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Do We Say "No!" Too Much?

by Cynthia Dermody on July 4, 2009 at 7:34 AM
alternatives to the word no

Photo by Veela

When toddlers hit a certain age, there are days when it seems like "no" is the only word that comes out of your mouth. "No, you can't eat the cat's food," "No, that will break," "No, you can't draw on the wall."

A couple things happen at that point. You get bogged down in all that negativity, the word starts to lose some of its power, and eventually your child starts repeating it right back to you.

Then you'll never get rid of it!

One mom in the Old Fashioned & Anti Mainstream Moms is looking for alternatives to the word "no" for her 1 year old.

"I tend to over-talk (Bobo, we don't touch the table cloth because all the stuff will fall down and Bobo will get hurt"). So we usually go with the less wordy "no" and redirection, but I'm looking for other words to get the point across."

Fellow moms say these terms work equally well with their toddlers:


Don't touch

Stay away



Be gentle

Not for ______ (child's name)

Hands off

Please don't

That's owie


Question: When disciplining toddlers, is it possible to overuse the word "no"?
  1. Yes 88%
  2. No, no, no, not at all 10%
  3. Other 1%
Total Votes: 68
Voting on polls is not available on The Stir Mobile.


Do you stick with "no" or have you found alternative terms to indicate your toddler shouldn't be doing that? Is using "no" over and over damaging in any way?

Filed Under: development & growth, discipline, language, learning


  • toria...


    July 4, 2009 at 1:45 PM

    I think the key is to add those extra words "No, you can't eat the cat food." As long as you are explaining the situation, I think it's fine. Now just NO! all the time could get old quickly.

  • JPsMo...


    July 4, 2009 at 2:29 PM

    No isn't always the best response, it's just the shortest and fastest.  I try to use the right response, which tends to be Stop.  However, the other thing I do is try to give a Yes for every No or Stop or other negative response.  It is possible to overuse negative responses too much if positive alternatives aren't given to help the children learn to re-direct themselves.  It's one of my most common responses - for every NO, give a YES on what your child CAN do.  Don't keep the focus on what they CANNOT do - change your negative to a positive, then it won't be so burdensome for you OR your child.

  • Goggle


    July 4, 2009 at 2:40 PM

    Saying no is a necessary evil to keep your child from harm and to also teach him/her how to behave. However, it's possble and fun to balance it with a lot of YES-es!

  • LadyKiki


    July 4, 2009 at 6:27 PM

    I know I saw it a lot more than I use to. I usually try to use "No!" for when he is getting into something that could be dangerous. I baby proof the house but it's amazing what the little guy finds to get into. If I see him doing something that is not to dangerous, but he isn't suppose to be doing it, I give him a "Ethan Alexander...what are you doing?".

  • twotw...


    July 4, 2009 at 9:20 PM

    I am soo glad their are others like me out there!! I feel like all I do is tell my 18month old twins NO!!!!! all day long, but the kicker of it is, I don't think they even know what I'm talking about. They don't listen at all when I say it so, I usually have to pull them off or away from what ever it is they are on or into.Sometimes I'd like to be the one that cry's....

  • jagrus


    July 5, 2009 at 2:09 PM

    Our baby is only 6 months and learning to crawl. He doe a lot of moving around on his belly and crawling backwards. He wil crawl under the table and the tv stand, so i am already using the word NO. Yes it is awful I am telling him No, But then he is also a hair puller. It is never early enough to tell tem no. If they hear the tone in your voice early then they will learn when they get big.

  • worka...


    July 6, 2009 at 12:54 AM
    No can be overused, they might end up getting a kick out of you saying it, since they are figuring out cause and effect (well, at least my crazy one does). Basically this age I call my "workout age" and it's a lot of physical work because you have to redirect the child at all times. A child at this age won't hear the word no and go "oh, that's right, I can't do that". To an extent, yes, sometimes. But overall, no. That's the first thing I think about when I get "baby fever".... do I want to go through the terrible two's again? LOL.....heck with the newborn phase, that's a peice of cake compared to the very exhausting two's. That is why it is very important to have a house full of activities to keep little one's busy. I know the cue when my toddler is bored, he acts out the worst. But, it's also not like I've got to sit and entertain him all day. Once Curious George is on the tube he's a zombie, and I get a 1/2 hr of me time. And, he can play his legos quietly for a bit, too........ not an easy age, but it's doable.
  • Poled...


    July 6, 2009 at 6:41 PM

    I do think that "no" can be over used. I have always explained things to my children, but sometimes no is the best option....I just try not to over use it.big smile mini

  • kara_g.


    July 7, 2009 at 8:56 AM
    Kids develop no-deafness. Instead of "don't jump on the couch!" try "You can jump on these pillows". It sets boundaries and lets kids know what they CAN do.
  • fmchavez


    July 7, 2009 at 10:28 AM

    It sure can be overused. I use Stop or Leave it alone, in place of no. Also, I always praise her for listening to me when I do say no.

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