How many times do you normally say “No” in a day?
5? 10? 30?
I bet it’s a lot.
This morning I found myself denying requests left and right.
- Cupcakes? Not for breakfast.
- Can you go to your cousin’s house? Not today.
- You want oatmeal? No. Remember? You already asked for toast.
Lots and lots of “No” and it wasn’t even 8am.
I can remember when my toddler was just starting to get into things he shouldn’t. At the age when he was mobile but still pre-verbal, so I had no idea if he understood anything I was saying.
- He’d stick his hands in the flowerpot – I’d say “No”
- He’d pull the speaker wire out of the wall – I’d say “No”
- He would do anything undesirable – I’d say “No”
On and on and on and on. It felt like all I said all day was “No.”
At the time I didn’t see any problem with this. My justification was, well, someday he’s going to understand what “No” means, so I’ll just say it all the time and eventually he’ll catch on.
And then he caught on.
Funny thing was, once he learned what “No” meant, he didn’t like it.
Nope. Didn’t like it one bit.
I quickly learned that telling him “No” was a first class ticket to tantrum town — I’m sure if he could talk his retort would be something along the lines of “NO?! Oh, that’s funny! Let me just show you how this is going to go, silly mommy! I don’t take no for an answer!”
(Of course he didn’t actually say this, but his flailing, screaming body was a good indication that I was on the right track…)
So what’s a mom to do? Give in all the time?
No way Jose.
I don’t know about you, but entitlement isn’t high on the list of characteristics I’d like to instill in my kids.
But at the same time, if saying “No” was essentially the same as dropping a bomb on our day, there had to be a better way.
After a little trial and error, I discovered that the trick is to enable your child to feel understood while at the same time holding steady on whatever boundary you’re trying to set.
One way to accomplish this – say “Yes” instead of “No.”
Instead of outright denying the request with “No” you give a “Yes” with a bit more information.
- Can I have a cupcake? – Yes! You can have a cupcake for dessert after dinner.
- Can I go to my cousin’s house? – Yes! That would be a lot of fun. Let’s look at the calendar and pick a day that would work.
- Can I have oatmeal? – Sure thing, bud! You can have some oatmeal for lunch.
It was so easy!
- Can I have ice-cream? – Yes! We walk to get ice-cream on Fridays. Let’s mark it on the calendar.
- Can I watch Frozen? – Yes! Let’s watch Frozen after nap.
Tantrum frequency took a nosedive. Whereas in the past my toddler would flip out as soon as he heard “No”, now his reaction is usually one of calm acceptance.
Well, most of the time anyway…
ps. I first learned about this little tip in a book called How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk and I can’t recommend it enough. I got it years ago and it’s still one of my faves. ??
Image Credit: *_Abhi_*