by Jody Pawel
Most parents have heard somewhere that all children will go through a "no" stage and it is inevitable.
During the past twenty years, I've researched and taught effective parenting skills, learned from my own two children, and have heard testimonials from hundreds of parents. Based on all this, I can tell you absolutely that children do not have to go through a "no" stage.
I can also assure you that avoiding the "negative no's" has nothing to do with having compliant children. It has to do with how parents handle their power and communicate their limits.
Toddlers and preschoolers are learning how to develop self control and how to influence the world around them. A child this age practices getting power in the ways that are modeled to them and can become very impressed with the power behind the word "no".
A four-star skill that has spared hundreds of parents and children (even strong-willed ones) is to word "no's" in a positive way. There are several ways to do this:
- Use the word "yes" to say "no"
This has nothing to do with permitting something you don't want or "tricking" the child. It simply tells the child under what circumstances it can be a "yes". For example, instead of, "No, you can't have candy now." say, "Yes, you can have candy, after you eat your dinner."
- Acknowledge feelings before setting the limit
As soon as you say "no" or deny a request, children stop listening to your reasons and start defending themselves and convincing you how much they want something. When you acknowledge feelings first, children know you understand how they feel and are still listening when you deny the request. For example, instead of, "No, we can't stay at the playground. We need to go home now" say, "It's hard to leave someplace when you are having so much fun isn't it," as you proceed to leave.
- Use wishes and fantasy -- Say "I bet you wish you could stay at the playground forever! Wouldn't it be fun! Tell me what you will do the next time you come here." Instead of "No, you can't have that toy/candy" say, "What would you do with that toy? How would you play with it?" You will be surprised at your child's ability to separate fantasy from reality.
Wording limits in the positive meets many goals of parenting: It increases the child's self-esteem, increases the parent's confidence, decreases the need for discipline or punishment, improves communication skills, increases cooperation, and teaches children self-control and how to practice power in positive ways.
Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is a second-generation parent educator and president of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting. She is the author of 100+ resources for parents and family service professionals, including her award-winning book, The Parent's Toolshop at Parent's Toolshop® Consulting, Ltd. Since 1980, Jody has trained parents and professionals through her dynamic presentations and served as internationally recognized parenting expert to the media worldwide. Get practical parenting resources, including more information about this topic at Parent's Toolshop®'s archive.
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