Child holding a pillow with stop sign

This has been my first week of making a conscious choice to stop saying no.  Wow…It is so much harder than I thought it would be!

Recently I find myself springing around after the little guy, pulling him away from dangerous places, taking objects away from him and generally saying ‘no’ rather a lot.

He certainly doesn’t like it…and I don’t the way it sounds when I yelp at him with a NO!

Just a boy!

Don't even try and take away my new toy mum.

Don’t even try and take away my new toy mum.

He is just a regular risk taking, thrill seeking, adventure loving little guy who doesn’t know when he is doing something wrong (his mischievous smile sometimes says otherwise!)

‘No’ seems like the wrong word to be using with him.

Then there is  my version of ‘no’, barely recognisable as a telling off or a warning…I am useless at being serious, always have been, and it seems that I am no different with a 10 month old, I can’t be serious or stern or even firm when I say ‘no’…

So what is the point of using the word at all?

As my little guy has got older, his reaction to ‘no’ is entertaining in itself.  Hands thrown up to the sky before crumpling to his knees and crying in protest.  A mini tantrum, a fake little cry that stops instantly with a fun new distraction.  Ok, I admit it is super cute but it isn’t a reaction I want to foster, it is not something I want to deal with as he becomes a toddler, and I definitely would rather avoid it happening in public.

So I have decided to take the approach of positive reinforcement, finding different ways to say no.

The facts…

While I was researching this positive approach to saying no I came across a startling figure.  On average, a toddler hears the word ‘no’ 400 times a day!!  As I also suspected, research has shown that hearing the word ‘no’ can have a harmful effect on kids, leaving them with poorer language skills.

It makes sense…trying to avoid the forbidden word, I end up having much more conversational banter with the little guy…exposing him to more words, more language and more learning.

Three Signs In Fists Saying No, No and No

How to say no without saying no.

  1. Offer the alternative.
    Don’t just take away an object and say no, or expect your child to stop doing something because you say stop. It will only result in tears, tantrums and more of the same behaviour, simply because they will have no idea what else to do?  Give them a new toy or activity, an alternative, a distraction.  If they are throwing a ball indoors, ask if they want to take it outside to throw it, or instead try rolling it indoors.  The choice gives them some control over the situation.
  2. Join in with the naughtiness!
    If they are doing something they shouldn’t be, chances are it is because it’s a new, exciting, fantastical activity in the eyes of your little one.  Take this into consideration and allow him to explore safely with you by his side.  Give him enough time to get a sense of the thing, before removing it or swapping it for something more appropriate.
  3. Explain your reasons even if they don’t understand you.
    Try explaining with feeling.  Say it hurts the table if you hit it, say the mud will make you poorly if you eat it, say ouch, say dirty, say anything except ‘no’.  The tone of your voice will convey the seriousness, and the conversation will expose him to language skills that ‘no’ simply won’t achieve.  Ok, it requires some effort at the beginning, but you will soon have a stash of ‘go-to’ phrases that are as easy to access as the forbidden ‘no’.
  4. Master ‘the look’ and perfect the ‘voice’.
    Most of the information in the word ‘no’ comes from the tone we use with it, a glare or a stern face.  You can use these to create different stop signs that can be as effective, if not more effective than yelling out “no’!!
  5. Create a ‘yes’ environment.
    Where possible, take the time to baby proof, keep dangerous things secure, out of reach, and remove as many opportunities to say ‘no’ as possible.  It sounds obvious but, it is such a simple way to make life easier!  Create an environment that he can enjoy, where you can relax and enjoy too.

No is a punchy, knee jerk, easy, reaction to a situation.  It is obviously an important word for a parent to use and for a child to learn use themselves… But use it in the right situation, not just chasing a cheeky little toddler around the house trying to keep him in check.

Have you tried this approach with your little ones, did you find it gets easier, or are you still slipping up.  And has it had a positive response?

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  1. Kristaowl says:

    Brilliant! I could have written this myself, word for word! I’m finding myself trying to stop saying “no” an awful lot at the moment with a ten-month-old bit I don’t want him to turn into one of those toddlers who goes round saying “no” all the time. I’m looking forward to when he can understand that sometimes things are dangerous and shouldn’t be touched etc., then I won’t feel so bad about taking things away!
    It’s wonderful to read about someone who thinks the same way as me! X

    • wildandwisdom says:

      Hey, so glad you connected with the post! Nice to know I’m not alone in being a bit over the top or over thinking the choices I’m making! I figure if we could cut out just a couple of no’s a day it will soon become second nature to us!! Good luck to you…

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