When kids say no
No, No, No!
I always believed I couldn’t be – and would definitely not enjoy- being a salesperson. This role, in its classic form, entails hearing “no” a lot. You go from door to door, with your encyclopedia to sell, and maybe it takes you one door, maybe it takes you a hundred doors before you sell one. Or maybe it takes you many hundreds of doors. It must require a level of resilience, persistence and endurance to get a lot of “no’s” and push backs and still keep going at it.
The irony, of course, is that I became a mother of two small children.
It is, as one could expect, quite tiring. Yet, it is also a challenge and may I say often fun.
To address this we try to provide an environment where there’s a low need to say need:
No Noes – Plenty of space to play safely
Their bedroom is mostly empty, there’s a lot of room in it to just move around. There are a few selected toys on rotation and all of them are safe to play, chew, and be messy with. This safety level is adjusted to their level which means the baby can’t play in the toddler room. While it’s true that if I am there, the risk of him swallowing magnets, for example, is very low, it requires me to have to say no and take things away from his hands over and over again. It’s frustrating for everyone involved and it sets the stage for a “no” environment.
Beyond that, we might as well say it: most of our home has been taken over by the kids and it’s mostly safe. Even the kitchen has mostly pans, pots and plastic/silicone utensils that they can, even if I rather they didn’t, put their hands on.
No Noes – You choose
We provide loads of moments to make decisions. A few examples include asking if they want this or that activity, this or that food for lunch, this or that jacket, etc.. It’s mostly decisions around picking between two options to avoid overwhelming questions and yes/no questions. I used to ask “do you want X?” and often I would get a no even if it was clear that yes, he did want it. He just didn’t want it as much as being able to say no. This is clearly easier to do with the toddler but the baby also gets to pick a few things and, most of all, he seems to love being asked something.
No Noes – Giving room to try
A recent addition to our portfolio. The kids love, love, love to learn new things by themselves. I was always fully aware of the first part but not so much of the “by themselves” part. Sure, there was a focus on enabling independence, and I am always filled with pride when I see them doing something new without any help. Yet, it is also hard to see them struggling with something – either because they don’t know or don’t have the energy any more. A simple example was seeing the toddler riding his little car. He was always asking to bring it along in our walks but getting tired quite quickly, from pushing it too hard under the warm sun. I would jump in to help, push the car, or just carry it for him. And often we would both get annoyed. He didn’t really want help, but couldn’t ride the car any more, so now we weren’t really walking or doing anything, just getting frustrated. I would try to help again, he’d say no again and get stuck. So, I just decided not to say anything any more. And guess what, he would walk and ride the car, get tired, try some more, push through and eventually… he would just stop and ask me to take the car up the hill and then ask for it back once we got to the top. Nice and smooth. He now knows I trust him with the car, and he knows I will help when needed. No more struggles.
All of these helps. There are still plenty of noes during the day but it they come from all of us, not just the kids. We say no when we have to, because something important needs to be preserved – to play, to avoid danger, to rest.
And, quite honestly, there’s something adorable and funny about seeing your toddler saying no over and over again while going on his own to wash his hands as you ask him to do so before eating.
They are growing up, expressing themselves and learning to fight for what they want. Tiring as it may be, it’s something to be proud of, and grateful for.