Thursday, September 2, 2010

Parenting-- Saying No.

The other day, I was with a bunch of mom's from Mom's Group, and I couldn't help but notice one of the parenting techniques that one of the moms was using. It seemed to work really well for her, and really intrigued me.

I noticed that even when she was correcting the behavior of her kids, she rarely told them "no", "stop", or "don't". For example, when her boys were playing in a part of the house that they weren't supposed to be in, she said, "Boys, you can come out of that room now." When her boys were running through the house, she said, "Boys, you can walk through this house please. You are so smart, and I know you're going to do a great job listening to this rule."

It sounds silly, but I was kind of blown away. Especially when her kids DID listen, and DIDN'T run in the house, even when other kids started to again. 

That's not to say that she never said "no", "don't", or "stop"--when one of her boys hit the other, she said, "John, no. Don't hit your brother again." But I noticed that she used no/don't/stop sparingly, and usually only when the boys were doing something that was harmful to themselves or others. 

It reminded me of something I heard a few months ago. When I was at work, there was a man who taught parenting classes. Once, I heard him mention that there is usually a 1 to 5 ratio in terms of positive things we say to kids versus negative things or correction. He said that correction and boundaries are very important, but that we have to be careful that our words don't sound like we're saying 'Everything you do is wrong' and that the ratio really should be more like 5 to 1. Think about's easy over the course of a half an hour to say:

Don't jump on the couch.
Don't lick the cat.
Stop making that noise.
Sit still.
Be quiet!
Don't play with that.
Don't hit your brother.
No, you cannot have some more candy.

What if positive redirection could be used on all of those instances except 'Don't hit your brother' ? It's a hard paradigm shift, and even harder to put into practice. Believe me. Over the past two days, I've been watching two of Lizzy's older cousins. They are GREAT, AMAZING, and SWEET kids, but it is *still* so easy to fall into the trap of saying "no, no no" all day, when really, they're not doing anything terribly wrong. When I remembered, I tried to use positive redirection on the small stuff, and it typically worked really well. I'm going to make it a goal to keep at it. I do think it's important for kids to have boundaries and to hear "no" from their parents, but I also think that it's important to build up self-esteem and self-worth in our kids. Maybe this is a way to do both? 

What do you guys think?


  1. I love this idea and am going to try it out!

    I've also been very conscience of how I talk about my body image and my little girl's body image even though she's still so young. I try and put things in a positive light, not talking about being fat or what not cause I know she's going to pick that up and she's going to hear things like that enough as a women as she gets older. I figured it is a good habit to get into. I try to tell her she's "so grown up" vs. telling her she's a "big girl" since I know the connotation that phrase can have when you are taller/heavier than other ladies.

    Thanks for posting about this, we new moms have to learn things together and from each other.

  2. My brothers wife does this! She is amazing. She always tries to redirect the behavior rather then shout "no" or "don't"...b/c kids totally tune that out! If one of her girls is doing something like jumping on the couch, she'll say, "Come with with mommy on her lap", or something like that. They "get" it. I have used this with my students and it works great. I plan to use it with Emeline so I hope it works out...but there ARE times you have to say no, stop, don't...but redirecting is the best in non-harmful situations! (I've found!)

  3. I love this idea but i wonder how she started it. My son is 10 months old and obviously wouldn't understand if I talked like that to him now. I wonder what works best when they are very young.

  4. I was taught that was how to use discipline when i was an early childhood teacher so sometimes i do use it but since he is so little i use simple things.

  5. Love the positive parenting ideas! I like how the redirection is an extension of what you do when they are too young to understand "no". When Ansley gets into the dogs water bowl, I take her to another part of the kitchen and give her something she can play with. Great post!

  6. I LOVE this idea. I just got to thinking about how many times I tell Brayden "no" and it really is shocking. It just slips out, and I never really thought about how absolutely negative it is. THANK you for this. I needed this. I think its a great tactic, definitely more involved parenting than just saying no.

  7. This is actually something I try to do actively in all areas of my life--especially with girls on my soccer team. I think it really works! Sometimes if you say "don't shoot low" that's all someone can think about and they do it even though they don't want to. Or instead of saying "don't play at their level" say instead "play our game" etc. I think it's actually really effective, especially when you get to the point when you don't have to think about it anymore. :D

    I think with kids that it's basically a rad idea. Save no for when it's a BIIIG no.

  8. Check out love and logic. It's a great parenting program that teaches to say "yes" instead of "no". Positive reinforcement!

  9. That's a great idea! I can imagine it's hard to transition but it totally makes sense.

  10. I rarely ever say "No" unless Cameron is in danger or about to cause something of immediate danger. When he's doing something he shouldn't be, such as dumping cheerios ALL over the floor, I say "Cameron, lets keep the Cheerios in the bowl, OK?" It works so well, because you are telling them something they CAN do, rather then telling them something they can't. Toddlers hate being told NO- and sometimes they need to hear it; but I find it they respond better if you aren't telling them "no" 100 times a day.

  11. I totally believe in this approach and I do believe it works. It's so easy to just get frustrated and mad and yell no, but over time I think it is bad. My son is only 5 months but I'm def gonna use this more positive approach when the time comes. I just read "Things babies say before they can talk" and this book said the same thing, to use no sparingly.

  12. This method was engrained in me after teaching pre-school for five years. Although I'm not a parent (yet) I do hope to use this if I ever have children.

    We were also taught to emphasize it's the behavior that is not ok, not the child themselves.

    It's definitely a habbit that you have to be conscious of for a while, but I truly believe there are long term benefits, for both children and adults.

  13. Having worked in daycare/preschool, this is the way we are encouraged to deal with the children. For starters, a parent doesn't want to walk in my room hearing me sternly tell their child to quit climbing on the cots. It is better for them to hear me tell the child that our feet stay on the floor. But also yes, generally speaking to the children positively and just redirecting them is much more effective than saying no.

    Another thing we work a lot on is giving the child choices. 'If you choose to sit nicely you can be a part of our circle, if you choose to jump up and down you may leave my circle.' In essence the kid can do what he or she wants, the wrong choice more or less puts them in timeout without you doing so in a negative manner, and after a while they realize they would rather participate with the class and will choose the appropriate behavior.

    I can't say those approaches work for all children. I did have a kid who being 'nice' to when he was in trouble just didn't work. Both the parents and I understood that and we worked out a way together that we felt was most effective for teaching him right and wrong and what not...

  14. Great post Meredith! I plan to implement redirection and positive parenting but I agree that it's hard. It's something I work on now in hopes that it becomes more second nature as Isaac gets older!

  15. This is an awesome post and so true about needing to be more positive! It definitely puts a different spin on discipline than I have seen or heard of before.

    One site that I usually refer to but have not seen much about this kind of positive reinforcement is called

    the skinny has some interesting discipline techniques but this would definitely be a nice addition.

  16. I've heard the theory, and I try to use no sparingly, but I'm honestly not that bothered about using the negative so much if I find myself doing it a lot.

    This is mostly because in Spanish there's very little way around it. There's few nice roundabout ways to sugarcoat a negative. As you know, you make a verb negative by adding no to it. And hundreds of millions of kids who hear no a lot more in their native language than English-speaking kids seem to be doing fine.

    We could get into linguistics discussions of pragmatics but I make it a point not to stress about my parenting. Screwing up is inevitable, and my daughter is loved, even if she hears no a lot.

  17. I think this is genius. As a high-school teacher, this worked to my benefit, too.

  18. I have a girlfriend that swears by this technique. She says that the more you say "no" the less impact it has on the child so she only uses it when she really wants to make an impact. Otherwise she simply's worked very well on her now 5 year old and I can't wait to try it with Noah when he's old enough to understand.

  19. As a preschool special ed teacher, I can tell you for a fact that your friend's technique is the way to go. Affirmative speech is much more effective for kiddos - especially if they are already revved up. It works because it lets kids know what IS expected of them...if they just hear "no ..." or "don't..." they won't necessarily know what behavior is desired. Nice post!


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