How to Say "No" without Saying "No"

My 5-month-old son has recently started reaching for my face when I hold him. He enjoys grabbing my glasses and pulling at my nose.

Kids his age are curious and starting to learn to use their hands and grab things. They also don't understand that sometimes the things they do can cause pain or potentially create damage (if he had squeezed my glasses in just the wrong way, it could have been a big problem).

It got me thinking about how I should approach teaching my son to be mindful of what he's doing, even though he may not understand it yet.

On one hand, I could simply tell him "no" and push his hands away from my face (those little fingernails are sharp), at which point he might think I'm playing some sort of game and keep reaching for my face and glasses in the same way.

OR I could think of a better way to tell him "no". Instead of saying no, I could demonstrate to him a more appropriate way of interacting with me, and even at his tender age, allowing him to still explore and learn about the world around him. I could take his tiny hand in mine, and gently show him how to softly run his hand across my cheek and chin. I could say "We need to be soft when we touch people so that we don't hurt others. If we aren't soft, we could hurt someone."

While he may not understand the words I'm saying, he will understand the tone and the way in which I am expressing what he should do.

This can apply to kids of any age and behaviors of all types. If your child wants to jump on the couch and you would prefer that they don't do that, maybe you could try saying "We sit when we're on the couch. Floors are good for jumping on though."

Or maybe you have a child who has decided that they want the toy their little brother is playing with, and simply takes it without asking. Instead of saying "No, don't take toys from others." we could say "If you want to play with a toy that someone else has, you should ask if you can have a turn instead of taking it out of their hands."

When we need to tell kids "no", it can be helpful to reframe that "no" into something that they can do instead of something they can't.

If children feel like they are constantly being told "no" they may not understand what specifically it is that they are supposed to do, and all they will know is what they can't do. Saving "no" for things that are really big can help increase its meaning so that when they hear "no" they understand that the behavior they are engaging in is a big problem.

When it comes to the smaller things, being clear and direct about what you want your children to do, helping them understand why they should behave in certain ways, and having an alternative behavior offered to them will help your child to recognize how they should behave and they will be more likely to behave well.

Learn more here.

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Monday, 16 May 2022

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