We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness.
David Orr from "Earth in Mind"

Mar 23, 2008

No.. and why we don't use it

'No, don't do that," Grandma quietly reprimanded Alder the other day while they were eating. He looked at her incredulously wondering what was so wrong. A spoonful of yogurt on his sweater was only part of eating wasn't it. Each time he eats there is one less spoonful on his clothing and one more time that he decides to wipe his own face with his napkin.

Grandma meant no harm, he was just trying to get him to keep clean, she wasn't angry at him or annoyed. No was just the first word out of her mouth, it's instinct to say No to kids. To halt them in the middle of what ever process they are in because something doesn't fit with our adult perception of how their situation should play out. No falls so easily from the lips it comes to mean stop and halt and don't do that to the point where the language learning child only sees the emotions behind the word (bad child) and gains no understanding.

So we avoid No as much as possible in our house. If what he is doing is not harming him, others or the place we are he basically can do what he likes. Rather we try to help him to understand when different sorts of activities shouldn't happen. Grabbing Mama's legs while she is pouring pasta into the colander gets a "hot" while throwing the pile of bills on the desk gets "find something else to do." He understands these words and phrases not just as cues and as ideas. "Finding something else to do" usually sends him off to get a pan or a toy to play with, without confrontation or feeling like we are mad with him. I know he isn't trying to mess up the important papers, he doesn't even understand what they are other than a tempting stack to be knocked over. If we aren't in the middle of something, like the pasta, we immediately help him to find something to do that we are both happy with.

Of course, often these cases are really just that he needs our attention and love. I am always amazed when I remember to play with him for a half hour uninterrupted before I cook dinner or do some other grownup thing how much easier it is for him to be content to occupy himself'. On days we spend the whole day together I always make sure there is a lot of Alder chosen activities interspersed with my needs. If we have errands to do during the day I know that it's better to do them early ending with a park or hike for a while. If it's nasty out a long bath is always good for smiles so is play-dough or dried beans in a bowl of water. I don't feel that we are here to train our children to only fit our needs, we should be spending our time learning them, understanding what makes both of our days happy and peaceful.

Are we perfect? Of course not, especially when we are tired and grumpy it is easy to forget and slip into No mode. That doesn't help the situation, barking off No at random for actions that are usually okay or met with gentle or some other cue only frustrates and confuses him. This usually ends in tear.

There are times we use No on purpose, they are rare and are only when his safety are involved. Knives and traffic seem to be the main ones but everything else there is always time. (I should say we don't leave knives around on purpose but occasionally Alder has climbed onto the dinning room table while we're setting or clearing it and has grabbed the knife).

There is a second reason that we avoid the word No, and it is been successful. It seems that so many children it is one of their first words and then they go around saying it a lot, and I really wanted to avoid that. We figured if we were not saying it all the time then he might not use it as much. So far this has worked, while he might shake his head if he doesn't want a certain food or piece of clothing, the words he has right now don't include any negative. We have: yeah, teeth, shoes, eyes, tree, cat, ma(more), ha (hot), Papa and Mama, Mom, and Momi!

Sure he can be a wild monkey but our wild monkey also loves to line shoes up in rows and is starting to clear the table on his own volition.


The Grocer said...

Great post Stacey, made me refelct about my own parenting with our three, will ensure my other half reads this too. It's goos sometimes to ahve someone else point out things that should be obvious, we all get a bit "wood for the trees" at times.

Felicia said...

I think this whole No philosophy can also be applied to adults. A lot of work environments could probably be drastically improved if folks found a way to avoid the word No and thought more about what they are suggesting :)

trish said...

i have often wondered about the whole 'no' thing myself. i see so many kids saying it at a young age and figured it was because we are saying no to them so much during the first few years. i understand why we say it. we're trying to teach them, but i agree that we should be offering more positive alternatives rather than just a flat out no.
and yes to felicia, i think this should be applied to all adults as well. as long as we don't end up doing more that we can or want to do because we can't say "no"

jos said...

You are completely right. No is such a knee jerk reaction to something you may not like. And Miles' grandparents are no exception to NO. It's hard being the parent, between the two generations, and saying-it's ok to both the younger and older family members.

We did not say no very often to Miles for the same reasons you wrote about, and yet, he tests his boundaries by saying no to us. All children do this. Just hang tight when it happens.

Christy said...

This is how we've parented Logan for over 8 years. He is such a easy going kid now. We always get comments on how well behaved he is but I think it is because we let him be when he was younger.