Most of the times I restrict my 10 month old on doing things which I feel would have a negative impact on him. For example, I say NO in a louder tone when he makes a desperate attempt to put his hand to loose cables in home, when he tries to hold shoes or when he tries to pull window blinds but then he stops.

The same practice is adopted by my spouse. But sometimes we act good-dad-bad-mom, good-mom-bad-dad.

My question is whether this is a good practice of restricting infants/toddlers? We feel that we are imposing authority on our son on almost everything which in future would affect him adversely. He would develop the same fear for everything. He would also fear that someone would say NO on whatever he is attempting to do?

5 Answers 5


At 10 months some children begin to understand the word no, but many child development theorists, parenting coaches, and other "experts" in the field of caring for and raising children recommend limiting it's use. Here is one perspective on not saying no which suggests common techniques to use instead.

  • A major tactic to use is rephrasing. For example instead of "No throwing food," try "Food stays on the tray or goes in your mouth." Instead of "Don't hit," say "gentle touch," while helping your child touch his or her own face gently for illustration.

  • Another common thing to do is teach a few alternate words instead of a forceful "NO!" Many families use "danger" and "hot!" for things like the stove or oven.

  • Another useful tactic if your child persists in attempting something that is against the rules is to focus on your role in preventing it. For example you could gently take your child away from the window blinds while saying, "Danger! Mommy/Daddy can't let you touch those blinds. The cord could hurt you."

  • A very big thing to do, as well, is to try and minimize dangerous items via childproofing. Keep blind cords out of the way via a cord shortener or by tying a knot where only adults can reach. Keep children out of the kitchen when the oven is on. Keep pot handles turned to the back. There are a lot more suggestions in this toddler child-proofing list and you can find many more via a web search. If you keep your blind cords out of the way, put loose wires behind furniture, and so on you give your child more room to explore with fewer nos.

That said, boundaries are hugely important for toddlers. They crave them. They need to know what they rules are and that their parents can calmly, clearly, and consistently enforce them. Dr. Frans Plooj, author of The Wonder Weeks describes this need well in his summary of toddler development around 17 months here.

When he has entered the world of principles, he yearns for rules. He is looking for chances to familiarize himself with them. Just like your kid deserves food everyday, he deserves rules too. Most rules he can only discover when given by you. Social rules in particular are important. You have to show him what is correct and what is incorrect behavior. There is no harm in laying down the law. On the contrary, you owe it to him, and who better to do so than someone who loves him?...

So, now is a good time to make sure he learns good behavior, for what he learns at this age “sticks” and is hard to change later on in life.

During this period a start is made with developing a conscience which is a system of norms and values. If the groundrules are not set now, and in the right way, negative consequences will be visible in the near future, to begin with the ‘Terrible Two’s.” As difficult or even impractical as it may seem to give this rule-setting and conscience-building so much of your time and effort at this early and changeable stage of your child’s life, it is an in-depth investment for the future. It will save you, your child and everyone around him a lot of misery.

You can’t spoil babies, but you can toddlers! By understanding what is happening inside that little head of your newly formed toddler – and remember, they are pretty savvy – you can shape the future behavior of your toddler and set values and norms that will carry him through life

Just remember that when enforcing boundaries calmness is huge. My toddler has taken to hitting, biting, and kicking for fun. She is too young to do it because it hurts. I tend to give her a consequence (holding her hands or legs) with a little bit of flair to it. Because I am containing the pain of having just been bitten or the frustration of having just been hit for the up-teenth time that day I'll be a little loud. I say, "Since you chose to hit Mommy, Mommy will hold your hands until you can make good choices on how to use them." However my dramatic manner causes my toddler to laugh and do whatever else she can think of that's against the rules to get a good reaction. My husband gets close to her head and whispers his explanation in a totally unruffled voice. "You know you aren't supposed to pull Daddy's leg hairs. I can't let you do that." In response to his complete calm my toddler herself calms down and immediately obeys. She's learned that hitting Daddy is not funny because there's no big reaction. You can see more about the importance of how you reinforce boundaries in point number 3 of this blog post from parenting coach Janet Landsbury. As she says,

The manner in which we give directions will determine whether or not our children follow them. Some parents need help perfecting their confident, matter-of-fact delivery, remembering to put a period (rather than a question like 'okay?') at the end of their sentences.

  • 1
    Upvoted for the rephrasing suggestions. Rephrasing is important for two reasons: 1) just saying no would result in a series of apparently arbitrary prohibitions, which would be frustrating for the child and lead to more probing of the boundaries; 2) the more you use the N-word now, the more likely it will get thrown back at you when the child learns to talk. Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 6:11

A 10-month-old is limited in his understanding of "no" and I would tend to agree with you that hearing it used loudly is probably negative and hearing it often is probably confusing. You might try a softer approach - when he reaches for something he should not, say No in a gentle but firm voice, and pick him up and move him to a more appropriate spot or hand him a more appropriate play thing.

At this age, you should be talking to him a lot in preparation for language development, so you can adopt a practice of saying something like, "No. We don't play with cables. Let's play with the red car." In our family, we used a slightly louder "No" for things that were truly dangerous, but we finished the thought just the same:"NO, we don't touch the stove. Here's a spoon for you to play with."

  • +1. We also use "No, not for [child's name], that is Mummy's" or whatever, to avoid confusion along the lines of "but you're touching it!"
    – Vicky
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 8:53
  • Appreciate the advice.
    – dmahapatro
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 23:45

Just remember that the more you repeat "no" to your child when they're a toddler, the more they'll repeat it to you when they're 2-3-4 years old.


Parents who spend their days yelling "No, don't touch, be careful, it's dangerous" at their offspring and not following through are a pet peeve of mine. I try to adopt a two-pronged strategy:

1) Resist the urge to say no, even when they're doing something patently stupid and/or dangerous. They're about to chew on a shoe? Let them chew on the shoe, it's not going to kill them and they'll eventually realize it tastes bad and stop eating it. They're reaching for a book at the edge of a table and it's about to fall on their head? Let them reach for it and have it fall on their head. Maybe they'll bump and fall and cry, but that's how they learn not to reach for things they can't grab.

And quite often you'll be astonished at how many things they can do given the chance when you're not telling them "No!" all the time. For example, shortly before his 2nd birthday, our son learned to leap two feet off a high platform at the playground onto a rope, grab onto it and shimmy down -- and then stopped doing it because he realized it was a bit too hard for him to do well.

2) When you do have to say no, don't just say it, do it. If they try to do something seriously dangerous, give them a sharp "No!" and then physically remove them from the temptation. The idea is to make it clear that "No!" is not an idle sound or negotiable request, it's a red line that cannot be crossed. And do try to remove those temptations if feasible: for example, those window blind wires that could cause the whole contraption to come crashing down on his head if yanked hard enough can be easily wrapped around a hook, safely out of reach.

  • 1
    I strongly agree with number 2. It is a tactic recommended by Terry Brazelton (author of Touchpoints) and several others. When your child is too young to actually listen to a verbal no it is best to physically enforce it.
    – justkt
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 13:47

Thank you for asking.

Your child is very young. It's not his obligation to conform to an adult friendly world. It is our obligation to make their environment safe until they understand. If you restrict your child constantly, that's what the brain will get accustomed to. Just like schools teach the terror of error which harms creativity. Watch Ken Robinsons Ted talk about that topic.

Just ask yourself one question. Despite having best intentions, would I like to be around someone who treats me like I treat my child? Be very honest there. Many parents get into habitual scolding and never realize that they wouldn't like to be treated that way themselves. Regarding respect, love and understanding, a child has exactly the same needs as any adult. There you should give him the rights of an adult. When it comes to the hot stove, there's the time to treat him like a child, knowing that a stove isn't something he can safely handle, making sure he can't operate it or come near it when it's on.

For a few days, take a notebook and count the positive and negative responses to your child. Make it measurable. You can't improve what you can't measure. There once was a statistic that children hear 17 no's for every yes. While the exact numbers are irrelevant, the tendency is clear. Would you like people who reject your behavior most of the time? How reassured does that make a child?

I have a family nearby that uses the child's name to scold him. Dozens of times a day. What do you think will this child associate to his name? Failure. Error. Wrong. What will it associate to the mother who restricts him constantly?

Children need to be curious and they need to make errors. Whoever works against that need starts slowing down the young brain.

So, sit together and ask yourself: What part of your behavior serves your child, what part mostly serves yourself? Childproofing was mentioned. How many no's are REALLY needed?

I am very sure, you want to raise an intelligent, bright and happy kid that has the will power and moral strength to be a good person. And you can.

One way to achieve that is to take a set amount of time per week and learn a lot about how children and people tick. One book a week. Then start practising the ideas that make sense. Constant and neverending improvement.

  • 1
    This is an interesting perspective, but I'm not sure how your answer relates to the question... is it "no, you shouldn't restrict your child at all, and restriction in general is harmful in the long term"? If so, do you have any references or citations with which to back that claim up?
    – user420
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 12:07
  • I strongly disagree that it is not the child's obligation to conform to an adult-friendly world. Yes, make accomodations for children being at their own developmental stage. However some day your child will have to conform, at least in some sense, to the world as it is. It's a parent's job to make sure the child can do so in an appropriate way.
    – justkt
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 13:00
  • That said there is some important information buried in this answer about not using negative talk excessively. A study was done (I don't have a link handy) that showed that the amount of positive talk to negative talk in the U.S. which kids heard varied by the economic standing of their parents. Children who were born to wealthier parents heard more positive talk. The study found that simply by increasing the number of words and amount of positive talk that children born to lower income parents heard the children had better academic outcomes.
    – justkt
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 13:02
  • A principal once told my own mother that it takes 10 positive comments to counteract 1 negative one. That said, that doesn't mean never to say no as far as I know. It just means to use rephrasing as well as lots of positive encouragement along with necessary nos.
    – justkt
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 13:02
  • I'm sorry for not having been clear enough. Yes, a child (in time) must learn to make good decisions with respect to their environment. Really wrong behavior shouldn't be punished, but should produce consistent results (like the temporary loss of a privelege). But we're talking about a ten month old child here. So, the abilities to understand that vases are fragile and cost money and falling from a table can break your neck, are limited. My statement wasn't meant to sound absolute. The demands should grow with the child. Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 13:40

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