A guest blog by Tara Zoumer, a nanny placed by The Nanny Authority
N-O, no, no! When kids learn to flex their first taste of power and independence by asserting a powerful “no,” it can rattle even the calmest of teachers, nannies, and parents. Around the age of two, kids shift from being totally dependent upon their caregivers for literally everything, to experiencing autonomy and walking around as individuals (even if they don’t get very far.) Unfortunately for parents, this doesn’t make facing the day any easier.
How To Make “No!” A Learning Moment
“No, I don’t want to go to the store.”
“No carrots for lunch, Dad!”
“No pants today, Mom!”
While these are frustrating first moments, whether we realize it or not, the way we respond to their “no’s” teaches children a pattern of behavior. At first, the harsh little word can feel like defiance and as parents, we can forget the reason we assert ourselves in the first place. Why does one person love tomatoes but hate tomato sauce, or like cats instead of dogs? It is our responses to things and experiences we do or do not like that begin to shape our personalities. The fact remains, we are all unique beings. These little answers throughout our day form our opinions. How others respond to us when we assert our opinions, gives shape and meaning to how we feel the world accepts us. As adults, we even come to terms with the “yeses and no’s” our parents gave us which shaped our experiences.
The Best Way for a Parent to Address “No!”
Instead of viewing a no with defiance, try viewing it with curiosity. As a caregiver, I try to view the constellation of yeses and no’s as beautiful starting points of discovery. Rather than saying, “because I said so” when faced with a no, an example conversation might go like this:
“Why no pants today, Jessica?”
“Because my legs want to be free.”
“Good point, I like when my legs are free too, but today we have school, can we free your legs this weekend?”
The Importance of Understanding “No!”
No’s can be a wonderful way to understand each other, and when we seek to understand, we improve our communication and deepen our relationships. In any relationship, asking several questions around each other’s no can increase positive outcomes, and at the very least, offer clarity. As my own dad used to say, “you don’t always have to like my answer but you can always question it.” Asking questions like: How often do I say no? Do I offer an explanation of why I said ‘no’? Do I ask for a reason when they said ‘no’? Do I make an effort to consider alternatives?
No’s don’t have to be the end of a conversation, but the beginning of getting to know one another. If no is the final answer, everyone feels better when all the options have been explored. In reality, most of us hope that when our children are faced with ‘no’ in the world, they will find the courage to keep going. How will you approach the no’s in your life?