by Aarti Kapur Singh
Learn how to say no to your child without actually making them feel that you are REALLY saying NO!
Becoming a parent is cakewalk when it compares to being one. For there are difficult decisions to taken, situations to be handled, problems solved – all keeping in mind the fact that you are shaping a whole individual with what you say and do. Good manners need to be taught right from the start. With great power, comes even greater responsibility!
As parents we get so wrapped up in raising our kids right, that we forget to treat our kids right. We forget that they are little people who go through ups and downs in their day, who have feelings and get frustrated and exasperated just like we do. And we talk to them in a way that would never be acceptable for a spouse/boss/friend to talk to us. ‘NO’ is easy – but does not always work. There are better ways to deny, deter, or discipline your child than always saying no. Aside from the obvious exhaustion — for both parent and child — saying “no” too much can breed resentment or plant seeds for future rebellion. Just so that NO does not turn into a game of tug-of-war,
1. Agree: Hold on. I am not asking you to concede here. “Sure, sweetie. You can watch TV as soon as you finish home work” will probably lead him to finishing up the task at hand. You are essentially saying “No you can’t watch TV till you finish your work”, but the packaging is different. I have to warn you though, this may not work all the time. If you get an emphatic “No, I want to watch it RIGHT NOW!” or the ultra-whiny “Now, mama, pleeeeeeeaaaaase”, it’s time to move on to other options.
2. Disguise it: Your kid asks you for chocolate while you’re shopping. You say, “No sweets before dinner.” He stomps his feet. You say no again, more sharply this time. Before you know it, he’s having a multi-octave tantrum. Problem compounded, instead of solved. So next time, try re-framing your no as ayes. For example, you could say to your child, “Yes, you can have a chocolate after dinner. Let’s go look for some steamed corn for now.”
So when you want to keep a child from being destructive with his toys, say, “Don’t knock down the blocks. Let me show you how to play.” Or you have just given him a bath and he wants to play there while you wash the drive-way, “Sure you can help, but I will have to bathe you again.”
3. Explain it: Consider explaining to your child why their behavior — like tearing a page from a notebook — is so bothersome to you. You might say (as I used to), “You’re hurting the notebook when you rip a page, and that makes me sad. Please stop.” Although it may feel futile to reason with a toddler, you’re actually teaching them something: what they do affects other people around them — this is a crash course in empathy! “If you play with my glasses and they break, how will I see you?”
4. Let the kid choose: Instead of focusing on ‘No’, find what the child can do instead. For instance, a child who wants to blow bubbles in the house can be redirected with “We can blow bubbles outside or in the garage instead.” A child who wants an ice cream can be redirected with “You can have a piece of cheese or a cake.” This lets the child feel that instead of forbidding something, you’re actually giving him an option.
By offering him an option, you help your child feel like he has some power over the situation. For really young kids till four years old, this also encourages them to make simple choices and develop a sense of independence. Just avoid overwhelming a young child with too many options: For toddlers and preschoolers, two is just right. “May be you can watch TV now for 10 minutes now, or watch it for 20 later when your favorite show is coming.”
5. Distract: This is probably the easiest trick in the book, but sadly, it has an expiry date on it. It doesn’t work as well now (my son is 8) as it did when he was 3. But I still use this technique to switch his attention to something interesting and say “Oh wow! That is such an amazing photograph in the newspaper. It looks like we could paint it!” (Especially when he is stuck to the TV). Avoid being a party pooper by helping your child find an activity that’s just as much fun as the one you’re putting off-limits.
Some examples of “NO” alternatives include:
- “Not today”
- “Maybe another time”
- “Let’s choose something else.”
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