I’ve heard many types of “no’s.”
Stern: “No! Stop doing that! You stop it right now you hear?”
Softly: “No no dear, that’s not for you sweetie…”
Playfully: “No no no no no no no no no” (with a singing tone)
Directionally: “No, it’s not read that way. No, that’s not the right answer.”
What’s the first reaction when “you” hear “no”? You immediately stop what you’re doing and see what’s “wrong.” However, you look for the “meaning” behind the no. For children, a simple “no” just means they cannot do something but it doesn’t tell them “why” behind the “no” and the above no’s are not effective. A stern “no” just means she can’t do something now but she’ll continue to try your limits. Without knowing the why, she may get scared according to your tone, not understand why, and repeat the action again. The worst part is she’ll get scared. When kids get scared, they go into the “self protection” mode which disallows them to think with their heads and instead go into fight and protect. The soft “no” is even worse. Not only do the children not hear that you don’t want them to do something, they tune it out all together. Now if there was something dangerous, they wouldn’t even know. This is also the reason behind the playful “no” as well. I have a friend who’s family doesn’t believe in reprimanding children but yet she wants to teach the word “no” to her baby and she does it with a soft and singing tone. I heard it once before and saw her baby still going on to grab some wires behind a computer. So what use is that “no”?
The directional “no” is worse of all, it eliminates the imagination of children. Let’s say a child is doing some homework and she writes down the wrong answer. You say, “no, that’s wrong.” She gets more and more scared of getting it wrong due to the negative connotation of the word no and instead her mind starts the self protection mode. There was a study and experiment done on groups of children on this aspect. One girl who was slow on reading was made to believe she was slow as everyone always told her she did this and that wrong. She soon was afraid to read at all and became in the slow group. Instead of answering questions, she frequently just said, “I don’t know” or, “I forgot.” It was easier for her and gave her a sense of relief since it was within the adult expectation for her to fail. She slowly lacked the ability for imagination and thinking. They pulled her out and instead gave her training on self confidence and some self pride. In as little as 6 weeks, she moved out of the slow learning group and was improving more and accelerated beyond normal learning. She had convinced herself that she was good at learning and gave her self some discipline and rules to figure stuff out.
Does this mean you should go and keep saying to your child they’re smart and every answer is correct? NO! (ha ha, did that on purpose). It means you must explain why an answer may not be the optimal answer instead of using the word “no.” For example, if she writes down a wrong answer, you can say, “Let’s revisit the story again and see what else could be possible. So what happened here?” According to the story, ask her questions and involve her brain to think interactively and see if she can come up with another answer. When she does, ask her whether she likes this answer better than her previous. If she says yes, you’re done. If not, then it’s okay, let her make the mistake and when you’re both correcting her paper or when she gets her homework back, you can reread the passage and find the right answer. This is much more effective in having a child work their brain than simply saying “no.”
If you YouTube parents teaching their children to read, you’ll find a lot of “no’s.” I just wonder how much faster the child would develop if the “no” didn’t come out.
In terms of keeping your child away from danger, simply first say, “Adam! The stove is hot and dangerous! Step away now!” Calling a child’s name not only gets their attention more than “no,” it allows them to be open to listening to what you have to say next. They also learn the reason behind everything.
Please share any experiences you’ve had if you’d like.