There are days when parents feel that all they’ve said is “No. No. No. No. NO!” These are generally not good days, and leave both you and your child feeling very stressed out. Of course, there is no guilt to be felt in respectfully saying no, as children need boundaries and direction. But sometimes we can overuse the word “No” and then it becomes less meaningful.
I remember being an older child and my mom giving me “The Look.” Did you ever get the look? She didn’t even have to say the word, I knew to stop what I was doing immediately. For young ones, it can be a little more tricky, so here are some ways to avoid saying the word children hate to hear.
1. Steering Clear of a Difficult Situation
Prevention is always better than a cure, so try to avoid situations that you know may leave you and your child feeling frustrated. For example, instead of taking your child to the grocery store when you know they haven’t eaten in a while and will most likely grab every item off the shelf, take them right after lunch or breakfast. And before a nap is never good idea, as both they and you will get frustrated. Take a snack along with you so their hands and thoughts are occupied with what they’re eating. If you are invited to someones house who doesn’t have kids and hence has a lot of things calling out for little hands to touch/grab/break, why not take a few of your child’s toys and books along so they can play with those? Or even better, arrange to meet outside at a park for coffee so your little one can run around freely?
I love distraction. It works so well with toddlers, it’s like a little parenting diamond. Instead of saying no, find something else for your child to do instead. If you’re wrapping a gift and your child is fascinated by the scissors, quickly redirect them to the scotch tape, which is generally endearing in their minds with its unlimited quantity and ability to stick to everything. Or if you’re trying to wash dishes and your child is reaching into a kitchen drawer to pull out everything they can find, give them a task like putting the spoons and forks in the dishwasher. Or anything that can’t break. It doesn’t matter where they put them as long as it keeps them busy and makes them feel responsible. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Teach Them What They Can Do
Children need to feel involved and important, so take a bad situation and try to make a positive out of it. Recently our daughter has
become obsessed with begun to enjoy turning her water cup upside and shaking it so that water falls everywhere and she gets to splash it all around. Instead of freaking out, we’re taking the opportunity to teach her how to clean up her mess. And because she’s so young, she actually enjoys cleaning. She now runs to get the paper towels and wipe up her puddle/river. Does it take longer than me doing it? Sure. But in the long-term she’s learning responsibility and the consequences of her actions.
4. Give Choices
Offering two options to a child is a great alternative to saying “No, you can’t do that.” Not only does it make your child feel in control, but it gives them the ability to use critical thinking. Always offer options that you are okay with, because it would be counter- productive if you then said “Eugh, I knew you’d choose that one!” For example, if you know your child will run in the street offer them a choice of “You can either hold my hand and walk, or I can carry you. Which one?” Keep it short and sweet. Remember, children are like men- the more you talk, the less they listen. I do this in parking lots with my toddler and she usually holds my hand. In some cases she has refused and I have offered once more, and then picked her up and stated that running near cars means getting hurt.
5. Use Danger Words
Of course, if your child is about to touch something hot or grab a sharp object, you will need to stop it as soon as possible. In these cases, teach your child words like “Danger!” “Hot!” “Sharp!” Keep them short and be firm, a dangerous situation needs to be treated seriously. Get them away from the situation as quickly as possible, whether it’s to remove them from standing near the oven, or to move that shiny pair of scissors that looks so fun to them.