I think as parents we condition ourselves at a very early age to never say NO to our children. Maybe it starts at that 2 year old temper tantrum phase, or maybe we are just afraid of the word ourselves, but I can remember avoiding the word over and over as my daughter was a toddler. I would want to scream NO, but so afraid to after reading all the ‘politically correct’ articles on how to handle your toddler. They encourage the use of methods of distraction and persuasion and discourage using a direct NO and somehow we buy into it and find ourselves avoiding this word.
My child, like many others is very strong-willed. From day 1, literally one day old, the doctor (with decades of practice behind him) examines my daughter and amusingly states that he ‘had never seen an infant so alert this early.’ We soon found out what he meant. With countless hours of puzzled, exasperated, & exhausted looks between her father and I, we learned many creative ways to appease our beautiful daughter. However for the first few years, the word NO wasn’t used a whole lot. I think we both were trying to keep the peace as much as possible, and assumed all those ‘experts’ knew what they were saying. Hearing NO will decrease their self-esteem. NO will frustrate them. NO will stifle their creativity. I can even remember meeting one author who told the story of how she let her daughter just draw all over all the walls in her house in order to encourage her creativity and to show how saying NO was totally inappropriate. WHAT? It was absurd!
As my daughter was approaching the age of 3, and my supply of distraction methods was slowly dwindling down to nothing, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I had to be direct. I had to set some boundaries. If I didn’t, this child would be controlling the house. Have you ever been to someone else’s house and witnessed children who control the WHOLE house? I have, and that was not going to be us!
As a toddler, my daughter was focused and persistent. She loved art, any form of it. Painting, coloring, drawing…all very appealing to her. She wanted to paint one morning and we were leaving within an hour so I simply offered to do some puzzles instead of painting. Explaining that we didn’t have time. Yes, I was ‘explaining’ to my toddler (mistake as well.) She didn’t want to do puzzles so she continues to ask over and over to paint. With my offers of coloring, reading, ‘baking’ in her ‘kitchen’ all going by the wayside, I had no other choice but to try a new approach, I was short on time and efforts. I said the natural thing that came to my mind. ‘NO, you may NOT paint.’ Followed it with nothing, no explanation, no other offer, no reasoning, and certainly no coddling. Then I walked away, holding my breath and waiting for the tantrum.
As I got down the hallway, a very interesting thing happened. I heard silence! No reply, no backlash, no problem with this new word. It was just simply accepted by her and she went on to play with her kitchen. It was like it was the answer she was LOOKING FOR ALL ALONG! It was as if it settled it in her mind, and she was satisfied. It was as if she was perfectly ok with the word and what it meant. It was great!
At the time, I relished this newfound way to discipline. Didn’t go overboard, but certainly began using it when appropriate. It worked very efficiently and always seemed to get the job done quite easily. I never gave much thought as to the ‘why’ this word worked so well, but as time passed, I have given more thought about why this was such an effective means of communication between my child and her parents.
Why did my beautiful strong-willed child not put up a huge fight when I told her NO? Was she much different than any other kid? I really don’t think she is. I think hearing NO gave her security. I think it made her feel good to have someone in control of the big decisions. Remember these are big decisions to her. To paint or not to paint is huge to a 2 year old! Did it stifle her creativity? NO. Did it make her insecure? NO, not at all. I think it did the opposite. Did her self-esteem take a big blow when hearing this two letter word? NO, she is very secure and happy.
As parents, I think it’s important to realize that we are allowed to JUST SAY NO to our kids. It is a normal response that will be heard throughout their whole lives. We don’t need to explain. We don’t need to justify in any way. Just be parental, JUST SAY NO.