Thursday, March 17, 2011

Just Say No to No

We say “No” to our children entirely too often for my taste. Especially the little ones. Is it any wonder that the first word of many babies is “no”? With my first, I was always very careful not to say “no” to him. If he was getting into something he shouldn’t be getting into, I would redirect him and show him something he could get into. (For example, if he was trying to pull out the glass bowls, I would show him the plastic ones, trying to make them look infinitely more appealing than the glass ones – then I would push the glass bowls farther back in the cupboard).

I don’t know if it’s because I am older and so I’ve forgotten a little more what it was like to be a child, or if it’s because I have two children, or if it’s because we moved five times last year and drove half way across the country for four of those moved, or what – but I say “No” a lot more. Especially with my baby. Which is ironic.

So, I am going on a “No” strike.
I am going to try my hardest NOT to tell my children “No.”

Now for those of you worrying that I am going to spoil my children, I didn’t say that I was going to allow my children to do anything they wanted to or get anything they want. But there are better ways to stop undesirable behavior than saying “No” all the time, and I want to experiment and see if it makes my children more obedient and me less stressed.

Think about it. If you’re doing something someone doesn’t want you to do and they say “Stop that right now!” you would probably get frustrated – not to mention embarrassed. But what if they said “Hey, could you come over here and help me with this thing? If you keep doing that, ____ is going to happen.” (fill in the blank with the reason why you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing). It is also helpful, I think, to talk about why that thing happening is undesirable. Face it, if you tell a two year old not to throw something on the floor because it will shatter into a million pieces, they will probably throw it on the ground. But if you say “Why don’t we put that glass bowl up here on the counter. If we drop it an it breaks, we won’t be able to mix our cakes (cookies, etc) in it.” And then, immediately act – that is, if said child isn’t obeying right away, gently guide their hands to put the bowl where you want it (use only as much force as is necessary to get them to do it – you may not even have to touch them, they might just need you near them to do it.

Here is a real life example from this morning. I bought some cheap plastic planters from the store to repot my poinsettias, and they were sitting out while we were cutting out letters (more about that later). Well, empty buckets are just begging to be stepped in, so in go the feet. At first I wanted to yell “No! Get your feet out of my planters!” in a really stern tone. And I got as far as “No” before I remembered that I’m trying not to do that. So I said, “These pots aren’t for stepping in. If we step in them, they might break, and then we wouldn’t be able to put our plants in them” (since I had promised earlier that the kids could help plant the poinsettias, this was very effective). And then rather than stopping there, I said, “Why don’t we sort our letters into the buckets?” which was met with enthusiasm and we sorted letters.

So, which was more instructive? Just saying “No! Don’t step in my pots!” or what I ended up doing? Not only did they learn that if they step in stuff, it might break, but we also ended up with a fun sorting game that ended up being really educational.

This can also extend to your children asking for something to eat/do/play to which the answer is “no.” Instead of your child asking “Can I watch T.V.?” and you responding with “No.” try responding with an alternative activity and then participate in the activity WITH your child. For example, “Why don’t we read a book together, instead?” “Why don’t we go ride bikes?” “Why don’t we go play in the rain/snow/sleet?” (okay, I’m kidding about the sleet… but you get the picture). Same with food. “Can I have some cake?” “Why don’t I cut up and apple and let’s dip it in peanut butter?”

Here is my challenge to you – for the next 31 days (I’ll remind you on the blog) try to use alternatives to “no” with your children.

Here are some suggestions to help:

1.) Redirect the behavior. If possible, show the child how to use the object in a desirable way, or how to act in a desirable way in the circumstance.

2.) Explain how the action is offensive/undesirable, and try to explain why and make it matter to them.

3.) Get up and move. Physically help the child to do the desirable action. Be gentle, but firm.

4.) PRAISE the child when they begin to do the desirable action.


Let me know how this works for you. Is this your parenting style already? How does it work for you? Are the other methods that you use to try not to say “No” to your children?

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