“No” is the most overused and abused word parents say when talking to their children. It is no wonder when toddlers start talking, “no” is one of their first words directed mostly back at their parents. Parents who say, “No, because I said so.” commonly have children who throw temper tantrums or engage in frequent power struggles, making parenting difficult and frustrating.
Saying “yes” followed by an explanation instead of saying “no” puts a positive thought process in children’s minds. Eventually, children will start telling themselves “Yes, I can.” instead of “No, I can’t.” This builds their confidence in finding their own solutions to problem situations.
Here are a few easy tips on how to turn “no” into “yes”:
• Five minutes before dinner – “Can I have a cookie?” Instead of “No, can’t you see we are about to have dinner?” Say, “Yes, after dinner.”
• A ten-year-old wants to see a PG-13 movie – Instead of “No, you are not 13.” Say, “Yes, when you are 13.”
• A child wants to watch a movie right before bedtime – Instead of saying “No, it’s almost your bedtime.” Say, “Yes, when you wake up in the morning. I’ll put it on the table so we don’t forget.”
With toddlers, distracting them from unwanted behavior is more effective than simply saying “no”. If saying “no”, “stop”, “don’t” or “quit” worked, parents would not have to repeat them dozens of times per day!
The repeated use of “no” reduces its effectiveness. Saving “no” for important or dangerous times increases the chance that children will listen. Also, children who repeatedly hear “no” have poorer language skills than children whose parents offer more positive responses.
Another alternative to “No” is giving children choices. “You can watch only fifteen minutes of the movie now or watch the entire movie tomorrow. It’s your choice, what would you like to do?” A choice teaches children about taking responsibility and broadens their thinking to alternative options.
It is hard for many parents to let go of “no” simply because they want to control the situation. However, giving children choices actually reduces power struggles and tantrums because they are a part of the decision.
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