Parenting is a delicate balance of knowing how to raise your kids with integrity while also preparing them for the real world. Sometimes this means doing things that seem counter-intuitive to make sure our kids are actually hearing what we are saying and learning from situations. Something that I learned from teaching and in the first couple of years of parenthood is that finding ways to talk to children without saying no is so important. Now as a mother of two, parenting without saying no, don’t, and stop is an important part of my every single day.
Sometimes it’s hard to admit that hearing no is really tough. And in a very real sense, I by no means want my children to grow up without having ever been told no. It is absolutely part of life.
So why would I advocate for adopting the “parenting without saying no” approach?
Very simply… because they listen better.
The way we are hard wired as humans is to listen to the sentence structure. We sometimes hear the first part of a sentence, almost always hear the last part, but rarely hear the middle unless we have our complete attention on the person talking to us. And really, what young child is giving us their undivided attention at all times?
Beyond just the way we hear, it’s also important for all of us to have clear directions. If we are given vague instructions, it leaves a lot of gray area. This is because there are a thousand alternatives to “not” doing something, but only one course of action that should be done when told specifically what to do.
So why would we not want to adopt a system that helps our children listen to us better? Or be more obedient?
So how do I remove negative words when talking to my child?
It’s really easy to say no… WAY too easy. So it’s not going to be a cake walk to retrain your mind to ditch negative words and actions like “no”, “stop”, “don’t”, “can’t”, etc. but it is possible. It took me a long time and I am still not perfect. It’s all about practice.
Instead of saying “I can’t talk right now” when I am waiting on hold on the phone and my daughter comes to ask me a question, I say “I am on the phone right now. I can talk to you in a little bit”. I do this because I am focusing on what she is going to hear. If she is not giving me her undivided attention, she may only hear “talk right now”. Instead, I want her to hear “on the phone” and “in a little bit”.
Likewise, if my daughter is in danger and is too close to the street I am not about to yell “Don’t go in the street!” because I don’t want her to hear the last half of it. I want her to hear “Come here please!” or “Please move away from the street!”
There are numerous examples I could give, but thought some of the best were in the image above. we have also replace “don’t touch” with “please keep your hands to yourself”/”please keep your hands in your pockets” (we go to antique stores a lot). And my husband is working on not using “my ears don’t hear whining” because she has shut down too many times. Instead we encourage her to use her words and express her emotions in a way that we can understand.
Is it possible to discipline without saying no?
Yes! This has everything to do with the idea of being intentional with our words and giving clear instructions to our children.
Magda Gerber once said “A child who is never told “no” is a neglected child.” However, it’s more about how we tell them no, rather than the word itself! We must affirm what our children need to do. Rather than discipline and teach them by telling them what not to do, it’s a lot easier to tell them exactly what what we want them to do. In telling a child not to hit, maybe he thinks “Well can I kick?”
When my daughter threw a small wooden ball and it hit me in the forehead instead of saying “Cassie, NO! Don’t throw that!” I simply said “Ow! That really hurt. Please keep your toys in your hands.”
In the end my parenting has become much more intentional by using negative language and “no” less and coming up with a more positive approach.
BY KARA CARRERO