Teaching Your Baby the Word ‘No’ – Gentle and Loving Method
Teaching your baby the word ‘no’ can seem daunting and often associated with negative feelings. But, really, teaching your baby the word ‘no’ helps them learn boundaries, and understand and express their feelings. And there really is a gentle and loving way of teaching your baby the word ‘no!’
Teaching your baby the word ‘no’ is an important milestone – as important as walking and talking! Every person needs to understand limits and boundaries, and teaching your baby the word ‘no’ helps them begin to learn limits – especially for safety’s sake.
Camden is just over 1 year old, and he is still learning the word ‘no.’ And he’ll probably be learning it for a loooong time. But that’s okay, because children are meant to push boundaries – if they don’t test their limits, how will they know what the limits are? I want my child to learn through exploration and experimentation; that way, as he learns it, he also understands it.
Babies start understanding what you’re saying long before you think they understand. With Camden, when he did something we didn’t want to encourage (like hitting our face with his hands), we told him ‘no’ gently and pushed his hand down softly from the very beginning. I know he didn’t understand at first, but I wanted to make sure that when he did start understanding, we’d be telling him ‘no’ when he did something that we didn’t like.
Make sure he has a chance to get into something he is not supposed to
This is a big one. I know so many people who babyproof everything they don’t want to their child to touch. Don’t get me wrong – you should absolutely babyproof anything dangerous or super breakable/important. But you also have to make sure that your child can get into some things you don’t want him to touch. Otherwise you won’t have a chance to teach him ‘no’ at a young age. For example, we have a cabinet full of cookbooks at Camden’s eye level. I don’t lock them up, but I don’t really want him pulling them out every day either. So, he gets in the cabinet and tries to pull them out, and it’s my chance to gently say ‘no’ and redirect him to another activity.
Camden at 5 months – thinking about what mischief he can get into 🙂
Be clear and concise, but gentle
Babies can understand what you say from a young age, but only if you keep it simple. They don’t need a lecture. So keep it clear, concise, and gentle. For example, when Camden gets frustrated and tries to smack my face, I gently push his hand down and say ‘No. That hurts. We don’t hit.’ And if he continues, I set him down on the floor (which he hates) and say it again: “No. That hurts. We don’t hit.” And then I redirect him to another activity.
Acknowledge his feelings
Camden really likes to try and grab my IPad and daddy’s glasses (Right off his face). Neither are things we want Camden to play with. So when he goes after them, and we tell him no and remove the object, he starts to cry, hard. We pick him up and say ‘It’s okay to be sad.” Then we try to redirect him to something else. I want him to understand that, while he still can’t do or have whatever it is he wants, it’s okay to feel sad about that. That way, when he’s a little older, we have a foundation to build on – and we can start talking about what to do when we feel sad.
Reinforce when he follows your directive
Make sure you praise and reinforce when you tell your baby ‘no’ and she listens to you. I went over the top when Camden was first learning no. When I tell him no and he listens, I praise him and cuddle him and giggle with him. That way, he understands that it is a good thing when he follows what we’re asking him to do.
Try to keep your voice calm – don’t show frustration
I get it – when you have to tell your baby or toddler ‘no’ over and over and over, but you have to do your best not to show your frustration. When Camden is upset and hits me in the face, and I gently push his hand down again and again and tell him ‘no,’ I get soooo frustrated after a while. I have to really start thinking calming thoughts to myself, but I don’t want him to see my frustration. For some kids, that just eggs them on more. For others, it scares them. And other babies just get mad when they hear your frustration. In every one of those scenarios, your baby is less likely to listen to you and stop what they are doing.
Be understanding – it’s a process
Your baby won’t get it on the first try, and maybe not even on the 8,000th try. That’s okay. Just like babies learn to crawl, walk and talk at different times, they’ll learn what the word ‘no’ means on their own time, too. And they’ll learn it – and then go through a regression where they don’t listen to you and you have to reteach them. It takes time, repetition, understanding and most of all, love.
How did you teach your child the word ‘no?’ Are you still teaching (and reteaching) them?
This such a interesting and great read. As a new first time mom, I love to read on different parenting styles.
Elizabeth | Tiredmom Supermom
No is a hard one to teach. You are very right that it takes a lot patience and they won’t understand it on the first try!
Currently working on this with my 16 month old. It’s not easy, but will be worth it as she gets older.
Love this! Must read for all new parents in my opinion. It is so worth it once they are bigger, mine are 9 and 12 and when we say no, there is never an argument. Makes my life easier.
I love this. I have watched my daughter in law gently teach our grandson No, and it’s amazing how receptive he was. His dad not so much.
This was great and informative for new mamas with young babies. The definitely do understand more than you think, they are just tricky 😉