One of the first words a baby says is “NO!”

Why is that?

and how do you react?

I read somewhere in my early daze of parenting that I should ask my baby permission to touch and talk my baby through what I am doing.  This helps language development, but also has one other very important element:

Teaching Respect

By modelling respect, our baby can learn this skill.

Why does this matter?

Respect is a skill that allows us to get along with others, and to hold our own.  In respecting yourself and knowing you are respected by others, you can in turn show respect.

By ‘Respect’, I mean: 

Due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.

By asking permission to do things for your baby, you are showing respect.  You are letting your baby know that how they feel is important.  As your baby grows and starts to express more complex feelings, the word ‘NO!” will get a workout.


Listening to this N0 and trying to work through it shows respect for your child.  Sometimes the No is unreasonable and you need to distract your child or hold them as they express their disappointment.

Here are 10 ways to teach respect:

1. Ask Permission (from birth)

2. Honour their reasonable NO!

3. Understand their unreasonable NO! and help them work through it.

4. Teach them the proper anatomical names of their body parts

5. Explain ‘private’ parts

6. Model Manners and insist on their use

7. Explain about differences and variety

8. Say No to unreasonable requests from your child and stick to it.

9. Say NO! to extra-familial* activities that you can’t commit to whole-heartedly

10. Volunteer generously to extra-familial activities that you can commit to whole-heartedly

This helps to lay down a foundation for the future, where the child understands that bodily autonomy is a human right and goes both ways, that it is important to say thank you and acknowledge what others have done for you, that helping others is important but is not limitless.  And hopefully, they will also learn that they can ask for help because they are loved and supported.


There is power in saying NO.  No is not a negative.

Further reading:

4 Ways Parents Teach Kids that Consent Doesn’t Matter

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: