Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I met up with a friend and her baby last week, and she posed a lot of interesting questions when she asked if I reprimand Cheech. "Well, yeah... I guess... sort of", was my unsure answer. The thing is, I do call her out when she's doing something she's not supposed to, or when she's acting in a way that she doesn't need to be acting, but I'm not exactly sure I "reprimand" her.

Now that she is an advanced crawler, Cheech wants to get into everything. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. There comes a point when there's only so much baby-proofing you can do. For example, we have an indoor fig tree that she loves, loves, LOVES to climb up on and start tugging at the branches or shoving her little fists into the soil. Sitting on the floor, the tree hits the ceiling, it would not survive outside, and we have no intention on getting rid of it. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure that would be the solution to the problem at hand, anyway. Cheech is at an age now where she is definitely starting to become cognizant of how far she can or cannot push us. I understand that she is nowhere near becoming an expert on the subject, but I do see those little wheels turning.

Instinctually, when I see her tugging on a tree that could easily topple over and land right on top of her, my natural reaction is to yell out, "NO". I tend to have the same exact reaction to things like her trying to climb up our heater or our oven. Not only do I have no intention on being the parent that's always shouting "NO", but truth be told, on the occasions that I have panicked and yelled out at her, she's typically reacted by going about her business with a big, fat laugh and smile on her face. I had read somewhere that the average baby will understand the concept of "NO" at around 6 months, but you cannot expect him/her to respond to it (properly, at least) until they're closer to 12-18 months. They're little explorers at this age, and in order to learn, they're, in a way, programmed to test us a bit. A little frustrating, isn't it?

I had also read in the same article that instead of always shouting out the "N" word, a good approach is to tell them why what they're doing/touching isn't for babies (hot/dangerous/yucky), and lead them in the direction of something that is for babies. I've been practicing this technique for a few weeks, and it seems to be working really well for us. She loves being in the kitchen with me while I'm cooking, and since we have a more open floor plan, a safety gate wouldn't work for us. Now when she starts climbing up the side of the oven, in a very exaggerated voice, I tell her that it's hot and dangerous, and I hand her some tupperware and a couple rubber spatulas. Don't get me wrong, she's no Baby Einstein and this is a practice that definitely has to be repeated again, and again, and AGAIN, but I think it's a step in the right direction.

What say you? Do you have any techniques besides the obvious "NO" that have worked well for your family? I'd love to hear them.


  1. According to my readings on the subject, saying No to a baby that young won't do much because No is "abstract'...this is why often No = big smile on Alice's face (cool, I got more attention). When Alice does something dangerous, we tell her in a non agressive way (regular voice), while doing eye contact, "no, it is dangerous" or "no, it is dirty" (stupid cat box) and remove the object or give her something else to do. Eventually she will understand No properly (there is always a reason attached to the No)...anyway, this is my opinion :)

  2. yeah there is some weird scientific thing, i think, that actually makes no a more abstract and difficult to understand concept then yes. so we always try and use the positive inverse, when it is possible. when he grabs the cat too hard, instead of saying no! we tell/ask him to let go, and to be gentle. however for very dangerous moments, IE the heater i will firmly say NO, that is dangerous, then redirect. also if he bites my nipple.  

    A bunch of tips:

  3. I think we read the same article. I was thinking about it as I stared at our oven and our as-yet-uncrawling baby. I'm glad to know its working.

    So far, the only time I've had to redirect him is also with the cat and we are doing the same thing that Jamie said, I say "be gentle. We pet the kitty." and then show him how. Luckily we have a very understanding cat.

    Claudia, I don't even want to think about the cat box...

  4. One thing that worked for us was "naming" the no stuff - sort of like providing a one word or very simple explanation for why she wasn't supposed to touch something.

    Anytime she'd hurt herself we'd say "ouch. did you get an ouch?" Then when she'd be going for something that could hurt her like the oven, we could firmly say "no, ouch, hot" followed by a good old distract-and-redirect. "Ouch" worked for the dog and house plants too: gentle pat/touch, no ouch.

    Another example: for crotch-grabbing during diaper changes we went with "no, yucky, poop". She caught on pretty quick to everything we linked like this. The poop thing was also good when we starting spending more times in parks to keep her from investigating the dog crap left by lovely people.

    Now, at age 2, I'm just trying to figure out how to explain to her simply why she can't live on fruit snacks. Sigh.

  5. when i say no, esp loudly, to our 15 month old he either laughs or ignores me. this is how it's been for months. we use "danger" for anything that's really dangerous, try lots of distraction/re-direction, and allow things that make us a bit nervous, but won't cause major harm. in any case, once he explores something for awhile, he usually moves onto something new.
    after a full-day of melt-downs (my melt-downs, not finn's) when he was climbing on a chair and then climbing on the kichen table, i finally realized all i needed to do to keep him off of the table was to pull the chair out far enough so he couldn't reach the table. problem solved.
    in any case, i still say no at times, esp if something is a "real" no-no or if i'm tired and overwhelmed and not using my best skills, but saying no just doesn't seem to work well for us at all...

  6. What about moving stuff around the tree so that it's inaccessible? That's what I do with stuff that I don't want to get rid of.

    We haven't done the "no" stuff, but have done the "hot," "yuck," and whatever else stuff, situation-specific. He picked up "yuck" for the trash which was super cute, like when he runs off with stuff to put it in the "yuck." Sure, he puts his hand on the oven while saying "hot," but if it's super important, I'm there to play guard. He'll get it eventually.

    It will only be for several more months. We've just experienced in a really short amount of time a focus-shift where what used to be dangerous is often ignored due to just plumb growing up a bit and having a different filter. I mean, we're talking weeks difference here. It's weird.