Monday, January 4, 2010

Say No to No

I was on a forum a few days ago and there was a question that was asked by a mom. In summary, she was asking if 6 months was too young to tell your child "NO." I was a little disappointed by some of the responses given. The majority of them went something like this "I've heard it's not good to tell them NO but I do it anyway" or like this "I've been told NO and I turned out fine."

It's not a great comparison but it sounds like what people say in response to drinking and driving. "I know that I've had a couple drinks and I shouldn't drive but I'm going to do it anyway. Hey look, I made it home safely!" or "I know lots of people that drive after a couple beers and they're just fine." Just because not every time ends in tragedy doesn't make it the right thing to do.

Saying NO is something I've got a strong opinion about (I have strong opinions about a lot of things lol). The reason why we're told that saying NO is a bad thing is because it's a negative word and we're supposed to be in a world full of positive parenting, aren't we?

Here is what I put as my response to this question:
I say "ah ah" with my son and have since he was little. I don't personally like saying no all the time (though there are occasions that call for it). I just feel that if a child hears "no" and "don't do that" all the time it instills a lot of negativity in them. I think that a lot of "no's" isn't really setting boundaries. It's just telling them everything they can't do.
If my son puts his feet on the table for example, instead of saying "don't do that" I tell him, "feet go under the table." I give him something positive that he can do. If he throws a toy, I don't instantly tell him he's doing something wrong. I tell him "you need to be gentle with your toys" or " please put the toy back on the shelf." Put yourself in your child's shoes. How do you feel when some one's telling you "no" constantly and telling you you can't do anything. It would probably exasperate you as well. It's about giving kids opportunities to listen and do the right thing, instead of being scolded for doing the wrong thing all the time. Even if you do decide that "no" is a word you want to use, always back it up with something positive. "No, you can't do that, But you can do this instead."

With the work that I used to do and the atmosphere in the office I've learned the value of positivity. I used to work in a office that was mostly positive but there was still a decent amount of grumbling about customers, bills, the boss etc. I felt very drained after a day at work and wasn't always in the greatest mood when I got home. The negative things people say truly to affect you, whether you want them to or not.
The next place that I worked has an extremely positive atmosphere. There was very minimal grumbling and complaining. Instead, if there was a problem, we figured out how to deal with it. Compliments and encouraging words abounded. I was excited to go into the office and felt energized when I left! I felt like I could conquer the world and that I was capable of doing whatever I put my mind too. While I worked at this "positive office" (for lack of a better term) I also did a lot of reading on personal development and heard a number of speakers on the subject. I will never forget one phrase I learned "don't walk away from the negative people in your life. RUN from them!" We all have complainers in our circle of friends. These are the "woe is me" people. They are draining to be around and you feel worse after you see them than you did before your visit.

I am talking about this because that's exactly what constant NOs reflect to your children. What kind of difference would it make if that negative friend were to change her (or his) thinking from "I don't want to go to work because my boss doesn't appreciate me and always takes advantage of me" to something along the lines of "I'm really looking forward dealing with the customers and my co-workers at my work"? Do you think it might change her whole outlook on the day? (I say her because most of my friends are female so I think female when I think friend. I'm not talking about anyone in particular.)

Now put that same attitude towards out children. Do we want them to grow up with negativity all around them? Do we want to be that negative person that our children should "run away" from? Do we want them walk into the living room and see all the NOs they can't touch and start to feel down and limited in what they can do? Or do we want them to walk into the living room and say, "I know I can't play with that but I get to play with ALL THESE TOYS!!!!"

This was what took place at my breakfast table:
Caleb: signed Cheese
Mama: You can have peanut butter sandwich or your apple.
Caleb: signed cheese (quite frantically)
Mama: You can have peanut butter sandwich your apple.
Caleb: signed cheese
Mama: Sandwich or apple.
Caleb: chose neither. And didn't get cheese either.

I "won" that discussion and didn't have to say NO even once.

I have a corner with a table that has picture frames on it. Caleb is not allowed to touch them. He know this and I've never had to tell him NO. I tell him "this corner is not for Caleb." Or "these are mama's, you can play with your toys instead." Some things have to be repeated more often but Caleb is proof that you can have a NO-free household. (It's very cute because he actually points at the corner and shakes his head and then moves on to his toy box. Most of the time anyway, sometimes he needs a gentle reminder. The reminder consists of me saying sternly "Caleb" and he usually listens right away.)

Besides all of the positive encouragement that Caleb gets from this there is another wonderful benefit. He's nearly 2 and has never told me no either.

If you want more ideas here is a great article on 18 Ways to say NO Positively.

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