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Home » Books, Obedience Issues, preschooler

7 Ways to Stop Saying “No” and “Don’t”

Submitted by on Monday, 15 March 201012 Comments

I got tired of it.  Always saying, “Don’t do this..” “No!” “Do this..” and “Don’t do that..”  I’m sure Smarty Pants was getting tired of it too.  Imagine always hearing those words from your boss or colleague at work.  If you were me, you’d be out the door fast.

Desperate, I turned to “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” for help.  This book is a classic, and I learned why.  The advice is timeless, and it works.

It took a while to get out of the habit of saying “No,” “Do..,” and “Don’t,” and I still do it sometimes when I have knee-jerk reactions, but I’m getting better.

Instead of saying “No,”  “Do..,” and “Don’t,” I make an effort to do as the book teaches, and describe the situation instead. When I describe the situation, Smarty Pants figures out for himself what he needs to do, or what he is expected to do or not do, and he just does it.  It is amazing.

Here are some examples of how I describe the situation now (and how you can too):

1) (after dinner) “Your plate is still on the table”  (he looks at his plate, picks it up, and brings it to the kitchen).

2) “Your nose is running” (grabs a tissue and wipes his nose).

3) “That’s making a big mess on the floor” (stops throwing toys everywhere and picks them up).

4) “Your little sister is crying” (stops pestering his little sister).

5) “Dinner is on the table” (comes to the table and eats).

6) “The juice spilled” (gets a sponge and wipes up the juice).

7) “The ball might break the glass if you throw it on the table” (stops throwing the ball close to the table).

It is a simple concept, and it really works.  The hardest part is getting yourself to change.  Once you do, you’ll be a convert.  This method not only works better, it is a easier on the ears of the child, and easier on the mouth of the parent.  You’ll find you don’t need to shout when you use this approach.

Overall, Smarty Pants is a good kid, so maybe this works better for me than it might work for some, but give it a try and I’m sure in any case you’ll find it works better than shouting and commanding.  If it doesn’t work right away, don’t give up!

What do you think?  Leave a comment and let me know!

For more information, I highly recommend, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.” for help!

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  • Great tips. The hard part is remembering them in the heat of the moment. I’ll pass it onto my wife. She runs a dayhome so we’ll see if they pass the test!
    Chris @ Cleverfather´s last blog ..Springing Forward My ComLuv Profile

  • Head Jammer says:

    Absolutely Chris, it is very hard to remember to do this in the heat of the moment. You get better at it though with practice. Let us know if your wife tries it and how it goes!

  • Gord says:

    Yea, um maybe. How old is Smarty Pants? I have three kids under 5 and I don’t see this working with them…yet.

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Gord, Smarty Pants just turned 4. I would say the child has to be at least 3 for it to work. One important aspect is that the child has to understand what is expected of them when you “describe the situation” – so if you say, “The light is still on in the bathroom” they understand that the expectation is that they turn off the light in the bathroom when they are done with it. That means that the first few times you may have to say something like, “When you are finished with the bathroom, I expect you to turn the light off” – of course this example is assuming they can reach the light, but you can insert whatever expected behaviour you want here.
    Give it a try with one of your older kids and you’ll be amazed that it really works!

  • Pete says:

    Our nineteen-month old won’t benefit from this for a while, but I certainly will. It’s too easy to fall into the “No!” trap because it’s the quickest thing that comes to our heads. Personally, I think it’s about the protection instinct, where we immediately turn to economy of words to get our point across.

    I think this is a great find, though. Thank you for sharing it!

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks Pete, and I think you are right. Its much easier and economical to say “No” rather than describe the situation. There is a workaround from the book for those of us who have the feeling for economy of words. That is, use one word to describe the situation. For example, if your child leaves the lights on in his room, you say, “Lights!” or if there is a mess of toys on the floor, you say, “Toys!” … your child will learn what you mean, and just by saying the word, you’ll trigger the action that you want, without having to give a long, drawn-out, command or lecture.

  • Bonnie says:

    I’m totally on board to try this. Can’t tell you how tired I am of saying “no, no, no” and totally sounding like my mom.
    Bonnie´s last blog ..Achieving cupcake zen… My ComLuv Profile

  • Head Jammer says:

    Yeah, I hear you Bonnie, I hope it works for you, we really love doing it this way, and the results… when we don’t let our knee-jerk reactions get in the way! We’re getting better with practice though :)

  • I love the word “No” and use it frequently, although my kids are older now and “NO” has been reduced to a simple look. Come to think of it… I rarely say no anymore.

    The kids know the boundaries and rarely test them because they know it is futile. The word “NO” is an integral part of parenting and if you use it properly does not become an annoyance.

    I even wrote a 5 blog series on the word “NO” because I believe in liberal and steadfast use.
    Parenting Old School´s last blog ..The Ethical ChildMy ComLuv Profile

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks for sharing your view Parenting Old School… that’s cool if it works for you. I still believe that there are alternative ways of saying “No.” So even if you mean “No,” you are just saying it in a different way.
    Don’t get me wrong, I still say “No” to my kids, but I’m suggesting there are alternative ways to say it and get cooperation.

  • Of course there are different ways and thanks for respecting my grumpy old fashioned way of doing things. I see it daily, some parents have some great strategies in manipulating children.

    I just don’t have the time or energy to negotiate or explain every last detail of our families life to my kids; However, I see people doing this constantly.

    What takes me 30 seconds to accomplish with my kids, takes others I know 30 minutes as they negotiate, explain and justify their decisions and in the end it usually ends up that the kids gets their way and the parent simply hands all decision making over to their kids.

    Parenting Old School´s last blog ..The Ethical ChildMy ComLuv Profile

  • Head Jammer says:

    Hi Krispin, I’ve seen situations like that too, and I guess what I can say about that is that there is an effective way to negotiate with the kids, and an ineffective way. And on top of that, there are some things that are absolutely not negotiable. In my Jam here, I was more talking about alternative ways of getting cooperation, by describing the situation, which is a little different than negotiating.
    To try and put it in perspective, imagine you have a boss at work that always tells you “don’t do that” and if you wanted to take a vacation, or had any other request, he usually responded with “no.” I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to work for him very long! Instead, if he was the type that told you how things were, and let you come to your own conclusions, you might be more likely to go along with him and cooperate.
    That’s what I was trying to get at here, thanks for coming back on this discussion, I appreciate all views of course!

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