Some parents do well with this sign technique, while others will not. I’m one of the ones who does very well at this, but it’s probably because my wife and I are touchy-feely with my son. We use touch a lot to show him our affection and closeness, when modifying his behaviour, and when communicating with him. Touch is an entirely different component to silent communication, and is a very effective one at that – once you learn the rules of course.
Putting your ‘grease paws’ on a baby and trying to force them to do something is NOT the idea – signing is meant to be fun. When a baby is throwing a tantrum it’s time for a hands off approach so long as they aren’t damaging property hurting themselves or someone else (or potentially going to). Let them cool off on their own! Obviously there are times to jump in and restraint an infant, but there are also times when touching is off limits. Just keep in mind that you are trying teach your baby how to become self proficient, control themselves and live with their emotions. You don’t want to have to be there all the time to protect them and the people around them. As far as a parenting technique, guiding can work wonders.
When baby is in a place they shouldn’t be, like near the garbage can or toilet, I like to turn a toddlers shoulders and aim them in another direction while telling them why they should be there such as “danger”, HURT or DIRTY. The first time you do this, it won’t work. They’ll turn back and head straight back to where they were. Just guide them again as lightly as possible. You’ll usually get some resistance this time, so just apply more pressure. Keep repeating it and then, if you must, close the door or block them from returning to show them that you mean business and that you always win. After repeating this enough times with persistence, making sure you never lose the battle, you’ll ideally have a toddler who will require less and less guiding each and every time. You never want to use full pressure each time to guide a baby, just enough to get the job done. In fact, you really want them to do all the work after using a few verbal or sign language commands, but at the start, do whatever is necessary. Always remain calm though, never show aggression, and never show frustration. Remember that you’re always the boss. Eventually you’ll be able to use just your words to guide them so long as you avoid power struggles. Do also keep in mind that every baby is different so not all will accept light guiding without setting off a huge power struggle. In these cases, just learn to live with it by keeping garbage out of reach, doors closed and cupboard doors childproofed. Sometimes you just need to pick your battles.
The same sort of concept apply to guiding in sign language. Just grab their hands and go through the sign with them either facing them or from behind. Again, not all babies like this hands on approach. Some are just downright unwilling to accept input in this way from other people so just give it a shot and see how it goes. It also never hurts to ask a baby if they will let you help. My son, at around 14-15 months, would offer his hands to me when I asked to show me that he would accept help on a difficult sign. I would then help him do the sign and let him try on his own. We would repeat this a few times and eventually he would get a fairly good approximation going. Again, I will warn that if you baby shows resistance to guiding as far as signing goes, then just model the sign for them instead. Signing is not a life and death matter so if he doesn’t get it, no big deal. Save the hands on approach for when he’s off toward something more pressing.