Personally, I loved the terrible two's because each day offered something new. My approach to the "NO!'s" was to present my kids with a counterbalanced "YES" saving the "NOS" for really important times (from toddlerhood through teenhood, especially through teenhood). Granted, we did have some headbanging, hair tearing, door slamming (teen tantrum), fit throwing moments, but time has kindly wiped most from my memory and we all moved on. Also, because my husband and I are relatively low keyed people, we did not scream, which meant that for the most part, our kids did not scream either.
The "YES, when" and other "NO!" Counter-balancing Suggestions:
- When their no's are playful, play too. With toddlers, in particular, sometimes their "no's" are more word play than power struggle. Sometimes. When they're playful, reply with your own playful 'laughing' "NOOOOoo" Laugh, distract them. Chances are, you'll end this with a final yes and hug.
- When their 'no's' are serious, offer alternatives. Look at it as brainstorming and problem solving - two really important skills they need to learn and use. Granted, sometimes there isn't time to analyze, problem solve and brainstorm, but doing it efficiently and effectively ends up saving time in the long run.
- I, personally, am not above some 'cognitive tom-foolery'... Distraction's and key!
- Sometimes instead of "no" use "OK, but first...." or "Yes, after..." or "Yes, when..."
The YES rationale: When your child counters a demand/request with "no"- have a suitable, acceptable alternative handy. Not only does this "yes" alternative distract and neutralize their "no" - it also encourages them to contemplate alternatives, it models creative problem solving, and it empowers both sides. It can turn a head-bashing deadlock into a win-win situation. The challenge is in creating the "YES" alternatives. For suggestions, some of my previous blog posts may be helpful:
"Options, Shining Opportunities, Opening Worlds at http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/04/options-shining-opportunities-opening.html
"Looking at the World from Another Perspective: Richard Feynman Style at http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/03/looking-at-world-from-another.html
YES - Think about this:
- When headed into an argument - "NO" is a power struggle word... we want to avoid those confrontations and save them for the really important arguments we need to win.
- Say "YES" with qualifiers ("Yes, when..." "Yes, but after/before..." "Yes, but with..."!...) This way you are teaching them HOW to get what they want while accomplishing and doing what they have to do AND providing often needed structure and limits.
- Childhood is our opportunity to shape and teach our kids. Sometimes the best way to do this is to encourage them to take (safe or calculated) risks, and to allow them to learn from mistakes. So before saying 'NO' ask yourself if this is a mistake you can live with and one they can learn from. If the answer to this question is 'no' then your response has to be "NO." IF, however, your response to this question is yes or even maybe, look into the NO alternatives.
When you have to say "NO" To Toddlers and Younger Children: There are clear times we have to say "no" to our young children. These times involve safety issues, and basic essential school and social issues. Any time the yes/no line is not crystal clear, go to the problem solving, distracting, 'negotiating' alternatives. For those essential NO's:
- Use them with consistency - no running in the street ever... no running in the house with scissors or knives ever... no hitting other kids...These are always rules - not just sometimes;
- When possible, explain why you are saying no, what the consequences can and will be, and allow them to brainstorm what might be more acceptable.
- Mean it - we all know the "no" look and body language.
- Offer alternative behaviors, options, and means - this will help them with problem solving and it will help avoid confrontations and power struggles - empower them with acceptable alternatives they can chose from. This not only teaches positive problem solving, it empowers safe risk taking - something they must learn how to do and navigate throughout their lives.
- Show your kids that it is the action you are against and that you love them.
And, when you have to say "NO" To Teens:
With teens the YES/NO line is no longer so black and white. Teenhood is a time of learning and asserting independence; it is a time they have to learn to live comfortably in their own skins and a time when we as parents have to give them a longer rope to live by. We have to chose these NO's carefully. Too many no's here will push them further away sooner then either of you are really ready to cut that rope...but consequences to mistakes are greater, which makes this gray area grayer. Here too ask yourself: Are the consequences of his/her actions ones I can live with and he/she can learn from? Take out your scale here and measure both sides and remember to chose your NO's wisely. Failing and mistakes are not always a bad thing - painful, yes, but they can be powerful learning experiences that can serve your teen well.
The bottom line is that we have to pick and chose our yes' and nos'. How do you balance them? Please let us all know in your comments!