Saying No


My sister has a very curious 10-month-old. He's always getting into things that he shouldn't. How do we teach him "no" without scaring him from exploring?

Dr. Greene`s Answer:

Ten months old is part of the Great Age of Exploration. Most kids have learned to maneuver across the room and they want to handle and examine (and often mouth) most everything they find. So the first step is to create a good environment for this. Remove as many things as possible that he shouldn’t mess with and strategically place cool things for him to explore. This reduces the need for saying no.

Still, kids do need to learn the word “no.” You want to reserve “no” for only a few things at that age–activities that might hurt the baby or others or objects that he might destroy. A simple “no” followed by “no touch,” then moving him or the object, is usually enough. If the room has a lot of items that can’t be moved, then a portable play yard is a good idea–a place where he can handle anything he finds. But again he should have new things to discover every day.

The word “gentle” is also a great one to teach. Model it for him when he is a bit too rough. Say “gentle” softly and then show him how to do what he was doing in a more pleasant way. Around other children, if he hits or bites, it’s time to say “no” firmly.

Last medical review on: May 07, 2008
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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