Do you know that a toddler hears the word “no” on average 300 times a day? No wonder the very word can send them into a rage resulting in tears, tantrums and a complete meltdown in the candy aisle at your local supermarket.
This isn’t to say that they shouldn’t be told “No”. Children need discipline so they’re kept safe, know the difference from right and wrong, and so you as a parent can set boundaries.
So the question is, how do you say no without actually saying no?
In the instance of toddlers, they’re at a stage where they want to exert a bit of independence and are learning to think. However, given their young age, they’re unable to communicate these views or frustrations in a way that us adults deem socially acceptable!
For example, banging their toys together repeatedly because they feel restless is not what your sore head wants. However yelling at them, or repeatedly saying no until it becomes meaningless, will only aggravate the situation more – so it’s important to consider your child’s stage of development and how you can encourage cooperation from them.
If the word “no” is begging to leave your lips, before it escapes try and say it creatively. Give them direction on what they should be doing rather than what they’re doing wrong. For example, if your child is being heavy-handed with their sibling, instead of telling them off, try: “Touch your brother softly, it hurts when you pull at his arm.”
This will also give your child a crash course in empathy and help them understand how their actions affect others.
Teach Your Child To Express Themselves
If they’re having a temper tantrum, before you lose your cool too, acknowledge their actions and feelings by saying “You’re really angry that we can’t go to the park, aren’t you?” This is a good way of getting them to reflect on their behavior and open up the communication channels, rather than just yelling a solitary ‘no’.
It’s important for your child to be able to articulate what they’re feeling, even from a young age, as it can help alleviate aggression caused by being unable to express their frustration with a situation.
Master ‘The Look”
More often than not, your tone and facial expression will be more of an indication that you’re unhappy than your words. It can also act as a warning to a more severe “telling off” if they continue to misbehave.
A perfected “look” can stop negative behavior without saying a word. It’s an effective (and more peaceful way) of expressing that you disapprove of your child’s actions, but not of them as a person. It communicates: “I know you know better, but I’m still connected with you.”
When No Really Means No!
There’s still a time and a place for “no”, so no need to banish it from your vocabulary completely, however try and use it only when your child has done something really wrong. This way when you do say it, it’ll mean something and they’ll understand that you mean business!
As a parent or carer, it’s impossible to eradicate negative behavior completely – part of a child’s growing up is them learning right from wrong. However, the way in which you discipline them can make all the difference to them growing out of negative behavior, and the relationship you have with your child.
Have you perfected the art of saying no to your child, without actually saying “no”? We’d be interested in hearing what works for you.