I haven't done a parenting blog before so I thought it might be fun to share a little parenting method we use.
I have been attending the same playgroup with Talan now since he was a tiny little guy, and it seems that the older the kids within the group get, the more I hear the word "NO!" coming from my fellow playgroup parents. It is even to the point that some of the kids say it back!
Sometime ago, when Talan was a really little guy, I read an article about alternative ways to tell your child "no." It was very informative in that it explained that the word "no" is a very overused negative (probably because it's so easy to come to mind and say), hence why it is often one of the first words learned by young children. The article stated that if used too much towards a child, the word can have an almost crippling affect because the child can often learn to tune the word out when they want to, or eventually just plain ignore it. This could be very dangerous depending on the circumstance. Now, this doesn't mean the word shouldn't be used, it should just be used in a manner that won't make you seem inapproachable to your child, meaning that after a while, your child would rather just try things without asking you about them or letting you know that they are going to do them. Ted and I practice a good amount of alternate ways to the word no that were within the article with Talan, so I will share a bit of what we do. Note that this works for our child but it won't for every child, and it is also not full proof, as kids will be kids.
Use A Stern "NO!" Only In EXTREME Situations
Talan is at the age of climbing now. He likes to try to climb on everything. He is also a very curious child, so we know that we can't leave items just lying around and that we have to keep a close eye on him. Anyway, one of Mr. T's new passions is trying to climb into the chairs in our formal dining room. Climbing in dining room chairs = possibility of the chair flipping over with him = DANGER, hence a firm "Talan, NO! No climbing in these chairs ...." is warranted. Even though it is a stern no, it is still positive in the fact that it is stopping the child from possibly hurting themselves, warning them against something but teaching them at the same time. But, let's not stop there. There's more that needs to be added.
So you may look at this subtitle and think it is pointless, but truly it's not. Many parents just tell their kids no without giving an explanation. Even though Talan is 1, he understands a good amount. He has fallen before and gotten a "boo boo," or whatever you want to call it, so he can associate "boo boo" with why he shouldn't get into the chairs. This brings a bit more positiveness to the situation as the "NO!" was stern, but now you are subtle in explaining why. So, my phrase would extend out to "Talan, NO! No climbing in these chairs. You could fall over and get hurt, you could get a boo boo." Now it has been explained to him why he shouldn't climb in the chairs and he can associate "boo boo" with why he shouldn't. I also make a sorta sad, hurt face to go along with the "boo boo" expression to further reiterate what I mean. Now, let's take it one step further ....
Offer An Alternative
So I have given him a firm no and explained to him what could happen if he were to climb in the chairs. The last part of my statement would be to offer him an alternative activity, preferably similar to what is already being done. So, if he's climbing, after my whole no phrase, I would offer him an alternative. ".... you could get a boo boo. Lets go in the playroom and you can climb on your little slide." So I would then proceed to take him to the playroom to the little 3-in-1 activity gym that we got him, and let him climb on the little slide.
I think with this method, situations that can often be frustrating on behalf of both parent and child when only the negative is enforced, end up being much more subtle and calm.
Other than dangerous situations, we try not to say no too much to him. This could be one reason he hasn't said it himself yet. If Mr. T is trying to get something that he shouldn't have, then we just simply go "Talan, you can't have that, that's not yours" or "Talan, you can't play with that, it's not a toy. Let's go get one of your toys." and divert his attention to something or somewhere else. Here's an example using "can't" instead of "no" combined with offering him an alternative.
Let's say that I have forgotten to put my cell phone up so that Mr. T can't get ahold of it, and of course, he gets ahold of it. Instead of simply saying "No" and taking it away, which would not only frustrate him but make him want it even more, I would go "Talan, you can't play with this phone, but here's a phone that you can play with" and I would give him one of his toy phones, or if one isn't nearby, I would go " ... let's go find one of your phones." Then, to keep his attention on his phone and not mine, I would press buttons on his phone and put a lot of attention on it and what it can do, so that he eventually forgets about my phone.
Sign It Out
Another alternate to express that you want the behavior to stop through sign language. We have been teaching Talan to sign since he was an infant, so instead of saying "No," we will do the sign for "Stop." He knows what it means and always heeds to it. We use this technique in those situations where he is getting into little things. "Stop!" is more of a word of caution and hence often times evokes a reaction faster than "no" does, as "no" can sometimes increase curiosity more than hinder it. Of course, it can be overused too.
The look is just that, the look. It's that look you give that lets your child know that what they are doing is not appreciated nor acceptable and that the action needs to cease. It can be used in conjunction with tone (another way to get across that you want a behavior to stop), the sign language, or basically any of the alternative ways that I have mentioned.
Now, like I said earlier, none of this fullproof and won't work with every child, as kids will be kids and they will test you. Talan is young, so we expect him to be curious about the world and in no way want to hinder his curiosity, but we also want him to learn that not everything is safe and that he has to be careful and respect his surroundings. Not only that, we want him to learn to listen. I believe that by not constantly being told no by us and being reinforced to more positive things that he can do, we are raising a child who will pay attention to what we tell him as he won't feel that he is constantly being nagged. He will also see that he can approach us with anything and that we will guide him to the best of our abilities. In the long run, this method should reinforce your child to better think about what they are about to do before doing it, to think about the consequences that could occur and to find the best alternative to what it is they want or want to do.