Children learn best from experience and instruction, which requires parents to set limits on behaviors. However, that does not mean children need to be told “no” hundreds of times each day. Studies show that toddlers typically hear the word “no” 400 times daily, which you can imagine gets tiresome for the parents and the child. Parents can learn to use different ways to communicate limits that are mutually favorable, and a few ideas to get you started follow.
Speak in Positive Terms:
If a child asks to go out and play, but it is very close to dinner time. If you simply respond by saying no, it can sometimes create a tantrum. You can rephrase your response to, “Yes, you can go out a play after dinner”. This not only allows for a positive response, but also helps the child understand the rules and reason behind your answer.
Discuss Your Feelings:
Often adults believe that children should obey no matter what we tell them because we know what is best for them and we are the adults. However, children struggle to learn empathy and other-orientation without appropriate opportunities to do so. Therefore, if your child is doing something that bothers you or someone else, tell them, “That (noise) makes it hard to concentrate, Sally”. This may take a while for kids to grasp the idea that what they do affects others, but it is helpful for their development.
Provide a Choice:
Giving children choices helps them feel in control of their situations, reducing power struggles. When your child is skating through the house on his ‘heelies’, it can be natural to say, “No skates in the house”. However, giving a choice can help minimize the rebellious response, such as, “You can choose to skate in the driveway or on the sidewalk. Which do you choose”? You can see more examples on Choice Giving here.
Some children have a difficult time stopping certain behaviors because they do not know what to do instead. Offering suggestions to replace behaviors that you want to minimize can help the child understand an alternative. For example, children are notorious for what my family called ‘incessant noises’. Banging on tables, seats, floors, etc. can be frustrating for adults and normal for kids. Energy needs to be expelled, even if it is necessary to sit quietly. Try suggesting making small circles with their feet rather than kicking the seat, or make it lighthearted by asking, “How can we make that foot stop”?
Tone of Voice:
Children often learn what is okay and what is not largely by the way we sound when we respond. Therefore, we can communicate to the child that we are not pleased with their behavior without having to actually tell them “no”. More information about Tone Of Voice here.
There are very simple ways to change your language regarding setting limits. You may find my earlier article on Setting Limits helpful. Hopefully, with new determination and knowledge, you are eliminate all of the “nos” your children hear and replace them with more effective responses.
* Some information taken from Redbook Magazine.