I just found something about that very sad. That a little baby would have heard 'no' so many times that it recognised it as much as 'daddy' or 'mummy'. Remember, we're talking about a baby who has no true concept of right and wrong.
There are two sides to this issue for me.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not so out-there or hippy or anarchistic or crunchy or whatever, that I don't believe in any negativity. For starters, negativity is part of our world, and without it there wouldn't be any positivity - yin and yang and all such stuffs. What I mean is that for me, a positive and forward-focusing attitude is more beneficial than the alternative.
If, as an adult, you are simply told that you cannot do or have something, are you satisfied with that? I know that I'm not. And sure, I know, I know, children have less of an understanding and maturity and it's not the same thing. But it's more similar than not. They are people who deserve more respect and more reason than simply 'no'.
As an adult, I would prefer a reason or an alternative. I have always given the same to children, taking into account their maturity and understanding and of course, the situation.
As an example, the Wilflower is 8.5 mths old. I rather she didn't pull my hair out as I changed her diaper. Rather than say 'no', when she manages to grab a handful, I simply take it out from her hands gently and offer her a toy to keep those little busy hands occupied. If she's 3 years old, I'll explain to her that pulling my hair hurts me and I would rather she didn't do it.
When she enthusiastically bangs a wooden spoon on the table and mum is done with that charming noise, I offer her a soft toy.
When she reaches for a cup/pot/whatever that she might break or get burnt or whatever, I move it out of her way. And so on...
Secondly, the inefficacy of the word.
I found from experience (ex-nanny) that children have selective hearing (as do husbands). The word is used so much that children are easily able to tune it out. They do something similar when playing outdoors and you call their name. Whisper 'ice-cream' and see those heads turn and legs bring them in! I had a dog who behaved in a similar way. You would call his name so often and so loudly with no visible reaction from him that you were convinced that the wind was carrying your voice away. Then you would shout 'cat' and he was at your side in a nanosecond sniffing for the feline fiend. The little bugger! But I digress....
If you're a 'no' user, don't you get sick of saying it? And don't you get sick of saying it to no effect?
I have a very practical streak (Taurus ascendant) and while I adore the For No Reasons and the Just Becauses as well as the Whimsies in life, when it comes to things like this, I'm not interested in what doesn't work.
And 'no' rarely works. Or, it works to do all sorts of things in your child's psyche that you cannot detect.
So, I'm approaching the idea behind the word, refusing or stopping something child-led, with caution and with certain stipulations.
- Whatever word I use, it must be effective. (meaning it must stop the behaviour)
- It must do so without making my child feel oppressed.
I decided that to achieve the two objectives, the word/s must carry meaning. This way, I am not making one word become redundant and I'm providing my child with information.
So, with things that can hurt her in some way, we say 'ouch!'. We use this word when she bumps herself or whatever, so that she now understands the word is connected to pain.
With things that might burn, we say 'hot!'. We allowed her to feel a radiator that was too hot for her (but not that would hurt her!) and it was enough to startle her and I used the word hot very clearly a number of times. The next time she reached for a cooking pot, I said 'hot!' and she withdrew her hand very quickly.
Now, she is very little and we don't get many opportunities to use the words so I know she will forget them and I know that when she does remember them there will come a time when she will be a true child and think, 'heck, I'm doing it anyway'. And then she'll learn for herself (the best learning ever) and we would have provided her with the information. So that then she can think, 'okay, they did tell me'.
You might have noticed that another aspect to choosing how to say no is also when to say it. I think the word is so easy to use that we can end up saying it for every little thing, which is probably why Sears claims it's recognised at such an early age. Like with the examples above, such as grabbing my hair or reaching for an object, my baby isn't doing anything wrong. And if you think about it, it's actually really senseless. To say 'no' to a baby reaching for something is void of meaning and also completely ridiculous considering a child will always reach for something.
Think about it. Why is she allowed to reach for the spoon but not your cup? Because the cup is hot, or contains a liquid or is breakable? Then wouldn't saying so make more sense to her?
Saying no to some things and yes to others makes sense to us, but to a baby it's so arbitrary. She isn't going to learn anything other than that I am a very unpredictable person to be around!
Choose which situations actually require negation.
Choose a meaningful word.
This seems to provide two wonderfully amazing things
- learning and connection.