Don’t Just SAY No

Babies are sponges for language. By the time they are seven months old, way before they can speak, they can understand simple words–including “No!” But just because baby “understands” those two simple letters doesn’t mean issuing them is enough to keep your child and your home safe once he or she becomes mobile. It is so tempting to “just say no” from the relative comfort of your armchair when baby is on the rampage. Unfortunately, only by getting up and physically repositioning her can you guarantee she doesn’t pull down the drapes or yank out the cable wire or sample the potting soil. Of course, the more babyproofing you do, the fewer dangers baby will face. But there will still be some. Just accept that “No!” alone is not going to keep your baby (or your walls) safe from the Sharpie somebody left out on the kitchen counter. It isn’t going to rescue the alphabet book before another page gets torn or chewed. And then there’s the cat’s food…. An active, inquisitive baby can easily turn you into a “NO!” chorus. This is not just ineffective, it’s also bad for your relationship. Constant reprimands put everybody in a bad mood. So try to remember that saying “no!” or proclaiming “bad!” isn’t going to change a baby’s behavior. He just isn’t going to get it until he’s a toddler. A child is never too young to be spoken to. So even with a ten month old, it’s a good idea to say, “no! Hot!” if little fingers are reaching for your coffee. But until your child is old enough to process verbal commands never just say “No!” You also have to move the mug—or your baby.

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