Since H was quite small we have been quite careful about saying “No” when talking to her. Even back when she started her Sing and Sign class, we actively started using alternative phrases such as “Please don’t do that” accompanied by the sign which also meant “no” so she could understand these things consistently meant that she shouldn’t do something, but that the actual word “no” could be reserved for the serious things. And it was going really well…until she became a toddler.
Over the last couple of months she has definitely reached the phase where she is properly testing boundaries. She will grab anything and everything, run-off to any part of the house she’s been told not to go in and will very deliberately do things to provoke a reaction (today’s ‘high point’ was when she threw her plate of tuna sandwiches, cut-up cherry tomatoes and sweetcorn all over the floor because Sam and I were trying to get a hornet out the lounge rather than talking to her!). She understands when she isn’t allowed to do something; Ask her if she wants her nappy changed and you get a very definite ‘no’ headshake, compared to the visible nod for “Do you want a biscuit?”. This is common toddler behaviour and whilst I might not have realised the challenges of managing it, or expected it at quite such a young age, I did expect her to do this at some point. What I didn’t expect was the challenges I would personally face in limiting my use of the “N” word!
“No” is such a widely used word in most people’s vocabulary. As adults we understand the difference between a sarcastic “No”,
No it’s fine, of course you can just eat my bit of cake too. I didn’t want it.
a surprised “No”,
No way! I can’t believe you managed to walk round town with chocolate cake all over your face. Haha!
and serious “No”
NO! Don’t touch that, it’s really hot from baking another chocolate cake.
So as I’ve grown-up, I haven’t given my use of the word too much thought until now. But it turns out that it permeates almost everything I say. It requires so much thought to replace it with other phrases and when H is really testing me, on those afternoons where she is pushing every single boundary possible, I just forget to even try. I say “no” to her for everything she’s doing that she shouldn’t. Which means when she tries to touch the cooker because it has shiny dials, my “NO” (even when shouted with real severity and volume) just doesn’t carry the weight I would like it to.
Teaching your children good habits, manners and disciplining them properly are some of the hardest parts of parenting . I don’t want to become the mummy who always says “No” but sometimes I really do feel like I say it to her too often. But I suppose all I can do is keep trying and not beat myself up on the days when I’m pushed to the limit and it slips out more often than I’d like!
Have any of you struggled with this? I’d love to hear any tips you have!