How to Say No (Without Saying No)
Give him a choice
Your preschooler is throwing his ball in the living room, and you're bracing
yourself for the sound of something crashing. Instead of saying, "No! No
balls indoors," try saying, "You can roll the ball indoors or
take it outside and throw it — your choice." Why? By offering him an
option, you help your child feel like he has some power over the situation.
"For kids between the ages of 1 and 3, this also encourages them to make
simple choices and develop a sense of independence and competence," says
Lerner. Just avoid overwhelming a young child with too many options: For
toddlers and preschoolers, two is just right.
Show and tell
Two-year-old Henry keeps poking his baby sister; his dad keeps telling him,
"No, stop." Why won't he? "Some children can't stop what they're
doing, even when you tell them to, because they don't know what to do
instead," says parent educator Elizabeth Crary, author of Without
Spanking or Spoiling. You may have to help them figure it out. Henry, for
example, needs his dad to say, "Give Sarah a kiss," or some similar
suggestion; then he'll have an image in his mind of something to do instead of
poking. Younger toddlers might need you to actually help them do what you're
asking of them as you make your request: If your child's hitting the cat, say,
"Gentle," while you guide her hand in a stroking motion. Do this enough
times, and she'll begin to figure it out for herself. Same goes for kids'
unconscious and often excruciatingly irritating kicking and banging — on the
table, the back of your seat, whatever. "Often, kids are not doing these
things on purpose," says Lerner. "Some children are very active and
feel best when their body parts are moving — they're doing it
unconsciously." Help your child connect with what her body is doing. You
could try a humorous approach: "Tell that foot to stop!" Or simply help
her figure out what else she could do with the offending body part: Perhaps
your daughter is willing to make quiet little circles with her foot. Since long
phrases are hard for the very young to process, you could simply tell a small
toddler, "Quiet foot," and place your hand on her foot to show her.