Thursday, January 31, 2008

Teaching Your Baby "No"

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I write this post in response to a request.

Many people believe a baby is not capable of understanding the word no until they are "older." I am not sure exaclty what age "older" is, but it seems to be older than baby is, until baby is around a year, then baby just won't listen. Baby will learn words early on that are heard often.

Both of my children showed an obvious understanding of the word "kisses" at 5 months of age. Every time I kiss them, I say "Kisses!" At 5 months, both started giving me kisses. So I would ask for it, and they would comply and come at me with a wet, slobbery, open-mouthed kiss (which I of course loved).

Despite the fact that I belive my children to be the two smartest, cutest, etc. etc. kids on the earth, I will concede that other children can understand words that young, also :-). Children understand words long before they are able to speak them.

As soon as you see a need for correction, I would recommend introducing the method you are going to follow. You need to choose what you want your method to be. The word "no" can easily become overused, but I don't think that needs to be stricken from your vocabulary. Here are some strategies I follow in in correcting my children. Yes, I said children. 9 month old Kaitlyn needs it at times, too.

Become Aware of Your Child's Personality
I do intend to write more on this idea later, but will put some thoughts for now. If you aren't naturally an intuitive person when it comes to people's personalities (not everyone is), work to learn how to do so. I think the job of mother quickly teaches us this skill, but the sooner you become goood at it, the better. This requires you to accept the fact that every person has their own stregths and weaknesses. Every person, including babies, have their own personalities. We are all different, view things differently, and communicate differently. Try to get to know your child.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Brayden is a dutiful child who is very obedient. He does what he is asked far more than the averages given in Toddlerwise. It is a little young to tell for sure, but 9 month old Kaitlyn seems a little more intent to do what she wants; however, she also tests her boundaries far less often than Brayden did at this age.

Does your child resspond better to positive reinforcement? Most, if not all, do. Some are far more in need of this than others, though. My husband is one. He needs to be told he is doing a good job. If there is ever something I want him to be better at doing (like, putting his socks in the hamper), the best way to go about it is for me to wait, catch him in the act, and thank him for doing so. He will then do it consistently. If I go to him and say, "I would like it if you put your socks in the hamper instead of on the floor," he would not respond so well.

Does that sound odd? Honestly, it does to me. I would rather you come up to me and tell me to put my socks in the hamper. But my husband is the way he is. It took his parents several years to figure this out when he was a child, but they say it made a world of differnce with him.

Brayden (now 2.5) is the same way. I recognized it somewhere between 6 and 9 months. There was no question I had another "praise junkie" on my hands. I don't mean praise junkie in a bad way; they just need more praise than I do. I believe Kaitlyn is more like me in that area.

No matter how strong the inclination toward this, your child will prefer to be thanked for doing a good job to being scolded for a bad one. Get to know your child and you will have an easier time adapting discipline for him or her.

Decide on Rules
Before you can correct a child for doing something wrong, you have to decide what "wrong" is. Certain things are obvious, but other things will be depended on you. Do you want baby to be able to pull your hair? Do you want baby to be able to put fingers in the food? Do you want baby to blow raspberries while eating? Do you want baby to touch the plant? Look around and set some boundaries.

When Brayden was a baby, I didn't have much in his path that I minded him touching. I had set the house up so that it wouldn't be in his way. When he was around 9 months, I remember establishing a couple of things as "off-limits" for him to touch, not because I necessarily minded the way he played with them then, but I knew he potentially would get more agressive in his play as he got older. I also wanted to have some things to be able to start working on obedience with him.

Another hint for rules, make sure you and your spouse are in a agreeance. Consistency is very important with correction.

Decide on a Phrase
Babywise II has the phrase idea of "that's a no." I love that--it is what I use. I like it better than a simple "no" because it takes more effort for me to say, so I know I won't start to say it out of habit. I also think I am able to say it with more conviction that just "no." Pick whatever phrase you want. Keep it consistent.

Decide on a Method
First, I say the name of the child to establish eye contact. I have a look I give my children when they do something they shouldn't. Without thinking, I give the look before I say anything else. Even my 9 month old will respond to that without me having to say a word.

After the look, I say, "That's a no." firmly. Remember what BW II says about letting your child have some dignity. If you have a strong-willed child, it might be good to look busy with something else and give your child the chance to stop doing what he is doing without feeling like he is losing some battle. If he doesn't, I would repeat the above. Also, give your child some time to respond.

At that point, redirection is a good idea. If he is playing with the plant and you tell him that is a no, suggest you read a book or play with this or that toy. Give him some ideas to move on to.

That is honestly as far as I have ever had to take it (up until 18 months with Brayden, but I will do a toddler discipline post). There are other ideas listed in Babywise II for you if you need them.

Have Realistic Expectations
Can you expect your baby to respond to your directions? Absolutely! You should expect a response. People rise to expectations. But keep your expectations within reason. What is within reason? Toddlerwise says a two year old will comply 60% of the time. A three year old, 70%. A five year old, 85-90%. That gives you an idea of what you can expect from your baby. This doesn't mean that if you have a two year old you accept him ignoring you 40% of the time. You don't say, "Oh, this is in that threshhold, I'll move on and try again." It just means your child is normal and for his age. You still work on it (these statistics found on page 94 of Toddlerwise).

Payoff
Brayden's toddler years have been quite easy over all. Believe me, he has had his moments. He has even layed down in the store once and cried. Overall, however, he is quite obedient. Part of it is his personality. As a 2.5 year old, he obeys at least 90% of the time. That boost in the statistic is his personality to be obedient and dutiful. The rest of it is due to him learning early on what I meant when I said, "That's a no." As a 11 month old, we went to visit some friends. They had no children yet and had some nice books right at his eye level. He was drawn to them. He went over and I told him, "that's a no." He left them alone for a while. He returned several times to the books, but never touched them. I was glad to be able to visit somewhere and be able to require my child to respect the property of others. I was glad I could tell him something was off-limits without a crying fest breaking out.

So what about the 9 month old? She really doesn't test me as much, but things happen. Today, she blew raspberries with a full mouth of food. Not fun for me to wear baby food. I just gave her a look and she stopped. Her personal biggest challenge has been biting me while nursing.

Kaitlyn has no teeth yet, but every now and then gets a glint in her eye and slowly bites down. It doesn't hurt in the least, but I tell her firmly "Kaitlyn, that's a no, you don't bite your mamma" and detach her. It is hard for me not to smile because she knows what she is doing is wrong and gets a kick out of it...but I won't be smiling once those teeth come in, so I want to correct this issue before she gets those pearly whites. She has gotten a lot better. Last night I saw that glint enter her eyes and I just gave her a look that said no. She just smiled at me and continued on without biting. She had a little smile on her face, like she had been caught and thought it amusing, but no biting.

They will test their boundaries. Are they the same today as yesterday? They want to know. Keep your patience and teach them over and over what is and isn't acceptable. Remember, consistency, consistency, consistency!

So long as you keep your expectations in check, you can start to teach your child to obey from a very young age. It will make your toddler years a lot easier.

Reader Comments:


  • jahanschen said...
    I can see the glint in your daughter's eye because my son does the same thing! He started biting at about 2 months. I would tell him "no bite" sternly and tap his cheek. He is 6 months now and still has no teeth; however, he is teething and I can tell they're coming soon. When he looks at me like that, I know what's coming and I say "no bite," and he doesn't! I want to breastfeed for a year, so I was quick to nip it in the bud. I have also raised a couple of teething puppies. I hate to say it, but the same thing works with them!
    February 5, 2008 12:24 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    It's true, many of the same ideas can be applied to both human babies and animal babies. I was raised around animals my entire life. Consistency is something important no matter what the species :)
    February 5, 2008 12:55 PM
Reader Questions:
  • Katey Magill said...
    What do you think about hand slapping/ flicking/ squeezing?February 22, 2008 1:10 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    This is a very sensitive subject for many people. Personally, I don't do any of the above or spanking.However, I really do think most parents do the best job they can for their children. If they think spanking is the best option and works, it isn't my job to judge that.I do think that the parent can find another way. There are a variety of discipline methods out thre. I think if you spend some time getting to know the personality of your child an his or her currency, you can come up with something that doesn't involve physical means.If I were to find that a child I had would only respond to spanking, I would have some basic rules for myself. One would be that I could never do it while angry or frustrated. No one really thinks they will go to far, but it happens. The best person in the wrong situation can do wrong things. I find it better to just stay as far from the line as possible. You might wonder how you could ever be angry or frustrated toward your sweet baby...just wait until he is a toddler :-). Another rule for myself would be one swat. Another rule would be it can't be hard enough to cause pain at all, only to get attention. Like I said, it isn't what I do or what I would do. I am sure it works for some kids, but I also think something else would work equally as well or better. Other things do take more time and effort, though. But even my 10 month old has responded to nothing but verbal correction. It can be done! That's my opinion.
    February 22, 2008 2:50 PM
  • LHS Class of 1998 said...
    Val-First as a daily follower of your blog, I want to wish you and your family a HUGE congratulation on your new baby news!!!! I remember and older comment of yours about purchasing a video monitor for your 3rd baby because you have all the girl/boy things. I just bought one a few months ago for my 10 month old and I can't tell you how MUCH I love it! You will be very surprised what they do during their naptimes that you never knew (stand up, roll around, sit up, and then go back to sleep without a sound!)Okay here is a question that I have really being wanting to ask you pertaining to discipline:- First, I love your/Babywise "that's a no". I have been using this line since day with my little guy and he has always responded amazing well to it. Lately for the past week with the things that he knows is a "no" he has been testing his boundaries and "touching" or "going" with it. What do you suggest for this behavior? Do you just remove them, squeeze their hand, swat their hand, etc. I would love a good detail suggestion of what you do for this area of discipline.As always Val, thank you so much for your writings. We especially thank you during this time of pregnancy for answering our questions!!Megan:-)
    September 26, 2008 9:10 PM
  • Plowmanators said...
    Megan, Thanks for the congrats! Thanks about the video montior. We have already been looking into them. I think it will be awesome.His behavior of testing limits is totally normal and will happen over and over throughout his life :). But that doesn't mean you sit back and accept it. I will first direct you to these posts, then let me know if you need further clarification:BW II: Freedoms: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/babywise-ii-freedoms.html Discipline Strategy: Surrender with Dignity : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/04/discipline-strategy-surrender-with.html The "Mini-fit" : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/07/mini-fit.html and this is for older, but you might find some ideas: Tantrums and Discipline: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/02/tantrums.html
    September 29, 2008 11:27 AM

28 comments:

Beth said...

My 6 month old started screeching about 2 weeks ago. Do you have any suggestions on how to stop or help curb this behavior? It's getting to the point where I don't want to take her out in public. My older two children were not screechers, so this is new for me!

Plowmanators said...

Beth,

It looks like your question is one of many I haven't been notified of :( Are you still dealing with this? I would just put your finger to her lips, tell her to talk in a quiet voice, and be an example of what a quiet voice is. Praise her when she quiets down.

jessica babcock said...

I left two comments a few days ago, one about my 4 month old possibly going back to a 3 hr schedual and the other about implementing BW with foster kids.-I was wondering if you got them? maybe i'm being impatien, forgive me if I am. thanks again, jessica

jessica babcock said...

I just figured out what I did wrong..I will repeat my questions. 1st..My husband and I are licenced foster parents but we have taken a break since having Ezekiel (my 4 month old son) we would like to take more placements soon and I was wondering how I should implement babywise with children with reactive attatchment disorder? if you are not familiar with that term, its when children have been abused/neglected to the point of not being able to form attatchments to anyone. All the training we have recieved is a lot of attatchment parenting stuff, which make alot of sense for these kids with special needs, but I am certinetly not using that philosophy with zeke. I dont want to be "double minded" so to speak. any thoughts would be appreciated.my other question worked itself out, but another one arose! go figure! :) my son is sleeping 13 hrs at night and 2 1.5-2hr naps durring the day as well as a 45min cat nap in the evening. is this too much?

The Traveling Turtle said...

Thank you as always.

I actually posted a question a week or so ago and can't find it anywhere here so I guess it never reallt went through. I will just ask one, short question:

what age do you think a small time out is appropriate to start? and for how long? I have an 11 month old that is very strong willed (like me) and doesn't really respond to "that's a no" although I will try what you suggested and look away so she doesn't feel like she lost the battle. But she doesn't really respond to a small hand squeeze either. I don't want to spank or swat at this age b/c I dont think it is effective at 11 months. Do you have any other suggestions?

We are VERY consis. with her, so we have that going for us. The problem is, just as we are very consis - she is very persistant! Please advise.

Plowmanators said...

Traveling Turtle,

I do remember answering your question somewhere...but I don't know where. So it did go through and is somewhere.

BW II says you can start isolation at 10 months. You might want to see the chapter in BW II on highchair manners for their discipline methods for that age. See also:

The "Mini-fit" : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/07/mini-fit.html

Oh, I found it (your other question). Here it is:

Baby-Proofing : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/07/baby-proofing.html

Jennifer said...

I've read through all your discipline posts and we're starting to implement them with my daughter who will be 1 next week. So far, it doesn't seem like she gets it, but I'm hoping it will come. Until a month ago, she wasn't getting into anything and was very easy going about everything we needed to do. Now she's opening cupboards, pulling things off desks (getting taller), etc. My main question is with diaper changes. Until recently, I could just give her a toy to hold while I changed her diaper on the changing table and she held still, no problem. Now, she just throws the toys on the floor, yells, and wiggles/twists to the point it is hard to get her changed. I know this goes along with everything else in learning obedience and listening to me when I tell her not to, but do you have any other suggestions for this situation? Thanks so much--your blog is wonderful!

Plowmanators said...

Jennifer,

I completely forgot about that! Kaitlyn never did that, but I remember it with Brayden.

What I did is I just told him to hold still. I would put him back in place and tell him that's a no, hold still, etc.

Also, if you have a changing table, still use it. I know it isn't always the most convenient, but it is the most restricting for the child so she can't wiggle so much.

It will take some time and consistency, but she will get it. Try to not be flustered because she might enjoy seeing your reaction. Not in a way that she enjoys seeing you upset or anything, just that she is learning more about cause and effect and she finds it interesting to see how you react to things.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for your help on this. I appreciate your reminder to praise my LO when she does well. That just doesn't come as naturally as I think it should. I've been making an effort to do so and feel like we've seen an improvement. I've been trying to do it for other things as well. Thanks again for a great resource!

Plowmanators said...

You are welcome! Praising can be hard to remember because you just expect the child to obey, but it can make a huge difference in behavior.

LEM said...

I have posted everywhere on your blog lately with questions. I appreciate all of your help! As far as teaching my son "no" it doesn't seem to be working. I started ever since he began crawling and trying to touch things he shouldn't (around 7 months). He is now 10 months and is still touching everything he shouldn't. When he goes for it the first time, I tell him "no, don't touch". He usually doesn't listen, so I take his hand, give it a little squeeze and repeat myself. If he still doesn't listen (and usually doesn't), I take him away from the area and distract him with other toys.

It doesn't phase him one bit. I few minutes later, he's back at it. I began to try isolation in his crib, but again, he didn't care. He just entertained himself there. Am I doing something wrong or should I just keep consistent with it in hopes that one day he gets it?

Plowmanators said...

Keep being consistent with it. But also, keep trying different discipline strategies to find something that does phase him. You don't want to keep trying things that seem to make no difference.

Be sure read the many, many, many discipline posts for lots and lots of ideas :)

twinmommy said...

Thank you very much for all your wonderful posts! I am a huge fan of your blog; I love to read it before I get everyone up! I have 5 month old twins (boy and girl) who have been on Babywise since day 2 at the hospital. They have truly been dream babies because of BW. Recently, they began biting during breast feeding. I responded with "Ouch, that hurts Mommy", made a frowny face, and took them off. I'd then re-latch until it happened again. My son (no teeth), caught on and the biting has reduced. My daughter (two teeth), looked very unsure the first day. The next day she would barely feed and cried. By the third day, she comepletely refused to feed and cried quite hard. She is clearly hungry but refuses to take the breast. I alternate bottle/breast for each feeding, but have had to give her the bottle since she won't BF anymore. I'd greatly appreciate any recommendations to get her back to BF.
Many Thanks.

Plowmanators said...

twinmommy,

I am not really sure. I haven't ever had that happen before. I would try to be reassuring and calm about it to try to get her to BF. You might want to search out some BF support groups to see if they have any ideas--they are usually very anti-schedule, but this has nothing to do with a schedule :)

twinmommy said...

Congrats on your new baby! Thanks for your reply in the middle of your new addition. I am very blessed that both my pediatrician and lactation consultant are supportive of Babywise. Ultimately, a combination of your suggestions and theirs did the trick. Since I am back on track with breast feeding, I thought I'd post what worked.

I wake up in middle of the night to pump milk for my son. Then by the time they woke up, my breasts were nice and full again. In the first feed of the morning, my daughter was more hungry than feisty. She still cried when I would try to latch, but I kept at it. While she fussed, I "shhhhhh'ed" and gently swayed. Once she latched on, I continued the "shhhh" and swayed until she relaxed. When she starts to latch again without fussing, I am going to try at other times in the day. It's 3 days in a row of breast feeding after almost a 2 week strike, so I am ecstatic to have her back :)

Thanks again for your blog and all that you do for everyone else! You are amazing and an inspiration!

Plowmanators said...

Thanks so much for posting what worked for you! I am glad things are good.

J.A.W.S said...

Our 9 month old son will not leave the computer alone! I say his name, make eye contact, and tell him "That's a no," in a firm voice. After giving him a moment to stop, I repeat the process and move him elsewhere giving him a toy he can play with. This worked at first. Now he will go straight back to the computer/printer. This time I swat his hand and again tell him, "That's a no." I redirect him again. The next time I tell him no and put him in his bed for a couple of minutes. When I get him out, I take him to the computer and repeat, "That's a no." I usually end up having to stop what I am doing to guard the computer and make sure he doesn't go for it again. Our house is small so I can't totally move him out of the sight of the computer (unless I take him to his room, but we can't spend all day in there!). He usually smiles and laughs as he is "disobeying". Do you think he understands my directions and that he is doing wrong? Any suggestions you would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much!

Plowmanators said...

JAWS, with the smiling and laughing, I would guess that he is enjoying your attention when he does this. I would pay attention to when he does this most. Is it before a nap? Is he really just trying to get your attention and some mommy time? That can help you avoid conflict.

Also, I would just continue with what you are doing. Tell him that is a no and move him and distract him. He is still young and will soon learn to obey through your consistency.

Also, be sure you are without emotion. If you are getting frustrated, he might be enjoying seeing the emotional reaction from you. Remain calm and emotion less--matter-of-fact.

Jade said...

I was wondering if you have ever heard of the book "Shepherding a Childs Heart"? I know you are very busy but if you ever have time I would highly recommend it. It is a biblical teaching on disciplining children. I was suprised to read that you are not keen on spanking since you are a proffessing Christian and the Bible say to "spare the rod, spoil the child." To clarify, I never think spanking should be done out of anger but only love. This is an excellent book and I would be curious what you thought. Thanks!

Plowmanators said...

Jade, I have heard of it. It is on my list of things to read. But it definitely won't change my thoughts on spanking.

I like Leman's interpretation of "the rod." He points out that shepherds used it to guide, not hit, the sheep.

I honestly don't think the Lord would put into scripture to spank without also offering more guidance on the subject.

I don't necessarily think spanking is as a blanket statement wrong. I just don't think it is necessary. I think there are lots of other options that work just as well..and in my opinion better...for changing long-term behavior.

My husband and I have decided we will not spank, but I know good parents who do. It is a decision for every couple to make between each other and the Lord.

MrsCAH said...

Thank you so much for your blog. It’s been an invaluable resource for a 1st time mom like me. I’d really like your advice on how to handle my 15 month old. Obviously some defiance is a very normal part of toddler and childhood, but I’d like to know if there’s more I can be doing.

Charlie is a very sweet and rowdy 15 month old boy. He signs, please and more and uses them to ask for things. Often times he will whine when he wants something and I give him the “mommy glare” and say “How do you ask mommy nicely?” He will then sign please. In that respect he is a very well mannered and already knows how to use manners. The area I am struggling with is things he is not allowed to touch. We say “that’s a no no” and he knows full and well what those no no’s are (we’ve been consistent with them since before his 1st birthday). Sometimes he will even say “no no” when he touches them. The area where he plays is all but baby proofed except for 2-3 things he’s not allowed to touch. But he will ignore and defy my commands to not touch something until he sees me starting to move toward him, then he will run away from the no no. My method of disciple has been to give a verbal warning, once he touches the no no I remove him from the area and sit him on his bottom elsewhere and say that’s a no no as I take him away. If he goes back to the no no in the next few minutes I remind him that’s a no no while bringing him to his crib for a 1 minute time out. After he time out I bring him back to the scene of the crime and once again explain that touching this is a no no. He is very compliant after the time out and looks remorseful, but usually within 20 minutes will commit the same offense. I have tried hand swatting unsuccessfully and it seems I am making zero progress. Am I expecting too much for his to listen at his age? I know he’s learning but he doesn’t listen AT ALL when it comes to not touching. Is there anything else I can be doing?

Valerie Plowman said...

It sounds like you are doing things perfectly. He is testing like crazy--your consistency will be key to helping him in the long run. He might have a personality that is a boundary tester or he might just be initially testing things out to see if they are nos always. Just be consistent. They are little scientists. He will learn. Just keep your emotions out so you aren't getting offended--stay matter-of-fact about it all.

Cassandra Dowell said...

Hello! My situation is a lot like mrsCAH. I have a 12 month old and she will just not listen to me. I have never let her tough certain things in the house and can't remember ever giving in and just letting her do something that was a no no. I get so discouraged and feel like I'm such a bad parent :(. She won't come to me when I ask and almost 100% of the time will keep touching something I have asked her not to. My routine is if she is touching something she shouldn't, I say her name and wait for her to look at me (sometime she won't look at me so I move closer to her) then I tell her that's a no no don't touch. Most of the time she flashes a huge smile and just takes her little finger and touches the object over and over again. I then ask her again until I have to move her from the area. She goes right back to it and eventually ends up in the pack n play for 1 minute timeout. I know that every human being possesses a sinful nature and that it's just natural to disobey, but I figured I was working really hard and that by now she would at least come to me when I call. I can tell when she knows something isn't right because she looks at me right before and while she does it. Do you think I should start bringing her to her crib when she does something wrong everytime. The pack n play is in the living room so she still sees us when she is there, I just don't take her out till the timer goes off. I'm not a believer in babyproofing something's because I want her to obey no matter where she is. My biggest need is teaching her to come when I call? What are common mess ups in this area for moms and how can I go about teaching her this? Thanks so much in advance and I too am always coming to your blog for advice and info on my child's age group!

Valerie Plowman said...

I am smiling because she sounds a lot like McKenna :) it can be a hard personality to parent, but as she has gotten older, I have seen many benefits to her in life because of her personality. So don't despair!

As

Valerie Plowman said...

Sorry--as for what to do--first, she is still very young and won't be obeying very often right now.

To get her to come at this age, tell her to come to you, then get her, and then tell her good job for obeying you. She loves your attention, and if you can show her she can get a desirable response from being obedient then she will have motivation to be good.

Valerie Plowman said...

I would do isolation in another room. If she is like McKenna, a time out will be your best discipline tool. They love attention so to give a time out and rove attention from them is very undesirable.

Kelly said...

First off thank you so much for this blog! It has helped me so much being a first time parent. My daughter is 15 months old and is a very on the go, curious girl! I started pretty early on with swatting her hand with discipline to just get her attention when "that's a no" didn't work... This has done well before, but just recently she has been pushing boundaries. She is now climbing on everything which is now becoming dangerous and swatting her hand and timeouts don't work! The next day she is still climbing the same chair! I would have loved to keep from physical discipline, but also don't want to have a power struggle and distraction doesn't always work. I am also struggling with diaper changes. She has a complete tantrum every one of them. Also, getting dressed and pajama time is such the battle. I would love any advice you have to give. I read above you just have to find their currency and what discipline works, but I seem to be failing at that! Extra info is she is a chronic 40 min napper so I do always try to put into perspective that sometimes she is just tired. Thank you so much!

Valerie Plowman said...

You will want to keep tryig to find her currency. I wonder if she is given too much freedom for her age? Allowed to call the shots and make decisions. Look at my posts on they topic of "too many freedoms" and "wise in their own eyes" for ideas there.

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