go outside and take a walk.
  • Take a hot bath or splash cold water on your face.
  • Hug a pillow.
  • Turn on some music. Maybe even sing along.
  • Pick up a pencil and write down as many helpful words as you can think of. Save the list.
  • Call for prevention information: 1-800-CHILDREN

* This protocol was adapted from The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, “A Guide for Child Care Providers,” 2002

** Bright Futures, Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children and Adolescents, Second Edition, 2000

*** Prevent Child Abuse America, Parent Fact Sheet,