Why is it that many people I meet say this to a child?  The child pushes a friend, the adult says to the child “No Thank you.”  No thank you?  Huh?  If you ask me if I want to eat a red pepper I may say “No thank you.”  If someone tries to sell me something I don’t want I say “No thank you.”  If my child pushes a friend . . . I say . . .  “no thank you” ?? 

Perhaps it is because we are told never to say “no” to children.  Or perhaps it is because we are trying to be polite.  Or, perhaps we are deliberately trying to confuse them (Ha! Ok probably not). 

So where does this stem from?

One anonymous blog comment stated the following; “years ago in college. . . the director told us we could no longer say ‘no’ to a child.  Most teachers begin saying ‘no thank you’ instead which is where I picked it up” (https://www.dcurbanmom.com/jforum/posts/list/565475.page;jsessionid=EF1E2E2958EB0CF8FF0C19DAC5D171E3)

The “yes” parent movement stems from a place of wanting to be positive with our children instead of always stating “no” or “don’t” to them.  It is a good starting place for sure.  When children are very young they want to pull things, eat the inedible, grab and push.  If our response is a continual “no, no, no” they won’t learn and they won’t actually hear us.  Perhaps we feel if we say “no thank you” then it is more polite.

I would like to explore some alternatives:

  1. State what it is you would like the child to do rather than what you would not like them to do.  For example, “gentle touches”, “peas first then dessert” or “only food goes in the mouth.”
  2. Save “no” for extreme or sudden situations. For example, if the child suddenly bolts to the street and you yell “NO STOP” they will be more inclined to stop than if you have said “NO” continually throughout the day.
  3. Give the child choices.  I am a big fan of giving choices to children.  For example, if a child likes to throw toys give them a choice, “would you like to throw this ball or this bean bag?”  If they say “the car” (and some children will) you can say “that is not one of your options” and repeat the choices. 
  4. Tell them the logical consequence (I also really like clear and logical consequences).  For example, “if you hit Billy then you can no longer play here beside him” and follow through.
  5. Depending upon the age of the child, you can also explore some feelings.  For example, Bob grabs John’s toy and John cries.  In this situation you can simply state “You took John’s toy and he is crying.  He seems upset.  What can you do to comfort him?”  If the child is too young, simply says “that’s John’s toy, he is upset you grabbed his toy” give the toy back to John and say “you need to wait”.

There are many more examples of when and how to respond instead of saying “No thank you.”  Try it and see how your child responds.

Mary Stanwood

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