Setting Limits

Month 20
Month 22
Month 24

Last Month's Wow:

Memory and Storytelling

Using repetition, visualization, and elaborate storytelling can lay the foundation for healthy memory development.

The Wow of Now:

Setting Limits

Your baby may live in the now, but loving and consistent limits can help them establish a sense of “later.” This helps develop the ability to delay gratification, a key to impulse control and regulation as they age.

The Wow Ahead:

Two-Word Phrases

Two-word phrases may begin to replace “no” and represent a less rigid mindset for baby. Prepare to chuckle when you hear them repeat the phrases you use every day, and take their copy-cat ways as a hint to be more mindful about your words.

The Wow

Setting consistent limits around what baby can and cannot do is actually a way to demonstrate love. Limits—the kind created with empathy, understanding, consistency (reassurance via the predictability of routine)— help babies feel secure, safe, and cared for (and have nothing to do with punishment). At this age, setting a limit isn’t just about rule-following. It’s about introducing boundaries on behavior, and helping baby figure out alternate ways to express themselves. 
Knowing the boundaries (and that there are boundaries) helps baby to organize their behavior, find their own limits, and build trust with their primary caregiver (that’s you!). Limits help them understand how to respond to stimulus: Is that allowed? What are the risks and consequences? These ideas drive cognitive skills like cause and effect and help us to feel less overwhelmed by emotions.

The How

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    Decide on Limits as a Family

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    Talk with your partner or co-parent about the limits that make sense for your family. Limits look different to all of us depending on values, realities, and temperament. Having a loving and supportive relationship with baby doesn’t mean that you never say “no”. It means that you make decisions in order to keep them safe, help them to grow healthy and strong, and set good habits for the future.  

    With that said, try to save your no’s for things that pose a risk to safety. Overuse can result in them not hearing it at all. Discuss with all caregivers how to respond when baby tests the limits and which alternatives to teach them instead. This may look something like:

    “I know you’re mad, but hitting is never allowed in this family because it hurts people. You can yell ‘I’m mad’ instead or stomp your feet on the ground.”


    Limits and structure–knowing what you can and cannot do–make baby feel safe and allow them room to grow and learn. In addition, allowing them to experience negative feelings is an important ingredient in building resilience. If we never say “no” or set limits, baby won’t learn how to manage that experience and will be unprepared for the many limits that exist in the world around them.

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    Routine: Play Time
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    This activity is simple but powerful - give your child several clothespins and show them how they open and close. Next, name a body part and ask your little one to clip the clothespin on that part of your body.


    This playful game exercises your child's fine motor skills (pinching the clothespin) and also engages semantic memory as they remember body parts. Further, by familiarizing your child with the body, they are able to become more self-aware and in tune with their own body.

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    Enthusiastic Helper

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    Giving baby some independence through everyday activities can help gain their compliance. Say, washing their hands (Our Shampoo and Body Wash System works wonders as hand soap), brushing their teeth and hair, and exploring how to dress and undress. Even putting on and taking off shoes can be an opportunity to promote self-care and independence.

    Can they be the toy picker-upper?
    The crumb monitor (or work the dust-buster themselves)?
    The kitchen table wiper (with Our Cleaning System and spray bottle)
    The hamper checker?
    The dog cuddler?
    The laundry day sock finder?

    Think of creative ways they can build pride through responsibilities in the home. Giving baby small but important jobs–especially ones they know are usually done by you– helps to promote a sense of independence that supports their need for autonomy.


    For baby, saying “no!” is a sign of experimenting with expressions around preference and independence. They are entering a phase of new independence and starting to explore playing a more active role in self-care. This won’t be consistent, but allowing them to gain skills and interest in some activities can help to promote confidence and autonomy.

Support for You

Nailing your parenting style is a balance of limits and sensitivity. This balance is constantly shifting to meet our children where they are, to account for their needs, temperament, environment, and to make sure we are consistent with how we respond in certain situations. Limits should be consistent as much as possible: “Hitting will not be allowed.” “Bedtime is when I say so.” There’s comfort in knowing where the limit is and that even if they push against it, the limit will stand. When we cave, or suddenly don’t have the expected response, it can be dysregulating for baby. They come to know what to expect, and even when challenging it, they take comfort in knowing it won’t change.

Let's Check on the Basics

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Is baby eating?
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Is baby sleeping?
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Is baby pooping?

Yes on all three? Great! One or more No’s? Let’s talk about it.
Contact us for support resources!

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