Sometimes the first word I utter in the morning is “no”. Imagine my daughter creeping into our bedroom, leaning into my ear, and whispering “Mommy, I reaaalllly want to wear my bathing suit to preschool”. I lift one eyelid, take a look at my precious daughter, and whisper the word, “no”. 6:15 in the morning, and I’ve already uttered my first of 4,913 “no’s” for the day.
The problem is, the word “no” starts to lose effect when repeated constantly. Toddlers are masterful manipulators. They know exactly when and where to ask the questions that clearly deserve a “no”, but MIGHT get a “yes”, if only asked at the precise moment. It’s genius, really. I wish I was that sharp, but I’m not because instead of reading in my spare time, I’m inventing new ways to say “no”.
Clearly, toddlers need boundaries. They need to understand when you REALLY mean “no”. So, how do you accomplish this? Well, I’m clueless. Super Nanny suggests time-outs. I believe in time-outs. In fact, I darn near worship them. Time-outs are the only consecutive minutes during any given day my daughter actually keeps quiet. However, if I sent Sutton to time-out every time she didn’t listen throughout the day, we would never leave the house. So, what’s a mom to do?
While writing this, it hit me! Maybe, just maybe, the word “no” has several meanings to the highly honed toddler ear? Our little tykes are smart, they know the true definition of your “no” and how much you mean it. If we adults learn the definitions and how to use them, I believe we might just have a broad breakthrough on our hands!
The DANGER NO! This “no” means “YOU ARE GOING TO HURT YOURSELF OR SOMEONE ELSE.” Typically, those work because the toddler hears the panic in your voice and believes you that danger is near. These “no’s” are hard to replicate and are probably the most vital. This “no” can be heard on a playground right before your child jumps off the monkey bars onto another toddler.
The THAT’S NUTS NO! This “no” is tough on a toddler because they don’t get it. Adults understand bathing suits and preschool don’t mix, but four year olds don’t. They just know they like their bathing suit and want to sport it. These “no’s” can bring on a tantrum and quick. These “no’s” are often the pre-curser to time-outs. As far as I can see, the best way to handle these “no’s” is with straightforward honesty. Tell the child why they can’t wear a bathing suit to school and what would happen if they did. Bring it down to their level. For example, they might get cold if they wore a bathing suit which would make for a bad trip to the playground. Communicate to your toddler and let them understand the true meaning of this “no”.
The NOT NOW NO. This “no” sometimes means “maybe”. This “no” often gets uttered because we are too tired to explain “maybe” or “not right now”. Your daughter wants to play dress-up, but you are mopping the floor. She asks and you respond with a “no, not right now I’m cleaning the floor”. Instead of saying “no”, try, “maybe, but after I finish the floors”. Replacing these “no’s” helps not to overuse the word and teaches your toddler patience. Saying “maybe” requires them to wait, and toddlers hate waiting, but it’s a life skill that will take them far in life.
The NO and I MEAN IT NO. These are critical! The creme-de-la-creme of “no’s”. Master these “no’s” and you are sailing across smooth waters. The best way to get this “no” under control is to MEAN IT. If you say “no candy”, mean it. Don’t cave and give in. Giving in only allows the toddler to try harder the next time to wear you down. These “no’s” are awfully hard to master but worth every bit of practice.
While I’m sure there are hundreds of additional definitions to a toddler, I think these four are the foundation. I have high hopes that understanding what “no” you are blabbing will give you strength to cut your NPD (No’s Per Day) to a decent and manageable amount. I’d settle for anything less than 1,000, but then again, who’s counting?
Don’t miss out on these reminders:
–Today is your last chance to register for the Smarty Giveaway! Just in time for Spring family outings, our friends at Children’s Theatre are giving one lucky Smarty (4) tickets to “Goodnight Moon,” the Margaret Wise Brown family bedtime classic. So presh and perfect for all ages from 3 to 99! Click here to register for your family 4-pack. Giveaway ends Sunday, April 18th at 5p. Good luck, Smarties!
–Quack, Quack! The Kindermourn Hope Floats Duck Race is TODAY! We’re trying to be the leading team of ducks for the second year in a row. Click here to read all about it!
See ya at the Whitewater Rafting Center!
So true! Not to name any names, but I have a friend who must say NO to her children ten thousand times a day. One day both of our kids were high-tailing it toward the street and I yelled at mine to stop so she immediately did and came back. My girlfriend on the other hand yelled no to her daughter and she continued on toward the street as fast as she could go. After we caught her and all was calm again, my friend was asking why my daughter listened so well when I yelled at her to stop. I didn't have the heart to tell her that if she wasn't saying no all the time, that the times she really meant it, it would work. (Kind of like the boy who cried wolf, huh?) Not that I don't have a million things I can improve on my parenting, myself, but I try to live by your rules on here. We need to pick our battles and if we can distinguish the differences I think it helps!
Great post! You totally just made me remember a cute story with my son – when he was a toddler, I had a phrase I found myself using (apparently a lot) as the "not now No" – Maybe tomorrow … It seemed to work well, until one day I asked Jake to do something for me, and he replied with "maybe tomorrow …" It was too funny, but one of the first times I heard my own words used back on me (and definitely not the last!!)
"Baby/ Toddler Proofing" the main living areas of your house really helps! I DO believe in children learning boundaries… but it gives them more areas to explore without being stopped every minute with a "no"! John Rosemond's "Making the Terrible Two's Terrific" is a good book for parents of toddlers, he writes about this topic. Great post!