27 May 2011

How I Stopped Saying No

This would be flour.
First of all, I know this title is misleading. I don't think you can ever stop saying, "No" totally because it can be pertinent in many situations, e.g. your child running out into the street, your child putting a live grenade in her mouth, your child voting for Ron Paul...just kidding.

I used to say "No" all the time when talking to Heidi because I never thought there was an alternative, nor did I think it was a problem. When I started researching different parenting methods and started being more mindful about what I say and do to and with my children, I realized that there are many ways to say "No" that are more effective and serve to strengthen the parent/child relationship, not weaken it. Please remember that this is a process; don't expect too much from yourself immediately and try not to get down on yourself if you slip up. I think you will see a noticeable difference in your child almost immediately though. 

One of the easiet alternatives to actually saying "no" is to use gibberish. This is the perfect stepping stone because you are still allowing something to come out of your mouth (the way you are used to saying "no"), but it is not something negative.Another positive effect of this method is that it may cause both you and your child to crack a smile or start laughing. This will break any tension that was building and help lift your own mood so you can go back to being a conscientious parent.

Another strategy is to say "No" in your head and continue the rest of your sentence out loud. Here are a few examples:
"No! Don't touch that!"
"No! You can't have that now!"
"No! We are not going to Alcatraz!"
In each of these instances, you can forcefully say "No!" to yourself and then speak the meat of what you actually wanted to say. You might even start finding that when you say "No!" in your head, the rest of your sentence comes out a lot calmer than you thought it would. You will soon start to realize that you don't even need to say "No" because your sentence is completely sufficient. And, you'll really start to have a better relationship with your child.

When all else fails, don't say anything at all. Pause for that moment when you want to yell and scream, bite your lip and do whatever it takes to stay silent. Sometimes, the situation will resolve itself. When it doesn't, you will again be calmer than you would have if you let the "word vomit" leave your mouth and you might even come up with a more appropriate thing to say to your child once the heat of the moment has dissipated.

The most compelling argument I have for you is this: Think about the way you speak to strangers, acquaintances and *most* co-workers.  Do you generally afford them a degree of courtesy, kindness and respect? Why then, should you treat your child, with whom you spend nearly every waking moment, any differently? If your child has "behaviour problems," stop for a moment to assess the way you speak to her. As I remind myself every day, I must treat my children the way I want them to treat me.


  1. I've read about this concept before. I find it works, even with older kids. My brother is 7, and he responds much better when we speak to him calmly than when my parents yell at him when they are frustrated.

  2. Using gibberish is a strategy I would never have thought of on my own. I love how you think! Thanks for the tips, Amanda.

  3. You're welcome you're welcome!

    Amanda, at first I looked at your comment and thought "Hmm, I don't remember commenting on this post?" Yeah, I need sleep.

    I have noticed a significant difference in Heidi's behaviour (which is still age appropriate) ever since I cut back and when other people tell her "NO!" really loudly she doesn't respond very well. It's all about being positive! :)

  4. Hi! Good post! I usually reserve my NO and STOP for safety, so the kids know these words are quite serious. And then I follow up with a yes statement, ie;
    STOP! This is a parking lot, please hold my hand while we walk. It will keep you safe.

    But most of the time I use positive statements. It takes practice to state what you want rather than what you don't want, but after awhile it becomes habit.

    I must say though that I have one child who likes to challenge all my cherished parenting philosophies, with whom I use NO fairly frequently. Without a direct negative statement such as NO or STOP, he will not respond~its a mixture of an inability to pick up on social nuance, and a fierce desire for strong boundaries. He's always asking or doing things that he knows will get a NO, in order to test if that boundary is still there. He will comply happily, but he doesn't feel secure if he doesn't know exactly where the outer limits are, so he's constantly testing them. Not in a bad way, not defiantly, but just checking.
    So my compromise with him is to use positive statements whenever I can, but when I use no, to follow up with what I want him to do instead. Or an explanation in positive terms.

    I love the gibberish idea~I use gibberish to deter my 2 yr old from his eternal WHY qyestions, but it would work really well in this context, too.

  5. That certainly sounds trying, Melissa! It sounds like you have a wonderful handle on it though :) I still have a hard time getting those positive statements in sometimes, but I'm working on it as always :)

    If she stars asking "why" all the time, I think I'll definitely use the gibberish for that too! :) Thanks!