How to teach "no" to 9 month old?

[deleted account] ( 17 moms have responded )

How do I teach the meaning of "no" to a 9 month old? He's crawling everywhere and is very, very curious and wants to get into everything.

Is it just something that takes time?

Obviously I'm not interested in "tapping" his hand or any part of his body. Having watched Super Nanny, I thought I was supposed to use low, stern tones when telling him not to do something. But he's an easy-tempered little baby, and he seems to respond better to normal-toned explanations (though of course he doesn't understand the words) and distraction.

Sometimes if I let him touch something he shouldn't (while supervising him), it seems to relieve his curiosity a little bit and he loses interest.

What are your strategies? I worry that I won't be able to take him anywhere, like friends' houses, because he will wreck their house.


Elizabeth - posted on 06/19/2011




First, I recommend that you don't use the word no except for emergencies. If you don't use the word no, your child won't go through that no stage when they are two or three.

Whatever you choice, there will be a lot of repetition. I had the time and patience to be very attentive to my daughter. I would tell her don't touch while I would intercept her hands. I would tell her that she could look. I would even pick up items and hold them for her and talk about it (colors, what it is etc.) Every time she would reach for it I would again say don't touch. If she was calm and not grabbing for it, sometimes I would say you may touch and guide her hand to do it gently. Sometimes she could even hold something with me right there. Although it was more time at one setting, I think that because I allowed her the exploration of the objects she was no longer interested and I spent less time over a course because I wasn't constantly trying to prevent her from getting the object. I would reinforce this lesson at the store by occasionaly stopping for something interesting and tell her to look and talk about it, or I would pick something up and say look (a pink bunny) touch it (it's soft) After a while she would start saying look and she would ask permission to touch "touch?"

When I went to friends and family, I would do a quick sweep with my eyes to see where the breakables were and then I would ask my hostess if she would mind if I put those items up higher or in another room until we were ready to leave because I didn't want them to get broken. I said "my little one loves to explore and I'd like to spend the time visiting you. This way I won't have to spend so much time keeping her away from those things, and I can spend more time with you. "Actually I never got that far. As soon as I said about little one exploring everyone was like "oh, I should have thought about that" and started putting things up and from then on, if they knew we were coming, they would put their breakables up. After the place was a little more child friendly, I would take her around a bit and explore the room together. Once again it took time in the beginning of the visit, but I really think it saved time in the long run. I would always have them keep one breakable out, right in front of me so interception would be no problem and she would learn that she would still be bound by the same rules as she was at home.

Karen - posted on 06/23/2011




I taught my daughter "1 finger touching." Basically it was a way to make it okay to touch pretty much anything (with my help and close supervision at times) with only one finger. Now (she's 2yr7mo) I can take her into a store and say, "this is a one finger store." and she lifts up her one little finger and goes around barely touching things. It's been very helpful. I rarely have to say no about touching things.

Jenni - posted on 06/19/2011




Best strategies for a 9 month old on the go, baby proof! Put all the breakables away for the next year or so. ;)
I still use 'no' sometimes with my 13 month old, but sparingly... or "close it", "Don't touch" more for teaching than an actually command. I guess you could do it by pulling his hand back gently and saying 'no'. But really, at this age they lack impulse control. Even when I tell my daughter 'no' or to 'close it' she'll just try again a few seconds or minutes later.
Anytime I was at a friends house with breakables, I was on them like white on rice. I'm not saying it didn't drive me bonkers being at a friends house who didn't have kids or older kids, it did. But they're just not developmentally ready to listen to commands like 'no'. They may begin to understand it at that age, but the chances of them listening is another story.
Keep him busy and distracted with other things and toys.
And yes, it is difficult to take them places at this age. But it gets easier. It's difficult but it can be done, just involves a lot of work. I always invited my childless friends to our house ;)

Jenni - posted on 06/22/2011




Elfrieda reminds me of a helpful tip. Have a baby cupboard or drawer. I have two right now that my daughter is allowed to explore. It kinda takes the curiosity out of going into drawers. You know how quickly babies bore of things. ;)

I keep containers, bowls, pots and pans, safe utensils etc that she is allowed to take out and play with. I think she's already bored of it, haha. She hasn't been going in there in about a month, her curiosity is satisfied.

Elisa - posted on 06/22/2011




Persistance. Its alot of NO's and praising when they have caught on each time. It was probablly around a year old that I started even putting bright colored signs on stuff like the printer that said "NO" and if I saw him touch, I would say no and point to the sign. He caught on very quickly, but also takes persistance.


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Dominic - posted on 07/27/2013




That's awesome.I will use that knowledge next time I visit family and friends.I talk to my babygirl all the yeah'im talking my head off to my 9 month old at be surprised how your lil one picks up on things.she called me dada before mama HA!

Jenni - posted on 06/24/2011




Wow! That IS an awesome idea Karen!
My 13 month old has had an obession with touching things with one finger since she was 4-5 months old (that and putting clothes on!) But she's always prodding things with her pointer finger. She likes to pick flowers for me when we're outside but started going for the garden instead of the weeds. So I taught her 'don't pick' and now she'll just touch them with her 1 finger. But I never thought of teaching her "1 finger touching." I will definitely encourage her with it.

[deleted account]

Thanks for the advice, ladies! I love this community.

My son's doing pretty good. I had to re-arrange some things in my flat once again. (It seems like baby-proofing comes in stages. First it's "no things that will kill you" -- now it's "what did you do??")

In the time it took me to take his dinner from the kitchen to the dining table (our tiny flat is 600 sq ft), he managed to get a cannister of flour from a low shelf and dump the entire contents on the floor.

And there are some things we can't re-arrange, like his father's computer which fascinates him. My husband works partly from home, but I can't take much advantage of it -- I can't leave my son in his dad's study to have some quiet time to myself, because he goes straight for the computer and drives my husband nuts while he's trying to work.

He's funny though. :) He likes to sit in front of the washing machine and "talk" to it.

Elfrieda - posted on 06/22/2011




I found that 9 months was exactly when my son started to learn what "no" means, but just barely. I didn't like following him around taking stuff away, so most of our main floor was baby-proofed, but there were a few areas in the rest of the house (bathroom cupboard, bookshelf upstairs, the cat's tail) that I tried to teach him were off-limits.

That was my attempt at the middle route between 'dictator mom with robot baby' and 'coward mom with bratty baby'. It worked, mostly, but I had to be soooo repetitive. But now he's 18 months, and he knows if I remind him. We have just started to have a bit of a problem with him again, I think he's testing the boundaries. But that was over 6 months of co-operative baby, and now that he's older I don't have to worry about whether he understands or not. I know he does, so then there are consequences.

If you feel like maybe he doesn't quite understand, I wouldn't punish him, just take him away and give him something else to play with. Start teaching him 'no' next month instead, when you're more certain he's ready to learn.

Candace - posted on 06/20/2011




Redirection and Distraction! Kids are pretty easy to distract with another toy or activity at that age. Use it alot now because in a few months, you'll just get temper tantrums and there is a whole other post!

Nikki - posted on 06/20/2011




I agree with Jenn, baby proof. Even if they begin to understand the concept of no, their need to explore the world is an important part of their development. Get rid of everything that is unsafe or you don't want broken, you will save yourself a lot of stress!

[deleted account]

Thanks for your responses, ladies.

We baby-proofed when he first started crawling, so nothing he can get into will harm him, but for some reason I was under the impression I should be trying to teach him "no" at this age -- probably got that from the same source which said he should be sleeping through the night now (ARGH!).

We started out trying to restrict stuff that was "Mommy and Daddy's things, not Tommy's things."

Well, that lasted two days. Now I'm like, "Unless it'll kill you, go for it, kid."

(Can you tell I'm sleep-deprived?)

Jenni - posted on 06/19/2011




I dreaded going to childless couple's houses (or houses with older children) I'd never get to visit. I'd just spend the whole time saving vases and knick knacks from crashing to the floor. Following my LO's around going "Gah!!!" "Don't touch that" "Ooops!" "Oh No!" and my poor little ones would end up so frustrated and cry.
I'd always try to bring their fav toys and stuff but do you think they want to play with those when there's so many new cool stuff to investigate? lol
I just always tried to invite people over to my house instead. ;)

[deleted account]

AND, yes......UNFORTUNATELY you'll sound like a broken record and want to sever your own vocal cords. It definitely takes time. Gah! ;)

[deleted account]

Unless something was dangerous, I just let Roxanne explore and touch, with my supervision of course. I just realized that by letting her explore more things, she lost interest quickly and moved on. I think that sometimes when we restrict their access to TOO many things, it makes them more curious.

I didn't use the word "no".......I preferred "STOP" and then redirect to a positive activity.

Jaime - posted on 06/19/2011




Not possible to teach a 9 month old the word 'no'. Infants lack the ability to reason, so even if you tell them 'no' a thousand times, it doesn't register with them until they start to comprehend even the basics of communication through speech after they turn a year old. Like Jenn suggested, baby proof and move the breakables and just continue to be firm and consistent with other things. I like the suggestion of using alternatives to the word 'no', like Jenn also mentioned. With my son I always used "not for Gray", or "ah ah, don't touch please". It's frustrating as hell, but eventually he will learn not to touch things.

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