You’ve probably also lost count of the number of times you had to say “No, don’t do this” or “How many times have I told you not to run around!”. However, saying “No” to them all the time may breed an environment of negativity, which in turn, creates stress for both you and your child. Junior might eventually tune you out.
“It is important for children to remember that No’’ exists and “No” is an acceptable part of life,” notes Angela Chng, early years expert and head of professional practices and development at NTUC First Campus. “Children learn quickly from adults and they look to them as models to learn how to navigate the world around them. Of course, when what a child hears is mostly ‘No’, they will soon reflect the same behaviour towards situations.”
She adds, “If you have been saying ‘No’ to your child all the time, you have to ask yourself why you had to do that in the first place. What were the different moments you had to say no? It is essential to recognise and identify the different situations and reasons for saying no in order to address them.”
We’ve rounded up ways to tell your child they can’t do something without using the word “No”.
By telling your child exactly what you require from them, you will begin to see changes in their responses in line with your expectations.
1. Use the word “Stop” instead of “No”
Chng explains, “Using the word ‘Stop’ in such situations is more apt because stop is the response you want them to act on. Often times, when we make statements such as ‘No running’ or ‘No, don't take it out’, children do the opposite. Why? It’s because all they hear are the second half of those statements, which are ‘Run’ and ‘Take it out’.”
She suggests that you state the response you desire, such as “Stop, please walk” or “Stop, put that back”. By telling your child exactly what you require from them, you will begin to see changes in their responses in line with your expectations.
2. Offer different choices
Chng suggests, “When your child insists on doing something that differs from what is expected of them, provide them with choices.”
She emphasises that these choices should be cleverly chosen, as well as support your child in making a decision that is in line with your expectations.
“For example, your child may ask to continue watching TV instead of tidying up the mess they made. The options you provide can be to tidy up on their own or with a little help from you,” Chng says. “Or if they want to go to bed without brushing their teeth, give them the choice to either brush immediately or in 5 to 10 minutes time.”
Another example is that junior may ask to eat other foods besides vegetables. Rather than saying “No, just eat your vegetables”, ask them “Do you prefer broccoli or carrots?”. Your child will still feel empowered, as they are able to decide and indicate their preference, she notes.
3. Propose an alternative time
“Most toddlers have yet to grasp the concept of time, so try to include more concrete and familiar place holders like ‘After dinner’, ‘When you wake up in the morning’ or ‘On your birthday’. Counting the number of sleeps (such as two more sleeps before your birthday) can also be a concrete way of tracking time, especially when a wait is involved,” she adds.
“Most toddlers have yet to grasp the concept of time, so try to include more concrete and familiar place holders like ‘After dinner’... Counting the number of sleeps (such as two more sleeps before your birthday) can also be a concrete way of tracking time, especially when a wait is involved.”
4. Redirect their attention
So if your child has an allergy and asks to buy something with the allergens present, suggest something like “Let’s buy your favourite biscuit instead. I think it’s in the next aisle ― let’s go find it!”
5. Reason things out with them
“When your child is requesting something that is an outright no-no, say no and talk them through the situation in a way they are able to understand,” says Chng.
For instance, if your child wants to snatch a toy from a playmate, tell them their friend will be sad if their toy is suddenly taken away. Point out that they, too, would feel hurt if someone took things from them without their permission.
“For younger children, reasoning with them might be tricky as lengthy explanations do not help the situation,” Chng notes. “In such cases, a simple ‘No’ communicates the expectation clearly.”
Chng also adds how it is important for parent to model when and how to use no. “As children go through life, they do need to learn and be able to say no in some situations ― such as when a stranger asks them to follow them to their car, or when a friend wants them to do the wrong thing. In such instances, the word ‘No’ becomes a really powerful shield.”
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