No, Don't, and other bad words...

How often do you say 'No!' around your kids? Chances are, you do it more often than you realize. As parents, we do it instinctively - we don't want the young ones to harm themselves,after all. But it is also easy to get carried away with this instinct. The controlling urge that we have as carers and protectors makes us think that we ought to tell our children exactly what and what not to do. Children, on the other hand, are different creatures. Young children, especially, are easily excited by everything. Which means that they'll make messes (lots of them!), they'll do naughty things and they'll get into trouble. Of course, you can't let them get away with everything. But if you stop to think for a moment, your cautionary directives could thwart creativity and exploration (as much as your non-verbal cues do).

Pic: staycep/Pixabay/Public Domain
Now, it's not like you're damaging your child by letting them have a free run but my point is that there are certain words and phrases we should use carefully. Here are some, for instance:

We often blurt this out without really knowing what the kids are doing. We assume that they're going to do something unsafe, but they're probably as cautious as we are. Sometimes, you just have to wait and watch, and let them explore the world around them. If they are indeed doing something dangerous, scream it at the top of your lungs by all means! But in other cases, try to say something positive (Just be careful/That's a big step/Mind your head) or divert them to something else. You can also try asking them what they're doing when you catch them doing something absurd, such as licking the wall. That might surprise them into having to explain it to themselves!

This is like saying no, but is more like a command. Chances are, you'll be ignored if you try to tell kids what not to do. It's very simple to, instead, tell them what you would like them to do. But make sure you don't ask them to do it, because given a choice, they'll choose not to.

You can't do that!
This really brings the child's abilities into question, and may make them want to pursue their activity no matter what. Instead, offer to help them or use the good old distraction method (you have to be creative with that!).

Bad boy/girl!
This is a phrase that can do more harm than good. A young child will react negatively to something like this, so avoid it altogether. Remember, it is the action that you have to call bad and not the child. Point out what the child did was wrong (such as hitting), and tell them what they should do instead - such as let an adult know if they were hit by another child.

Look up 'positive parenting' and you will find lots of resources on communicating positively with children (there are some on my blog roll on the right). Doing this doesn't mean that you secede your power as a parent, but that you work with the child for a positive outcome. Importantly, don't feel guilty about having to impose limitations and saying 'No'. You know what is best for your child, and there's nothing that a good hug and kiss cannot solve!

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