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The Informed Parent

The 5 D’s of Discipline: Teaching the Concept of “No”

by Lori A. Livingston, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Oct. 27, 2008

During the first nine months of an infant’s life parents appropriately focus on nurturing and showing unconditional love to their young child.

As an infant matures, the parent’s role should transition to include that of teacher. Nine months of age is the perfect time to start teaching your infant what ”No” means. Child psychologists agree that children develop best when parents provide consistent limits and act as the authority figure in the child’s life. With this consistent guidance, love and security your child will learn what behavior is acceptable and what is not. He will learn how to problem solve and be creative, and learn to be an individual. A parent’s discipline helps a child to grow up with self-control, self-sufficiency, and independence.

So, how can you teach your child the concept of “No”? The five D’s can help…..

  1. Determine the rules:
    While everything your infant does will understandably be new and cute, when he does some things repeatedly over weeks, it will likely become unacceptable or annoying. It is vitally important for parents to agree on “the rules” beforehand and BE UNITED in enforcing them because young children are experts at getting something from one parent when the other says no.
  2. Demeanor changes:
    When using the word ”no”, your face should be very SERIOUS and your voice lowered (especially important for moms). Infants and young children pay close attention to your FACE and TONE OF VOICE more than the actual words you are using.
  3. Displace the infant:
    Once you have said “no” to a behavior, MOVE your child away from the object if possible (ex.: hot stove).
  4. Distraction:
    Distract your infant with something else--a toy or a book usually work well.
  5. Diligence:
    Children learn from CONSISTENCY. This is usually the most difficult for parents to follow. Children often repeat unwanted behaviors over and over and over until parents are exhausted. They feel guilty for saying “no” all of the time and simply give up. DON’T GIVE UP, PARENTS! Consistency teaches children the consequences of their actions, allows them to change their behavior and develop self-control. When you are consistent with your actions, your child will learn quickly that you MEAN WHAT YOU SAY.

For more information, talk to your pediatrician and see the AAP’s “Guidance for Effective Discipline” at

Adapted from Contemporary Pediatrics.

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