If you aren’t aware by now, babies are cute. Insanely cute. So, it’s not surprising, then, that when babies begin doing things that aren’t so cute, like pulling your hair and chucking your glasses across the room, you may find yourself at a crossroads of what to do. For this reason, we at Yellodoor would like to embark upon the topic of when do babies understand no, and, what to do when your “no” just isn’t working.
When Do Babies Understand No
Though most babies don’t know the meaning behind the word “no” until around nine months, younger babies can certainly take a hint from your tone of voice and demeanour.
This isn’t to say that your baby will always know the meaning behind what you are saying every time you speak, but there are times, including when you are telling your baby “no ”, when they may actually be able to interpret what you mean.
This also doesn’t mean that your 9, 10 or even 11 month old child will mind your every “no” without exception. Indeed, there may be times when he or she simply doesn’t understand why you are saying no, and as a result, will resolve to continue doing whatever he or she is doing, despite your disapproval. Therefore, age plays a major role in how you should discipline, and how effective that discipline will be.
When Should I Tell My Baby No?
You may be wondering, “When can I start disciplining my baby?”
In most cases, you can begin to tell your baby no whenever he or she begins testing bounds. Many find this time to be synonymous with the time that babies become mobile, because it isn’t until then that baby is able to get into things.
Around that time too, and especially with older babies, you may find that your baby does things, such as pull your glasses off your face or nappy changes, that causes you frustration and even anger.
What’s important to note here is that while your baby may be doing something that frustrates you, it is likely that he or she is fleshing out their developmental impulses, such as grabbing things that are interesting to them, and aren’t intentionally trying to push your buttons.
Nevertheless, it is important that our children know boundaries, and setting them young is appropriate and healthy for all parties involved.
So, how can you get started?
We’re glad you asked!
How Do You Teach a Baby No?
To begin, we will start with the exclusive use of the word “no” and work our way to other ways in which you can lovingly and firmly set healthy and appropriate boundaries for your little one.
When teaching a baby the meaning of no, you’ll want to be consistent, fair and deliberate.
Consistent in the sense that when your baby frequently does the undesirable action, you don’t let it slide one day, but tell baby “no” about it the next.
Fair in that you aren’t going to want to be scolding a 6 month old baby for crying while you are trying to sleep, or yelling at him or her for dropping a toy. These actions are normal and developmentally appropriate for your child to be doing at their age, so punishing them for it is unreasonable.
And finally, deliberate, in the sense that, though you aren’t wanting to yell or scream at your little one, you are deliberate in what you are correcting and why you are correcting it.
Thus, when you are ready to exercise your “no” muscles, you’ll want to deliver the word in a firm and low-tone. It shouldn’t be high-pitched or sing-songy as this may confuse your baby.
Remember, babies under 9 months are unlikely to know what the word actually means in the first place, so your tone will be vital for getting your point across.
To add to that, be sure you aren’t laughing when setting healthy boundaries for your children. Though what babies and toddlers do is often funny, if it is something you want to stop for good, you’ll want to hold in that smirk and chuckle for a later time.
How Do You Discipline a Baby?
So, how else can you go about disciplining a baby? Rather than inappropriately scolding a 6 month old baby, think about setting bounds other ways, especially if the word “no” seems to be yielding no effect.
Try distracting your little one or preventing the unwanted behaviour from happening in the first place. This can be particularly helpful when the “behaviours” are things like constantly reaching for a toy while mummy or daddy is trying to dress the baby, or baby pulling on daddy’s beard as he carries him or her throughout the store.
Rather than wait for the baby to do these things, stay a step ahead by, for example, giving him or her a toy ahead of time before changing a diaper, or opting for using a stroller the next time you are out and about, so that your beard, or any other type of hair, isn’t as tempting to your little one to pull.
Another way to lovingly discipline a baby or toddler is to rephrase the unwanted behaviour in a positive way, and show, by example, the desired behaviour, instead.
An example of this would be taking your baby’s hand and showing how to lovingly stroke daddy’s beard, rather than to pull on it. Say things like, “Gentle touches,” in an uplifting and encouraging voice to show your baby that it is the desired action. This method is also particularly effective with toddlers.
Seven Tips For Successful Disciplining
If you are finding that, despite your best efforts, your methods of discipline are failing to be successful, consider the following additional tips:
- Rephrase: Try rephrasing your directives. Instead of shouting, “No running!” try “Walking feet, please!”
- Timer: Want to lower the chances of a melt down after telling your toddler he or she has to clean up or leave a place he or she loves? Try setting a timer. When it gets close to being times up, give your child a warning. That way, he or she won’t be caught off guard when you announce that the fun is over.
- Give choices: Sometimes, it helps to give little ones choices when you want them to do something, to help them take responsibility in whatever is going on. To do this, give the child two options that you wouldn’t mind if they chose either one. For example, if your toddler is having a tantrum, you may say something like “Would you like to clean up your toys by yourself or would you like me to help you?” In this instance, the child does not have the option to continue playing, but rather, must choose one of the options you’ve given them. Their playthings go into toy storage and you get a clean space. It’s a win-win!
- Be Consistent: It’s natural. Some days we feel up and some days we feel down. Nevertheless, it isn’t fair to our little ones when we let our mood dictate our demeanour for the day. Rather than being a strict disciplinarian one day and easy-going the next, seek to strike a consistent balance of setting high expectations daily. This goes for unnecessary toddler night waking, as well. This way, your children will know what to expect, and won’t be confused when they do something to make you frustrated that you were okay with just the day prior.
- Understand His or Her Current Developmental Stage: Remember that, particularly for babies, some things just come natural. Pulling at things, putting things in the mouth and becoming distracted by noises, sounds and animals are all a part of your baby growing up. While it is okay to set expectations, it is important to remember that your baby is only doing what comes naturally to him or her. Rather than to yell at your baby, you may consider giving him or her an outlet to express themselves through sensory play and other engaging tasks, and to also try distraction and prevention techniques as described in sections above.
- Don’t Stoop Down on Their Level: That’s right, mum and dad. Now is not the time to stoop to your baby or toddlers level. So, when your little one blows raspberries at you or screams, it isn’t wise to do the same thing back. Not only does it look bad, but it also set the wrong standards and expectations for your baby or toddler. Instead, try modelling the behaviour you want to see, and enforcing consequences that are fitting for the offence in a way that is mature and self-controlled. You can even try giving rewards, like these Humpty-Dumpty plasters to commend job well-done.
- Routine: Is your day filled with chaos? If so, you may need to reconsider. Many babies and toddler thrive in organised environments, even if they themselves aren’t. Therefore, though you may not realise it, a consistent routine brings a level of sanity and serenity to your baby or toddler that may help him or her regulate their emotions.
Proper Discipline Takes Time and Effort, But Is Totally Worth It!
All in all, though parenting and discipline can be tough, it is worth the effort.
Discipline is a means of love to show your child healthy boundaries and to teach appropriate behaviour. As such, it is worth it to be intentional about the means by which you discipline, and to do so with consistency, fairness, maturity and firmness in mind.
In the end, you’ll likely see all the hard work you put into it being returned to you…in more ways than one!