Category Archives: Gentle Discipline

The Power of No

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve started saying “No” to Baby E.

No to nursing when my nipples have had enough.

No to him playing with electrical cords.

No to him playing in the kitchen cabinets.

He usually just looks at me and laughs then goes right back to doing what I didn’t want him to do in the first place. Such is the way of the toddler.

I’m trying to redirect him instead of just saying no all the time. Most of the time I am able to do this.

Well, some of the time.

That “No” comes flying out of my mouth before I’ve even realized what has happened.

Such is the way of the mama.

I know that the oft-cited danger of saying “No” to a toddler all the time is that it encourages them to start saying “No” back to you for any and everything. However, I think that children learn how to say “No” anyway, verbally or otherwise, regardless of how many times they’ve heard you say it.

But here’s the thing: I think “No” is a really important word for Baby E to learn. And as tempting as it is, I don’t mean this in a “reinforce the parent-child hierarchy” way. I mean that “No” is important because it helps us set up boundaries. And just like I have boundaries for Baby E, he has boundaries for me. By honoring his “no” I’m hopefully teaching him to honor mine and the “no” of others.

This is a hard lesson to put into practice when I’m steeped in a culture that doesn’t truly treat children as fully realized human beings. It’s a hard thing to practice when I’m trying to keep Baby E’s reasoning abilities in perspective while balancing his need for safety and care with honoring his right to say no.

But it’s important enough for me to keep trying and doing. I want my son to be well aware of his rights as an individual but I also want him to be aware of  and respect the rights of others. Honoring his “No” is just the first step.

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