We’ve all heard it. The child yelling “No!” at the top of their lungs. It often seems like that is the first word that children learn to use on a regular basis. I hear it in restaurants, in stores, in church, and at the park. Children love to use that word to separate themselves as individuals.
But it doesn’t have to be something you hear day in and day out in your own home, from your own child. By creating a Yes Environment in your home you really can minimize the amount of obstinate No’s that you hear.
So what do I mean by a Yes Environment? I mean making your home (because that is the easiest place to start) a place where your child doesn’t hear the word No very often. There are two steps to this.
1. You have to make your home a safe, baby and toddler friendly atmosphere. No, you don’t have to live in a place that looks like a playpen, but you can minimize the obstacles that make living with your toddler on a day to day basis more work. This is called Baby proofing. How far you have to go with baby proofing depends entirely on your child. Some children seem to never have any interest in what is under the bathroom cabinets and some will be able to scale multiple obstacles, stack boxes into stairs and pick any lock you put in front of them just so they can see what is exactly in the middle of a jumbo roll of toilet paper. I have had a little of each extreme. But those little Search-and-Destroy types are truly exhausting. No matter what baby proofing aids you use you still have to be hyper vigilant about where they are every second. To create your Yes Environment, you want to remove as many reason for saying no as you can, but don’t even try to remove all of them. The child does still need to learn that there are just some things that you need to leave alone.
Safety is a important issue and Baby Proofing tools can make it a lot easier to handle. But never trust any gadget or device to keep your child safe from dangerous household chemicals.
Allow your child a few things to “get into” that are not strictly toys. Leave one kitchen cupboard with safe (if a bit messy) kitchen stuff like tupperware and cookie cutters. Hairbrushes are a fun thing for them to explore in the bathroom (and are a good deal more sanitary than the toilet brush!) While you fold laundry allow them to dismantle a nice stack of towels or a basket of socks.
2. Examine the language you use with your child. Save the word No for times that there is no alternative. Redirect your child whenever possible. And when it is not possible to redirect, try other phrases that still mean no.
An example of redirection: You stop by a friend’s house for a quick chat and your toddler spots a lovely statue on her coffee table. As you see your toddler heading in that direction with That Gleam in his eye, you get the urge to say No. Instead you say, “Isn’t that pretty? Mommy will help you touch it.” or “Let’s see if we can blow some dust off of this!” (while holding your hands behind your back). Allow a moment or two and then turn the child’s attention elsewhere. You have respected your child’s interest, but not allowed them to get themselves (or you) into trouble. If you child keeps going back to the statue, you may have to walk them through the process a few more times before either they get tired of it or they need to have the situation altered by either removing them or the item from the room.
Another example: You are at a store and your child sees something they will simply die without. They whine, they plead – in that way only a non-verbal toddler can plead, they just have to have it! “Not this time.” is a good one. “I like that too!” “Let’s tell daddy about this.” or just flat our distraction by showing your child other things or acting silly can work. Or you might just wind up finishing your shopping with a very angry child. “We’re not going to get this today.” is a simple and direct negative answer that just doesn’t include the word No.
There are as many ways to deal with these situations as there are parents. Our goal is to raise our children to be good people who understand that the world will not hand them their every wish on a platter. Sometimes they need a plain old No and sometimes they need a negative answer served up with a healthy helping of compassion.
By watching the words you use and keeping things positive but still firm in their meaning, you can guide your child to a vocabulary that has relatively few No’s in it at all.
Now if I could get them to not use the word “MINE!” I would be all set.