Teaching a child the word “no” and its meaning is one thing; getting them to listen and obey is yet another. People who understand the difference are usually known as parents or former parents (a.k.a. grandparents). Teachers, camp counselors, librarians, and anybody routinely working with children also qualify. How might a new parent – or even a more battle-weary one – better teach and help (yes, help) their children with the concept of “no”?
A gentleman who raised five children and having over twenty grandchildren has what appears to be a gift for commanding respect amongst his children and grandkids. More fascinating, he never raises his voice and will even change his position. When asked what magic incantation or secret narcotic he uses, he just chuckles and says he “started early”. He loves children and respects them, but also suggests parents remember that little ones do not have the experiences in life to completely understand yes from no, right from wrong.
Another couple was noticed in an old family video how they patiently, but firmly, told their crawling (likely eight-to-ten months old) toddler “no” and then took him and moved him when he ventured near an electrical outlet. Even more, this only happened twice (hint) before the child was moved to a different room. There was no danger as the outlet was childproofed, but most striking was how the child learned when Mom or Dad said “no”, they meant it. While obviously at this age he did not understand why, it was intriguing to watch the next few years as he went from simple obedience to realizing Mom and Dad had a reason for their directive – even if he did not yet comprehend.
Ever watch young children with a caregiver who knows her craft? One delightful former parent – yes, a grandmother – had this uncanny knack at working a new child into the mix with near immediate results when the child misbehaved or acted out. She would gently, but quite steadily, tell the child no then change the situation, capturing the child’s attention. For instance, if the child took a toy away from another, she simply told him no, took away the toy, and soothed by telling him he was a good boy but not playing nicely. When he was willing to share with his little friend, she would let him have the toy back. When asked how she got the child to comply, she was almost confused by the question, answering “he knows I meant what I told him”.
Funny how the best advice gets passed along through the years and so easy it often gets missed. A former advice columnist once authored a wonderful piece on how children feel more loved and secure when their parents offer boundaries, such as where “no” lets them recognize they have crossed the arbitrary line. So how best to begin teaching the concept and – importantly – getting them to adhere? Start early. Say it. Mean it!
– Authored by a Bow Tie Guy