Teaching your baby to listen to the word “no.” Baby can understand what no means and respond appropriately. This post discusses how to accomplish this.
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.
Tips to Teach Your Child To Understand “No”
Here are some tips to help you get your little one to understand and listen when you say “no.”
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 good at it, the better. This requires you to accept the fact that every person has their own strengths 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 aggressive 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
On Becoming Babywise II (affiliate) 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 Babywise 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?
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).
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 an 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.
- 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
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
- Katey Magill said…
What do you think about hand slapping/ flicking/ squeezing?February 22, 2008 1:10 PM
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: How to Know What Freedoms To Give Baby, Discipline Strategy: Surrender with Dignity, The “Mini-fit” , and this is for older, but you might find some ideas: Tantrums and Discipline
September 29, 2008 11:27 AM
Related Discipline Posts
- Actions Precede Beliefs
- How to Teach Your Baby Highchair Manners
- Tips for Baby-Proofing Your Home
- Benefits of Teaching Consequences
- Childishness vs. Foolishness: Responding When Kids Disobey
- Discipline: Start Early
- Discipline: Step-by-step Process
- Allow Your Child to Surrender with Dignity
- Distraction as a Discipline Tool
- Encouragement as a Discipline Tool
- House-Proofing: Pick your battles
- Public Behavior
- Self-Control: A Foundational Virtue
- Teaching Child to Come When Called
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