Finding Alternatives to "No"

Toddler poutingSometimes children's behavior is upsetting and hard to manage. It is tempting to use an easy word "NO!" as our first response. All parents need to give a firm "no" sometimes, but we want to avoid overdoing it. We understand how important it is to begin early to set limits, because they are in our child's best interest. 

Ways to Stop Inappropriate Behavior and Encourage Appropriate Behavior 

As parents, it is easy to deal with problem behavior by saying or signing, "No!" or "Stop it!" However, if we use these words too much, they stop being effective. The following are ways to direct behaviors without using negative words like "no" or "stop it." 

State Things Positively Instead of Negatively 

You tell or show your baby what to do, instead of what not to do. For example, if your little one is throwing blocks, you can show her how to drop the block in the bucket. Learn more about redirecting behavior in positive directions.

Pick Your Battles 

Our goal is to limit negative feedback, but it depends on the situation.  

Dangerous behaviors should receive negative feedback: Chewing on electric cords can be fatal, so discipline is needed – this is a time you want to use a firm "no." 

A baby throwing a cup off the high chair may be trying to get your attention or has just discovered a fun new game. You can respond by giving attention, or by removing the cup.  This is a situation that can use positive words or signs, rather than negative feedback.

Your goal is to find a balance - you want to protect your baby from injury, but not squelch her curiosity.

Replace One Behavior with Another  

When your baby crawls toward the TV cord, you can replace it with a teething toy in another part of the room. 

Praise Even a Small Step Toward Your Goal 

If your baby chews on appropriate toys, you can smile, laugh, and say, "Does that feel good?" Learn more about using praise effectively.

Remove Your Attention 

Consistent attempts to reach the TV cord can result in time in the playpen or another room, while Mom or Dad sits and reads a book. 

You want to remove your child from the situation in a calm, matter-of-fact manner. 

Distract Your Baby 

You can distract your baby with something completely different, maybe something that does not encourage chewing. 

Use Phrases Without "NO" Words (No. Don't. Stop.) 

Instead of…. Try this wording…
"Don't hit the dog." "Gentle touching." (show child how) 
"No! Don't grab his toy." "That's his toy. We need to share." 
"No running! Stop it!" "We walk in the store." 
"No. Sit down!" "We sit in our high chair." (direct child to sit back down) 

Modify the Environment 

You can keep your baby away from the problem situation or area. You can gate off the TV area if your baby keeps treating the cord as a toy. She does not know it is an adult toy. 

More information about saying no positively.​