How to say 'NO' less to your little one
‘No’. For too many babies that is the first word they learn to say.
My mother, now 76, only learnt to swim in her 50’s. She says she hears these words in her mind when she gets into water (which she is afraid of) ‘Oh Lord, my child, you’re going to drown’ – which my grandmother used to say to her whenever she got near a pool. (In other ways she was quite an indulgent mom though).
I am glad to say that my kids first words were ‘num’ for food, ‘kika’ for our cat and ‘num num’ for breastmilk. I am not a perfect parent by any means but I was lucky enough to have training in pre-school and psychotherapy before having children and I learnt to create child friendly environments where the word ‘no’ was needed very little.
I would love to tell all new parents to make their house and garden child friendly. Pack away all the special stuff, get an attitude towards a few torn novels in your book case, cover up electrical switches, child safe stairs, keep your toilet lids down, turn pot handles away, keep computers high up, chemicals and medicines far out of reach,. Then put toys in each room – in containers so that they can get tidied away every evening. Toys on your bookshelves (then your books get left alone more). And in the low kitchen cupboards have things your child can unpack and in the others have ways to keep them shut.
Then check there are no poisonous plants in your garden (take them out if they are!), fence or cover your pool or ponds...
Once your baby is mobile let them explore their environment at will – safe in the knowledge that all is well...
Yes your baby will fall down and get bumps and bruises, they will put plants and stones in their mouths, and investigate the dogs bowl. But have plasters, and ice to put on bruises and keep an eye on what they put in their mouths. And rather say ‘don’t put that in your mouth, it could make you feel sick, or choke if you swallow it’ than something like ‘ NO, no, no, I will smack you’ and grab them roughly and poke you finger in their mouths painfully. (I have witnessed this far too often!) Babies understand your tone and your words long before they can talk and reasonable explanations work.
Of course a sharp short no is necessary as you see your baby reaching to pull another babies hair or when they are about to poke their fingers into the dog pooh in the park...but a short pleasant explanation afterwards is also necessary.
And then your child will be able to explore and enjoy exploring in positive ways and learn that exploring is profitable and fun. And turn them into enquiring, interested children and adults. It will also ensure that your relationship is a positive and friendly one rather than conflict and punishment strewn...
And of course the same goes for pre-schools. The environment needs to be safe so that it can be explored without 'no's'!
When the boundaries are clear but few everyone is so much happier! The only time we need to say ‘no’ is when these rules are broken: When you hurt yourself, others or the environment.