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Alternatives to "No"

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  • Alternatives to "No"

    I am a mother of a 14 month old, and in the process of developing my ideas about positive discipline. I have read and thought about it a lot. Of course I am not very experienced mother only having one child so far and the child still being very young. However I thought it would help me (and maybe even others) if I wrote down some of the ideas I am developing with the help of what I am reading.

    I want my child to take me seriously when I say "No". However I suspect she will not listen to me when I say "No" if I say it all the time. That is why I have decided to reserve it for a small number of situations. The main one being when she does something to hurt someone including me, like hitting, slapping, biting or aggressively pulling hair, specifically, when she does these things in an angry or frustrated way, rather than in a playful way, and when her aim seems to be to hurt and not to play. Then I think it is best to say "No" in a stern voice and put her to sit on her own for a few seconds. The other occasion to say "No", which I hope will never even occur, is if she is in a very dangerous situation for example about to run out on a road, touch a very hot object etc and I can't get to her on time to remove her physically, again, I would hope such a situation will never occur.

    All the other times, I have resolved not to say "No" and to have alternatives. That way, she will understand that my sternly voiced "No" is a very serious word to be taken seriously.

    Alternatives to "No":

    "careful" (in a warning, concerned tone) - this is for when she is climbing on something or has put herself in mild danger. If the only danger is of a mild bump, I say "careful" but let her continue. Sometimes she has fallen, and now she understands the meaning of "careful".

    "you want x? wait until..." - this is for when she "asks" for something which I don't want to give her just then because it is not practical or convenient, but I will give her shortly after, for example "asking" to be picked up, for milk, to play with me, or to play with something which is generally safe/ok to play with but I happen to be using it at the time. Then when I have finished whatever I was doing or got to wherever we were going then I say "now I can... ". I think it is important to offer her whatever it was she asked for when I have reached the milestone I agreed to so she knows that if she does wait she does get it.

    "ah ah" - this is for things which she can't touch because it is not safe or she might break it. However, I think it is best to avoid continuously saying "ah ah" by ensuring that such things are generally out of reach in the first place. Also I think it is not good to be too strict about what she can touch so as she is not discouraged from exploration.

    "not for eating" (accompanied by yuk expression) - this is for when she can touch something and play with it, but not put it in her mouth, for example paper, leaves in the garden etc.

    I will probably add to this list over time of course. As she doesn't understand complicated sentences I think the emphasis should be on easy to understand words like these. I sometimes find that the examples given on AP websites of what to say to children in different circumstances are often overly complex for young children. It would be nice to get others' ideas on simple vocabulary which can be used for young children.

  • #2
    It sounds like you've really thought this out and are quite conscious of your parenting! Are you looking for clarification of AP Principles? Are you wanting feedback on your list? Are you looking for more Positive Discipline resources? I just want to make sure I understand your question.


    • #3
      My favorite alternative to "no" is "yes." Instead of saying no, tell her what she CAN's about redirecting that curious, creative energy, and the intense feelings that go with a "no."

      So, for times when she is climbing or is unsafe:
      Pick her up and move her to somewhere safe and say, "Here, you can climb on this."

      For times when she wants something she can't have at the moment:
      Offer her empathy; "I know you want to be picked up; it's hard to wait!" and either leave it at that, keep repeating it until you are ready to give her what she wants, or add on a "You can have X while you wait." (if there's a substitute that might work (and many times there is not)).

      For things she shouldn't touch:
      Move her away and put something in her hands that she can touch...ideally something interesting and different to satisfy her tactile curiosity. "Oops, that is, this is safe!"

      For things she shouldn't put in her mouth:
      "Yucky!" followed by a 'blech' face quickly replaced with something she can put in her mouth. "Here you can chew on this!" Again, this is to satisfy her need to explore her world without discouraging her. You're not saying no, so much as redirecting her interests in an age-appropriate direction.


      • #4
        PaxMamma - yes I suppose I was interested both in feedback on what others think of these ideas and also the ideas of others on the same subject. I suppose my issue is that a lot of things AP encourages you to say to your child are quite long complicated sentences and I thought simple words are easier for a young toddler to understand.

        Kelly - thanks for this feedback, I think redirection is very important. I would like her to learn (gradually, over time) to redirect without me physically redirecting her - for example if I say certain words she should stop X and do Y instead without me physically taking X from her and giving her Y (unless she is in danger of course), as I don't always have my hands free to do this. Also is it not good for her to learn that X is out of bounds, as well as redirecting her to Y? i.e. not complete distraction where she totally forgets about X, but her consciously switching from X to Y in response to guidance from me? That is why I was thinking of simple words which she would more easily associate with the meaning than long sentences, and therefore is more likely to understand and act on at an earlier age.


        • #5
          I agree with Kelly, to always look for the "yes" and redirection is so key at this age. I would also recommend that you read the Practice Positive Discipline and Respond with Sensitivity Principles as it's so important to remember that AP isn't about the "things" you do, but the relationship that you have with your child. Ask yourself whether your actions are going to promote connection and attachment, or hinder your relationship. For instance, why force her to sit on her own? This is a sever of connection, rather than a reinforcement of your relationship. Instead, try to determine what need she was trying to meet and help her find ways to meet that need rather than punish the behavior. Otherwise, the need will go unmet and she may look for less-than-desired ways to meet it. It's not always the easiest route, but in the long run, you will be raising a problem-solver and your relationship will be a positive one.


          • #6
            Thanks for those pointers. I am interested in the time-in rather than time-out idea but I don't really know what that means in the context of a 15-month child who has just bitten another child (for example an angry bite because she wants the toy the other child has), and who cannot talk and only understands very basic language. Surely giving the child a hug just after they have bitten another child is sending the wrong message ? Also talking through the issue with a 15-month old using complex language is also not really feasible ? If the other child cries of course I do say words like "baby crying", along with "no biting" and try to get her to empathise but sometimes she actually laughs when another child cries after her biting the child, which makes me very worried about her turning into a bully.

            It is difficult to even teach her an alternative way of expressing her wish to have the toy given that she can't talk, although I do find sometimes she comes up to me and takes me by the hand and points to the toy the other child has and then I ask the other child on her behalf using words like "please". She came up with this herself but I am trying to encourage this behavior rather than biting. She tends to do this when the child is bigger than her, but for a child of the same size or smaller she bites which is totally unacceptable behavior and warrants stern action, in my view. I thought the stern action should involve a few minutes time-out so she understands the behavior is not acceptable and reflects the natural consequence that people will not wish to spend time with her if she behaves like this, but I would be interested in hearing alternatives.