„No! I told you not to touch that!”, „No! Stop asking! No snacks before dinner!”, „No! I asked you not to hit your little brother!”
When you have a small child, you feel like saying „No!” is about as normal as breathing. And you feel tired, anxious, tense and a little disappointed that your child isn’t listening more to you. You’ve read here and there that saying „No!” is like an invitation to your child, and that the more you say it, the less it works. You feel like it’s boosting your kid’s immunity to interdiction! And yet, „No” will not leave your mouth and keeps popping back in conversations with your child 2 or 3 times per hour.
What is there to do?
If you want to stop saying „No” so often, without it actually affecting your discipline, here are a few recommendations offered by Judy Arnall, the author of “Discipline without Distress: 135 Tools for Raising Caring, Responsible Children without Time-Out, Spanking, Punishment or Bribery”.
This parenting expert will show you 5 fast and useful suggestions that will help you set limits for a small child, so that there will be less need for the word „No!”.
Use a positive request or suggestion
Even if saying „NO” is faster and comes easier, I believe you’ve already noticed how this word sounds more like an invitation to the child to do exactly whatever it is you don’t want him to do. When he keeps slamming the door to the room, you keep telling him „No!”. He seems to have got it, but then you feel, half an hour later, the entire house shaking to its core after he’s just slammed the door again. Did he forget your „No” so fast?
In order to make yourself heard, instead of telling your child what not to do, try telling him what to do (or how to do it). Let’s get back to the door, because in our house it was a problem, and we have proof of that on the wall next to the door frame J So, instead of saying: „Don’t slam the door!” you can say „Close the door gently” or „Can you show me how gently you can close the door?” or „Shht! The doorknob is sleeping! Close the door gently, or you’ll wake it up!”.
When the child runs around the house, instead of saying, „Don’t run!”, you can try with „Let’s walk instead” or „Your feet need a break. Let’s walk”.
And when he yells, instead of „Don’t yell”, you can say, „It’s time for your normal voice” or „Let’s see how well you can whisper”.
Adapt your house to your child
If you don’t want your kid to play with the remote control, then don’t leave it out for him. The same goes for your mobile phone. And you’ve just magically got rid of 3 or 4 occasions where a „No” was required. And you can do that with all the other objects that you don’t want him to play with, but that are, nevertheless, left within his reach. Instead of having to say „No”, just avoid the situation altogether – at least in the first 3 or 4 years, when it’s hard for him not to touch these objects. Toddlers don’t have a very well developed self-control.
Because of that, even if they know that they are not allowed to touch the mobile phone or the flower vase, their curiosity and need for exploration will tempt them too much not to. Until their brains are developed enough to help them abstain from touching certain objects that are within their reach, just put these on the upper shelves or in closed drawers.
The author of „Discipline Without Distress” remembers when her children were young and she would use this method in the supermarket. In order to avoid the toy aisle and using the word „No”, she would distract them by leading them towards another isle, as far from the toys as possible.
Use your touch
Before they learn how to use language, children use touch as a learning instrument. They use it to learn all about you, they use it to learn about the things around them. Language comes much later. So, use touch to make yourself heard.
At the same time, use visual contact along with a slight touch in order to make sure that your child is really focused on you. For example, lower yourself to his level, look him in the eye and put your hand on his shoulders. Repeat your message in this state of calm and in a calm voice.
Say „Yes” as often as possible
Try to say „Yes” as often as possible and keep the „No” just for serious business. In order to reach this level you need to apply all the other 4 techniques that we’ve already suggested, in order to eliminate the contexts that might generate possible uses for the word „No”.
The more you use the word „No”, the less it will be heard. At the same time, the less you say it the better it will come across. Because there will be situations in your life when you will want to know that the moment you say „NO”, the child will stop and listen to you.