Four letter words are not the only ones dreaded in communication with our children. There’s the infamous “No!” Kids hate to hear it, and more often than not, you hate to say it.
Is there another way to guide our children and be in charge without saying, “No” or “Don’t” all the time?
If you suffer from an acute case of don’t-itis and find yourself telling your child “Don’t do this” or “Don’t do that” all the time, your child may eventually tune you out, lash out or completely ignore the words. Plus the more we use the word “No” on our kids, the more our kids will use the word back to us in response to our requests.
The Problem with Saying “No” All the Time
The reality is when “No” is said too often, it begins to lose its meaning and effectiveness. It’s very much like crying wolf. The purpose of discipline is to take the opportunities our children give us to teach them consequences, self-control and responsibility. Discipline goes way beyond stopping our children from doing something we don’t’ want them to do: it connects us with our children as we teach them how to navigate the world safely.
Using a positive approach that limits the use of the word “No” or “Don’t” from our interactions with our kids requires a great deal of self-discipline, creativity and patience. Purposely and effectively changing the way we talk to our children is a skill that will pay off huge dividends in our relationship with our children.
It’s important to remember than being positive and having a different approach doesn’t mean being permissive or neglectful. By choosing your words carefully, you and your family will enjoy more harmony and more respect as you navigate through the bumpy road of raising children consciously!
5 Ways to Avoid a Severe Outbreak of Don’t-itis
#1: Set clear rules/expectations – One of the best places to start is by setting clear expectations, rules and consequences. Make sure your kids understand them and know what happens when the rules are broken.
Even a young child understands the rule: “You hit, you sit” or “Inside voice please”. It is much more powerful than yelling at them and saying, “You know you are NOT supposed to hit your brother”. Too many yeses and no’s cripple a child’s self- discipline.
#2: Let your child know you disapprove of the behavior not of him – When your child behaves in a way that you disapprove, make sure to let him know that his behavior is not appropriate, but that you still love him.
It helps to remind him that while he has not made the best choice, he’s intrinsically good, even when he is not on his best behavior.
#3: Stay cool and calm but be firm – From a young age our children start learning about the meaning behind our actions, including our tone of voice. If we are always losing our cool and raising our voices, our kids learn to dismiss our efforts.
Save a firm, but clear tone of voice that indicates to your child that you mean business for those occasions when you must get your point across. Many parents have a “look” or a “word” they use that conveys to their children that they are not fooling around. Be consistent and assertive and your children will get the point without having to say “No”!
#4: Reframe – One of toughest times for most moms is when they take their kids to the store. It’s then when children decide they are off on a candy or toy expedition and ask for every piece of candy or toy in sight. The temptation is to give them a lecture about why they can’t have the candy and say something like, “No candy before dinner” or get angry because they asked!
You feel the tension. You know a tantrum or attitude is sure to follow. You choose to say “No” again, more firmly and assertive this time. Before you know it, she’s having a five-alarm tantrum in the produce section floor!
Try to rephrase what you say to your child. Instead of saying no, you could choose to say “Yes, you can have a treat after dinner. Right now, mom is going to finish her shopping.” Instead of the frustrated “No balls in the house!” simply say, “You can throw your ball out in the backyard.”
No more explaining is necessary; you have already shared with your children what the rules are and what the consequences are.
#5: Be willing to be flexible – If you have a strong-willed child as I do, you probably find yourself feeling exhausted by her attempts to get something she desperately thinks she needs.
At first, she would try to badger me and flat out wear me out. Your best line of defense is to listen to her request the first time, give it consideration (as long as it seemed reasonable) and be willing to negotiate.
Changing your mind, after careful consideration lets our children know that they have been heard. It helps to reserve the right to make a decision one way or another until I have heard them out. Even if they don’t agree, they know you are trying to be fair.
The purpose is that you are listening which teaches them that trying to “nag” me into agreeing only results in automatic denial. If you change your mind, it is not because of nagging, but out of respect.
Using “no” in an appropriate way and not out of a “knee-jerk” reaction helps us listen to their minds, while protecting their bodies. It doesn’t get better than that!