Disciplining Children: If Youâ€™re Constantly Saying No, Is Anyone Ever Happy?
When your kid turns two you pretty much rue the day you ever taught him the word â€œno.â€ But parents: it gets worse. Sure all that â€œNo! NO! NOOOOOO!â€ coming from a tiny, surprisingly resilient being is infuriating. But what really gets me is when I hear myself using the word equally as vehemently and even more regularly.
This is what a typical morning in our household sounds like:
Child 1: â€œMommy, can we watch TV?â€
Me: â€œNo. No TV in the morning.â€
Child 2: â€œMommy, can I have a sip of your coffee?â€
Me: â€œNo, you canâ€™t. Itâ€™s not nice for little girls.â€
Child 1: â€œCan I wear my pajamas to school?â€
Me: â€œNo. And anyway, your pajamas smell like pee. Get dressed.â€
Child 2: â€œCan I put on nail polish?â€
No to sandals in winter. No to tank tops and sundresses. No to coloring tattoos on your forearm. No to popsicles before lunch. No to pulling down all the window shades. No to putting on lipstick. No, no, no, no, no!
Itâ€™s even worse when I hear other parents losing control of their â€œnoâ€ reflex â€“ particularly if theyâ€™re saying â€œnoâ€ to the one thing I wouldâ€™ve said â€œyesâ€ to. Itâ€™s negative, itâ€™s overbearing and it makes me nervous. I never wanted to be a no-body â€“ I swear.
So this year Iâ€™ve tried to temper my use of the dreaded word. Iâ€™ve found that saying â€œnot nowâ€ or â€œlaterâ€ to an ill-timed or even insane request keeps us all feeling a little more positive and a little less hard done by. If â€œnoâ€ was my invisible electric fence, the lack of it is like an acre of garden in which to run.
Eliminating the â€œnoâ€ eradicates the power struggle that defines so many family relationships. If there is no distinct boundary set, there remains nothing to rebel against. Sure, it may give kids a shred of hope where there may not be a chance in hell, but small kids have notoriously short memories. Also, stalling has always worked for me.
The proliferation of â€œnot nowâ€ in our household has made the odd â€œnoâ€ all that more meaningful (it helps if you say it loudly). It has the same effect with my kids today as a four-letter word might have with an adult. In fact, I like that analogy. Letâ€™s ascribe four-letter power to this measly two-letter word. Use it, and youâ€™ll have to put a nickel in the jar.
Thatâ€™ll make â€™em think twice.