One month ago, I wrote about “Setting Rules and Boundaries with a 1 Year Old“. I had reasoned with myself that, since Caroline understood so many other things, she must also understand the word “no”. Well, my mama instincts were right on! Caroline definitely understands what “no” means now! While her reaction is not exactly what I’m hoping for, I am thrilled that she understands the word and knows what it means now!
When Caroline hears the word “no”, she now looks at me as if to say “wtf mom!?”, starts crying, or throws a fit. Obviously, in a perfect world, she’d just move on to the next activity without a care in the world. But this isn’t exactly a reasonable expectation at 1 year old- so wtf looks, cries and tantrums are what I’ll have to take for now! Regardless, I’m super happy that she understands what I’m saying. We’ll work on how she handles it soon enough.
So, why could I possibly want to tell my child no? So many things! Some days I feel like I am saying no constantly, and others hardly at all. Here are a few things I like to keep in mind with regards to the word “no”, and discipline:
1. Hearing “NO” is a good thing– Rules and boundaries are essential for all of us. Knowing what is expected of us gives us a sense of security. The same goes for toddlers, and even those furry pets of ours! The real world is full of road blocks, disappointment, and the word “no”. In order to set our children up for success, they need to have heard this word. They need to know that they do not always get to do what they want, when they want, that they should respect rules that are in place, and that there are consequences for their actions if they do not respect those rules.
2. Consistency is key- Toddlers are just figuring this world out, and consistency helps them to feel secure. If they know what is expected, and the same results happen each time they follow (or choose to not follow) the rules, they will respect those boundaries. It is unfair, if one day they are allowed to do something, but the next they are not. The inconsistency makes it impossible for them to know what is expected. Clear boundaries and consistent results need to be established. If you look back and think you handled something incorrectly the first go around, feel free to change the consequence, but then be consistent after the change.
3. Use consequences instead of punishment– Consequences need to make sense. If a child is throwing a toy that you asked them not to throw, and you take away dessert later that evening, there is no connection, and the child will be confused. These types of punishments often cause tension when they are older (high school teacher experience coming into play here). However, if you take the toy away after having told the child “no”, they directly associate the consequence with their actions. Try to find the natural consequence.
3. Pick your battles- There are a million things throughout the day that we can say no to. Before you do, decide if it is a necessary no or a convenient one. Safety concerns are automatic “no’s”. When Caroline decides to take everything off of her shelves, however, and I want to tell her no- this is a convenience no. I don’t want her taking everything off of her shelves, because I will have to put it all back later. In this case, however, I choose to allow her to remove items from the shelf. She thoroughly enjoys it, and is learning things in the process. I just make sure to involve her in the clean up process. As she gets older, she will understand this automatic consequence before she ever starts taking things off of the shelf. There are some things that I still stand my ground on, however, aside from safety. For example, Caroline loves to take all of the diapers out of the plastic bag and move them around the room. I’ve decided that I don’t want her to do this. The diapers are not toys, or books on her shelf. The diapers do not fold back nicely, and they end up with dog hair on them (which is not ideal). So, I’ve decided to say no to this. As long as I am consistent, this is ok. It is perfectly fine to set boundaries like this – even on a non-safety related behavior. Caroline has learned that the diapers are off limits, and as she walks up to them, she looks at me, waiting for the “no”. I say it every time. Sometimes she moves on, and sometimes she cries- but I am consistent with it. Another example, is that, when Caroline is done playing with something, she is to put it away before she gets something else out to play with. If she has blocks all over the room, and then decides to go get her books out, I ask her to help me put her blocks away first. I help her at this age so she sees the expectation in action.
4. Tone matters- Say no in an authoritative, convincing way. Don’t get angry, and don’t be cheerful about it. Children can tell the difference, and it is confusing. If you laugh while saying no, they don’t understand. Your tone cannot conflict your message. And, if you are actually angry, this can bring on a stronger reaction than you anticipated, and also confuse the issue. Try to be firm in your tone, however, so your child knows you are serious.
5. Say “yes” as well- Don’t forget that your toddler is exploring a whole new world. They are learning as they explore. So, make sure to say yes to things as well! Say yes to running and jumping in the puddles as it rains! They are learning about water, physics and so much more!
Try to think through a few scenarios that you know you will be needing to say “no” to. Decide what the consequence will be if your child does not listen. Decide how many times you repeat yourself before those consequences are put into action. If you think about these things ahead of time, in the moment will be much easier to handle, and the consistency will come naturally.