11 - 12 Months

How to redirect your baby without saying ‘no’

Parent holding a child

Telling your baby “no,” “stop,” or “don’t” can sometimes backfire. If you say it too often, your child may see it as a game and do it again to see your reaction. Your baby is not trying to anger or annoy you, but babies do tend to repeat behaviors that get a lot of attention 🙃

One option is to ignore what they’re doing, as long as it isn’t dangerous. They’re just experimenting and it’s important to give your baby freedom to explore. However, there may be some behaviors you decide you want to limit. 

Ways to redirect your baby without saying “no”

When they throw their food, try to speak in positive terms—it’s much easier for your baby to understand a positive command than a negative one. It can be tempting to say “no dropping food” when they drop food off their tray. The problem is, they may just hear “drop food.” Because of their stage of language processing, babies often hear only the last part of a sentence. To avoid this confusion, try saying, “Food stays on the tray,” and tap their tray to make it clear what you mean.

When they hit your face, it’s not a sign of aggression. They’re exploring with their hands and beginning to test your reactions. If you respond with a big, stern “NO HITTING!” you may inadvertently increase their desire to try again. Instead, show them a gentler way to touch your face by putting your hand over theirs, saying “Here’s how to use a gentle touch.”

When they pull on an electrical cord, say, “Let’s find something else we can pull on” and move them away from the cord. Tune into the action they want to take and find an alternative. For example, you could play a game of tug-of-war with a scarf or a toy with opposite easy-to-grasp sides, such as our Silicone Rattle with Removable Ball.

When they try to flip over on the changing table, try saying “Be still—I will give you a chance to wiggle once we’re done.” You could keep a small basket of novel trinkets near the changing table to distract your baby during diaper time.

When they put sand or dirt in their mouth, say “Sand stays on the ground” and give them something chewable to put in their mouth instead. 

When it’s necessary to say “no!”

Experts agree that saying “no” to an instinctive behavior, such as putting hands in dirt or throwing peas, can be confusing to a baby. Mess is inconvenient, but it’s how your baby learns

As much as possible, try to reserve “no” for when your baby is doing something harmful or dangerous, like biting, pulling a pet’s tail, or approaching a hot oven. In those cases, tell your baby “no!” in a stern voice, move them away from the danger, and shift their focus. By doing this, you can preserve the power of the word and help your baby learn what to avoid.


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Posted in: 11 - 12 Months, Parenting Philosophy, Social Emotional, Safety, Behavior, Lovevery App, Child Development

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