Don’t eat that! Put that down!”
Do you feel like you say no all day long? Here’s how to make your negatives a positive.
Once upon a time, there was a well-meaning couple of parents who decided they never wanted to say “no” to their children. “’No’ is such a negative word!” they declared. “We want our children to feel free to do what they want to do and to speak their minds!” .. and then their first child learned to crawl. The end!
Not only did the poor parents find it impossible to avoid saying “no,” they found themselves saying it all day, every day and half the night. Not only that, but as soon as their son learned to talk it became his favorite word, too, and they felt constantly guilty because the happy home life they had hoped for had turned in to one big downer.
What to do?
- Distract. Try to step in the instant you see your toddler start to think about going wrong: he’s charging toward the potted plant or with hands about to go around the kitty’s neck. Steer him elsewhere or hand him something better instead. (“Look! Here’s a book we can read!” “Hey, blocks!”)
- Use sparingly. Over “no”-ing your child can also make your “no” less effective. To avoid overusing “no” and “don’t,” try to save them mostly for when you urgently need to stop your toddler from doing something this second. If it’s not an urgent situation, instead say what you do want them to do. Toddlers are not good at hearing the “don’t” and are more apt to just catch what comes after– like if you say “Hey! Don’t eat the dog food!” “…eat the dog food!” will be what they hear. “Drop the dog food” or “spit it out!” is more effective.
- When you say it, mean it, and follow through if you have to. Say “no” assertively, without a question mark at the end. Nothing will dilute your “no” like saying no but then letting your child keep doing what they’re doing. In other words, if kid is poking the dog with a stick, you tell kid no and they don’t quit it immediately, you need to take that stick away. It’s really important that your kid knows to listen and respect your nos, for situations like when she’s about to step into traffic and you can’t get there fast enough to yank her away from the curb.
- And finally, make ‘yes’ easier by avoiding situations with a lot of built-in ‘nos.’ If you have a friend who collects rare glassware, invite that friend to your house until your child is older. Get a babysitter if you plan to go to a wedding or a nice restaurant. If you have to remind your child to use her “indoor voice” a lot, make sure she has some time every day to be outside and yell her head off. If you have a tidy house, make sure there’s at least one room where she can get wild. You get the idea.