**Liza from PramSandwich is here with a guest post sharing some of the ways she has transformed saying no to her toddler into a positive experience.**
Saying no to my infant is something that I struggle with. I hate having to tell him that he isn’t aloud something and then watch his face crumple as I take it away.
My child has just begun to walk and is at the age where he is getting into everything and while I have worked hard to create a yes environment there are still times when I need to say no. I am finding this particularly hard because while my son is walking, he is not yet one and does not have a firm grasp of language, making reasoning with him difficult. Nonetheless, I try to explain things to him in the best way that I can in the hope that he understands that there is a reason for me saying no, even if he can’t comprehend what that reason is yet.
When Finn first became mobile and interested in his surroundings I started to experience some new found anxieties. When he crawled over to some pebbles in the park and grabbed a handful to put in his mouth, I had to fight the urge to scream “not the rocks, you will choke, put them back, put them back!”. I managed to keep my anxieties in check and remove the stones from his hands without upsetting him but it got me thinking about what is the best way to explain to a young infant that they must give up what they have found for reasons they do not understand. Afterall, I most certainly do not want to teach my child that it is acceptable to snatch something from someone else with no explanation.
So instead of snatching things away from Finn with a prefunctoury “no”, I explain why it is not something to play with and ask that he give it to me. (For example, it is “yucky”, “dangerous”, “not for eating”, “Daddy’s special book” etc.) When he does I say thank you. This is at times difficult for Finn when he really doesn’t want to give something up but no matter how he responds to my request I try to focus on the positives by tactically ignore his refusals and thanking him when he does eventually give it to me. Over the last couple of months Finn has learnt what he is not allowed to play with and I am happy to report in most cases I don’t need to say no at all, he already knows it is off limits so as soon as he sees me he holds it out to me and I thank him. This means that the potentially upsetting situation of having something taken away is instead an opportunity for Finn to give and be thanked. For the most part he is very happy with himself for judging the situation correctly and responding appropriately and happily moves along to find something else to play with.
Learning to say no kindly but firmly has also allowed me to give Finn more freedom.
For instance, previously I had been hesitate to let Finn explore our backyard by himself because I didn’t want him to touch or eat some of the things that our dogs leave lying around. However, now that I know he understands me when I say no and respects what I am saying, I feel comfortable letting him toddle around under my supervision. Of course this doesn’t mean he doesn’t test the boundaries. Yesterday while he was exploring the garden he came across the gas bottle that is connected to the barbecue. I asked him not to play with it and when he continued to touch it I gently moved him away. A couple of minutes later he was back again and again I told him that the gas bottle was dangerous and I didn’t want him to play with it. (In reality the gas bottle is not dangerous per-say but I decided to make it off limits because if he were older and capable of switching the gas on I certainly would not want him near it, so it is better for him to learn it is not to be played with now). He moved away and with a mischievous and expectant expression was back again a couple of minutes later. Again I told him the same thing and asked him to move away which he did happily. He seemed comforted by the fact that his tests had all illicited the same result and he could now be confident in the boundary that I had set for him.
Now that I have found a way to turn “no” into a positive learning experience, I am much more confident in setting boundaries for my child.
What creative ways have you found to set boundaries for your child whilst maintaining mutual respect?
Liza Cumming, mum to 8-month-old Finn, writes a baby and food blog pramsandwich , where she shares her parenting thoughts, stories, recipes, cafe finds and love letters.
Liza is also a contributor to the Positive Parenting Connection Facebook Page – come check it out for daily tips, inspiration and resources for positive parenting!