Set Boundaries without Saying NO

boundaries gentle parenting household motherhood toddler

In our household, we do our best to limit the word no. Now, that doesn’t mean we let R run around wild doing whatever she pleases. It’s about restructuring the sentence to create the boundary without having to say no.

Boundaries are necessary for development of conscious, body safety, stress management, personal growth, and more. It’s a skill that needs to be taught. It doesn’t come overnight and requires a ton of patience and thought from the caregiver.

The easiest phrase to come up with when you see your kiddo doing something you don’t want them to is the word No. Not only does this halt them in their tracks and curiosity of said action or thing. It can also hinder their development.

Adults often forget that toddlers have never seen or done said activity or object before. Naturally, the toddler is going to be curious and feel, smell, taste, climb, or get closer to what it is. This is a perfect opportunity to help build some language skills with the child. You can describe the object or action in one word. Take it away or hold onto the child and bring them back to admire from afar. Then talk about the object with them. Tell them what it is, why their hands should stay off of it, etc.

Here are some examples I can share that I use with R:


She grabs for something she shouldn’t - “hands off please” - then usually talk to her about the object

Reaches into the recycling, trash, dishwasher - “blah, that’s yucky” or “dirty” - she then proceeds to mimic the blah blah and makes the face that goes with it. Haha it’s too cute

She wants to get up on the couch - “we’re going to keep our feet on the ground right now”

She’s crying or whining for me to pick her up - “I hear that you want me to pick you up, right now I am doing X. As soon as I can pick you up I will” you can then use distraction with “How about you go find X toy”. But I am acknowledging what she is wanting even though I can’t give it to her currently

She has a standing/learning tower that has a little ledge on it that she tries to stand on to get taller. I tell her our feet have to stay on the flat part to keep our body safe. If she is unable to do this after three times I take her off and see okay we are all done for today, we will try again tomorrow. We need to keep our body safe.


Other quick examples:

We aren’t going to do that right now

When you throw your food on the floor that tells me you are all done

Danger. Hot, we can’t touch that

I can’t let you hit, bite, sit on X or I can’t let you do that


It absolutely takes practice but once you start to implement it into your thought process when talking to your child it gets easier, I promise!

Now, with all this being said Reese knows the word no very well from us saying it to the animals. She always say ‘No, No, kitty’ and shakes her finger at him. It’s the cutest thing. So, she definitely knows the word no but we limit saying it to her.

Do you practice this in your household? Let me know your favorite way to set boundaries without saying no. Or what challenges are you having?

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