What to say instead of saying NO!

Blog Kathie Sarles

Parents: Below is an article I wrote to begin this Early Childhood Blog. Those of us working with the 0-3 population are often asked questions about early childhood development and behavior. We would love to answer your questions. Please feel free to ask questions here or comment on what is written in this blog. We can all learn from each other. 
Kathie Sarles, Early Childhood Specialist

Independence is the ultimate goal for our children. It is what we as parents work so hard to accomplish. Our children need to experience so much on their quest for independence, however, some of their experiences will be challenging and/or unsafe. As parents we need to be aware that our children are naturally curious and often are risk takers due to their innate motivation to learn and grow. It is up to us to find a way to keep them safe while encouraging their natural curiosity.

No! is an easy word to overuse in the early years. As our children begin to walk, talk and play they naturally move forward with little regard for anyone else. It is easy to say “No” with each new challenge, but that will only make you tired and your children frustrated. Keeping No out of your daily communication with your child is not as hard as you think.

Instead of saying, “No,” parents can use a factual, or positive statement, while helping their child move or change direction. For example: when your child is trying to climb up onto the furniture and jump off onto the floor you can say,” the couch is for sitting. We jump outside,” then help your child to sit or get him to a place to jump safely. If your child is running in the house or out in a store, you can say, “Please use walking feet!” Help them do this by exaggerating your “walking feet”, and by holding their hand. Praise your child when he/she uses “walking feet”. Children want to please us; but we need to notice when they are doing what we ask and praise them for it. This helps them know what is ok and what isn’t. If you are working on a puzzle or art activity and your child uses the materials incorrectly, think first, then tell them how you DO want them to do it as you show them. You can say, “Johnny it goes here” or,” that is a lot of glue, you only need a little”. This helps to keep things fun and moving forward. Saying “No!” stops the activity and makes everyone feel bad.

The word “No” should, however, be used when safety is involved and you are not right there to stop the child from getting hurt or hurting others. Using the word “NO!” with a stern voice will usually stop him for long enough for you to get there and make everything safe. Saving the word “No” in this incidence helps your child understand what is truly unsafe.

Making a conscious change will be hard at first, but will make you all happier in the long run. It is best to think first, then give a factual or positive statement, or just redirect the activity altogether. Remember , saying “No!” stops the forward motion and can cause frustration leading to tantrums.