A friend and I recently had a heated discussion about the word NO and our (younger then one year old) children.  I use the word NO a lot.  I think it’s important for a child, no matter how young, to have clear boundaries and a sense of what is ok and what is not ok.  On any given day in my house you will hear:

-No, don’t touch that TV
-No, mommy’s hair is not for your pulling enjoyment.
-No, don’t hit the Squeek (our cat).
-No, don’t sit on Squeek.  He’s not a chair.
-No, don’t eat that week old Cheerio that mommy missed when she swept yesterday.
-No, don’t turn up the volume then cry because it’s too loud.

The word NO comes up a lot.  The Boy is 9 months and has been on the move for the past three months.  I don’t have up a lot of gates because I want him to be free to explore, touch, taste, feel and learn.  But with that desire has come the need to correct him and tell him NO.
images.jpgMy friend was appalled at the amount of times I had to stop him using the word NO.  She felt that it was inappropriate to “discipline” a child of The Boy’s age.  In her mind, he needed to discover for himself the consequences of certain actions and behaviours.  In my mind, he was discovering consequences when I removed him or stopped him and used the word NO to remind him this behaviour was not OK.

The use of the word in question began, in our house, when The Boy began to scratch and smack faces.  He would do it hard.  It made a cool sound, got a good reaction, why wouldn’t he continue?  In the beginning, I would just remove his hand or re-direct.  However, The Boy is strong willed and he kept coming back for more. Finally, I had to hold his arm and look him straight in the eye and say NO.  He  stopped the hitting/scratching for the most part.

To me, the word NO, when used with a child under the age of two, is a way to correct, teach and hopefully encourage learning.  When used in conjunction with redirection and a kiss, I don’t think of it as discipline at all…but I’m discovering many people do.

So I’m left to ponder my use of the word and its ramifications on my son.  Will his first real word be NO?  Will he equate his mother with the word??  Will he resent the boundaries that I’ve set up for him or be respectful and thankful that his mom wanted them there?

  • Sarah

    Absolutely love and appreciate all these comments- excellent ideas and suggestions…thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts on what can be a touchy subject for moms!

  • Erin

    I’ve read a number of books and articles that deal with the subject of “gentle discipline”. My understanding of the idea of not saying no is that many parents are constantly saying no, so much so that it is used more than 200 times per day. I don’t think that the idea is to never say no, it’s to use it sparingly so that it is effective and so that the child is not always being reprimanded. So, child proof, re-direct and say no when necessary.
    I just wanted to add this article by Alfie Kohn about conditional parenting to address the issue of time-outs. http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/conditional.htm
    His book, Unconditional Parenting, is excellent. As are his books and articles on education. IMO

  • Amreen

    i think that you are doing a great job of introducing discipline into your son’s world. “no” is a reality and it can be conveyed in a loving, firm manner. there are too many moms scared to discipline their kids and I think it’s an important part of parenting. just my thoughts

  • Julie

    hi stephanie, i am sorry about the spanking you received as a kid…that is never okay. i’m also sorry you were offended by my comments but as someone who is not be one of the entitled i speak of, i am not painting you and your friends with the same brush.
    i will, however, stand by my comments as, from my perspective, i still see more wave than some (and you’re right about the pre-teens as well). in my situation, i have seen more neighbours, co-workers and my husband’s students freak out (yes, sometimes literally) when told no for some reasonable situations…_life_ situations. things that would never have been an issue for my “old fart” generation. ie. “why did i fail my project?” “it was two weeks late” “i still should pass!”….really?!?
    i know that in my small orb of 20-somethings i know personally (i can count 10 off the top of my head) 7 fall into my wave category. i know that is a super small percentage of your generation out there and probably unfair scientifically but this is an opinion and i will stand behind it as i will respect yours. and i am truly impressed by your having a two year old in your 20′s. i started having my kids in my early 30′s and i still think i was too young! :-)
    thank you for giving me hope that there are a bunch of you out there with your head screwed on right.

  • Stephanie

    Uhhh, to Julie and Sarah who responded first…
    I am a 20-something, who is married and have an almost 2-year-old. I don’t know any “entitled 20-somethings”…and I don’t see much of this attitude you speak of from my age group… but I have noticed attitude coming out of some pre-teens these days. And I say “some”, not “a wave”.
    Found your comments a little offensive. I not only heard the word “no” a lot as a child – I was spanked AND told no!

  • Jen

    Sara – is your son is about 18 months old now? You can start instituting time outs for about 1 minute. You’ll have to teach him that he has to stay in his time out spot but at that age they are starting to understand consequences better.

  • Sara

    Go NO! I called my friend when my boy was about your boy’s age and said ‘god I’m so bored of saying no’ – and she gave me an alternative but for the life of me I can’t remember because it’s just really no.
    Unfortunately he sort of laughs at me now when I say it (9 months later) – gives me this look like ‘whatever’ and keeps going.
    Anyone have a suggestion for older kids and how to get them to stop – oh I don’t know climbing on the tv stand? high sticking with his team canada hockey stick?

  • Melissa

    Punishing a child of your son’s age would be inappropriate. Showing him that undesireable behavior does not make you happy is part of parenting. If the word “no” happens to get your message across and you say it assertively, not angrily, than you are doing just fine!

  • Bella

    I had this very same conversation with my sister several years ago. My second born and her first-born are only few months apart.
    My sister also criticized my overuse of the word No, and explained that she never said No to her daughter (how was this even possible?). I felt like a really bad parent after our discussion, I never considered that using the word No was harming my children. Unfortunately I never could come up with a better substitute. I had two girls under three, and was doing my best to keep my head above water.
    Today my sister cannot even recall this conversation. She uses the word No all the time.
    The word No is an efficient and direct way of communicating your feelings to a young child. As my children have gotten older the word NO is not enough. An explanation and debate often follows (the subject matter for an entirely different blog). I must admit I use the phrase “We will see” instead of dealing with the fallout of just saying No more than I should.

  • Jen

    Sarah, I completely agree with you. With my daughter I only gated the stairs but she was not the type of child to go exploring. She understood what No meant by the time she was a year old.
    With my son I have more gates up because he is an explorer and I don’t have the same energy level to chase him around the house! :) However, I still use the word No firmly and he also understands it well. In fact, if he goes towards the bookshelf, he looks at me first. I say No, he turns and finds something else to do! Good boy! :)

  • Jen

    I think as long as your “no’s” are to help him learn that it is OK. And as long as there are many positive interactions too (which I can tell by the way you write about your boy there are!) then how you choose to approach this with your child is to do what is best for you.
    With my older one “no” worked but my younger is very sensitive and felt criticized a lot so we tend to find as much positive as we can to build her up a bit but still communicate how she could approach things the next time. Each child and each family is different. As long as your son is happy and your love for him is what motivates then it is right.

  • Sarah

    I totally agree with using the word NO, I don’t have any kids of my own but work with children, jr highs, and youth for a living.
    I stand up and applaud Julie’s statement about the wave of entitled teenagers and 20 somethings. I’m all about talking to your kids and using loving discipline, but sometimes parents need to stop trying to be their child’s best friend and be the adult. Your child WILL get over it and learn to live within the boundaries you have set. It is easier to train a child at a young age in what is right and wrong then trying to explain to a 16 why you are all of a sudden saying NO.
    Moms I respect you, you have a tough job. Saying the word no will NOT harm your child, it teaches them respect of authority, discipline, boundaries etc. You are helping form your childs character, you are laying the foundation for who they will become.
    My mom said no to me…I turned out ok

  • Julie

    i think shawn had a similar post to yours and my opinion is still the same…why is “no” bad and “yes” good?
    “can i smack you in the face?” “NO!” (would yes be better?)
    “can i go out and smoke dope with my friends?” “NONONONO!”
    i truly feel that the wave of entitled teenagers and 20somethings that we’re seeing right now never heard the word “no”. kids the age of your boy can’t possibly ‘discover for himself’ the dangers of playing with the stove door or running full tilt at the stairs. i’d rather say “no” to stop him in his tracks, then show him the danger as opposed to “sweetie it’s okay to run and be free but maybe at the top of the stairs where it’s a possibility you could fall and crack your head open wou……..oh, too late”.
    and you’re not screaming “no” at him, you’re teaching him boundaries. even grown ups need them. do the police say “yes” when you’re screeching down the school zone at 80 kms because they understand you’re late for a dentist appointment? NO!

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