Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Saying "No" To Children

Take the 'Say "No" to "No" One Day Challenge'

"Whoa, careful", "No", "Don't hurt yourself", "No","Shhhhh, no talking", "No", "Don't fall", "No", "Don't touch", "No", "Not now", "No, don't do that", "No, No, NO-NO-NO".

Do you think you could go through even one day without saying the word "No" to your child?

child free to climb a tree
Climbing higher & higher!
Many parents use a negative approach to dealing with their children, perhaps without even realizing it. It becomes a bad habit. It requires increasingly more badgering from the adult, resulting in a desensitized & dispirited young child. It is not good. For me, it is so sad to see. The adult, the supposed role model, who should be helping their child know what to do, is rather emphasizing what they are not to do. It's not right. It's the wrong approach.

I was sitting on a park bench watching children play on a big jungle gym. Beautiful trees surrounded us and a young boy had climbed up into one of the strong maples. A girl, about 5 years old, watched intently. She ran over to her mother, sitting next to me, and with excitement said, "Mom, I'm going to go climb that tree!". The mother glanced at the tree and with some boredom (as she continued looking at her smart phone), scolded, "No, you'll fall out & then I'll have to take you to the hospital... besides, that's
Ahoy, Captain Tree!
one of those sappy trees and you'll get all dirty and sticky". The girl's eyes were so sad. She walked slowly away, giving the boy in the tree a couple of backward glances.

Another day, I heard a parent walk into the library and tell her little toddler, "no talking, no running, and no touching". Later, all I heard from the mother was a series of,  "shhhhh, no, no, don't touch, no, shhhhhh". The mother was signing up for a library card and the toddler was anxious to get started exploring all the interesting books surrounding her. It wouldn't have taken much to settle the child into a chair with a few books to look at.

Here are four top notch articles, I've previewed, with thoughtful solutions for staying positive with your children in all circumstances... highly recommended reading:

1) EverydayFamily's "Alternatives for saying "no" to your toddler" concisely explains the immunity that builds up against a parent who constantly espouses "no" to their toddlers every questionable action.

A little pink cat climbing that tree!
2) "Parents can break out of the yes-no tug-of-war by coming up with new ways to set limits," says Howard Gardner, an adjunct professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of Changing MindsWeb MD's "How to say no (without saying no) highlights Gardner's wisdom with five strong examples.

3) Helping children to understand a two letter word by Nora Beane is a philosophical approach to replacing the negative with the more thoughtful positive. 

4) Janet Lansbury says, "The key to healthy and effective discipline is our attitude. Toddlerhood is the perfect time to hone parenting skills that will provide the honest, direct, and compassionate leadership our children will depend on for years to come. " Her nine key steps to healthy & effective discipline are excellent guidelines which I endorse wholeheartedly.
Yes, You two did it!!!


It will be necessary to say, "no" to your children in life, but it should be reserved for special circumstances of importance. Even babies are bombarded with "No" from well meaning adults... while pulling an enticing strand of hair hanging within their fingers, or exploring Newton's law of gravity with green peas while eating in a high chair... "No, No, NO, NO, NO". Take the one day challenge. Then make it a week. Then make it a way of living. Life is too short for "no's".

Cheers, Papa Green Bean


  1. It's a wonderful creative challenge to avoid all those no's we aim at kids. One success I've found is, instead of say no to a request, is to imagine with the child a whole pile of yesses. Say a little one wants something at the store. She's not going to get a chain saw of her very own or a candy bar. She's probably asking for something because she's tired or feels ignored or simply is annoyed by being restrained in a cart when her entire being wants to run and play. Of course the answer is no. But I say instead, "Imagine getting a chain saw. You could cut down trees to make a little cabin in the woods where I could visit you for supper." Or I could say, "You know Mama doesn't buy candy. But if I did, I'd get you a whole cart full. I'd get you so much it would fill our car and I couldn't see the steering wheel to drive home!" She's off imagining with me, glad to enter a world of imagination.

    1. Laura - Yes! We think alike! Your two examples are so much fun and brilliant for building imagination in the child, as well as deflecting a "no" response. Thanks!

    2. Sharing this with the folks on my Free Range Learning facebook page. Wisdom like this needs to be shared.

    3. Thank you for sharing... that's what it's all about, getting positive messages out to as many parents-educators-educarers as possible. In the end, it's about building a better world for our individual & collective future.

  2. Good suggestions that I have tried, it did not work at first so I do not want parents to get discouraged, just keep practicing and it will eventually click with your children. It is stressful to have a crying toddler throwing a fit but just imagine what your kid feels when they cannot have what they want and how ridiculous at first imagining the thing rather than having it might feel to them. Then add on the fact that they do not know how to express their upset in any way other than crying or anger which is where we come in to show them how to cope. We have a very determined little girl who sometimes has not cared about imagining doing or having the thing she wants, she would just get angry at the thought. So we would label those feelings when our imagination exercise bombed which helped her develop the emotional intelligence to know it sometimes feels bad not to get what we want but we can get through it. Finally this weekend, imagining worked, our girl wanted to go back through a children's museum to see the live reindeer once again after we had departed. We took a look at the reindeer, who were visible from our approach to our car and said "bye bye reindeer" together and then we asked her what she liked about the reindeer, what color were they, did they have lots of fur? Despite being way past naptime she was able to go along with us on the conversation and move on from the idea that she could go back and look at them again. Another trick with wanting a toy in the store or something that has worked a bit is explaining to her that the toy needs to stay at the store so other kids can see it/play with it and if we get it, it won't be there for the other kids. That made sense to her somehow and has been a great "no" alternative as well. Also, we almost never buy our girl anything for her (other than clothes/food) when she is with us so that she has zero recollection or idea that she is going to get something out of a shopping trip. This is very helpful to preventing expectations in the first place. Just keep a light heart about it and remember that even though our "crisis" radar goes up the minute our kids cry, its no crisis, we can get through it positively together!

    1. Thanks for the good examples. I like the "goodbye reindeer" approach. If a child is interested in their environment, they are able to go on for long periods without a nap or into the night, which is perfectly fine as long as the experience is still enthralling.

  3. We lived in the country, but along a busy road. Our NO rule was "No screaming" unless you or someone else has broken an arm or leg, or there is lots of bleeding, or a wild creature scares you (rattlesnake, bobcat). They knew we would come running to the rescue immediately for that, and learned to shush friends who were screamers when playing. The fact that both parents had been in scouting, and then all three kids, made for a more adventuresome childhood, I hope.

    1. Yes, there really is no reason for children to scream, whine or cry unless they are bored, scared or injured. Thanks for your comment.


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