The many meanings of No
We can all get into the habit of saying No especially when we are tired or stressed but there are many times when better communication on our part helps our child understand and cooperate better. Here is a piece from The Growing Child newsletter distributed by Lifestart.
I just remembered a family story.
My sister-in-law overheard her young granddaughter asking her mother for a particular privilege. “We’ll see,” said her mother. Glumly the child turned away. “That means no,” she said, with resignation.
Kids and adults alike seem to spend a lot of time interpreting all the messages surrounding the word “No”. Said by a weary mother, it may signify that she can’t deal with another request at this point, not that the idea itself is unreasonable. When a distracted father says, “No”, he may mean that he doesn’t want to get involved right now, but go ask your mother—a way of passing the buck.
When another parent says “No”, it may mean that she is showing the child who is boss, exerting power for the sake of having the power—plus subconsciously enjoying being begged to then yield. And when a child hears “No”, it usually means a frustrating of their impulses and wishes that produces anger.
Many parents, I believe, worry about saying “No” to their children lest this anger from kids mean that parental popularity poll numbers will fall. They seem to think that “No” will convey a meaning of “I don’t love you”, instead of just meaning “No”.
No should just mean No. Since “No” is clearly a powerful word, parents should consider carefully the ways and means of using it. First and unapologetically, No’s are necessary in order to produce children who can respect limits and understand something about how to live in this world. Obviously saying “No” alone doesn’t do all that. Along with the prohibition must come some information about why it’s a “No” whether the reason is safety, family values and circumstances, developmental stage, or timing. (If there is no reason you can explain easily, then maybe you should consider whether the “No” is necessary.)
Because that’s another thing about No’s : such powerful words should be used judiciously and sparingly. I think some kids are quite justified in their frustration, if they are surrounded with No’s at every turn. Instead of a shower of No’s , parents should consider redirection— “You could throw the ball outside, instead of inside.” or “That road is unsafe for riding. How about you stay in the cul-de-sac?”
Parents could turn the question back to the child for reconsideration—“I can’t let you eat candy now. Can you think of something else you could choose for snack?” They could state a contingency— “I’m not free to drive you there now, but if you help me put the laundry away while I finish this email, you can go then.”And even when it’s a “No”, it is a clear, firm limit—“No”, I can’t let you go to her house today, I’m sorry.”
When you do have to say “No” be sure that your delivery indicates a solid limit, with a serious though kind face, a calm tone and authoritative body language. Any wishy-washiness on your part gives kids an invitation to wheedle and beg.
The GROWING TOGETHER NEWSLETTER is issued by; GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of:
THE LIFESTART FOUNDATION,
2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd.,
Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG
Tel: 028 71365363. Fax: 028 71365334.
Web Site: www.lifestartfoundation.org