“Can I wear this tutu to the grocery store?”
“Can I put some makeup on, too?”
“Are we there yet?”
“Is it my birthday?”
“Can I drive?”
Clearly, sometimes “no” is necessary, but how often? After saying it for the thousandth time this week (just my estimate), I was starting to feel a little like a broken record. Author Gretchen Rubin offers this solution: “Say ‘no’ only when it really matters.” She says the word promotes negativity and doesn’t do a good job of explaining why something isn’t acceptable. Instead of saying “no,” she suggests highlighting the positive parts of the situation and directing your child’s attention elsewhere.
I’m open to saying “no” less, sure. But sometimes, that tiny word is all that stands between my family and certain destruction. I’m kind of attached to it. I’m sure you understand. In my experience so far as a mom, “no” seems to work best for curbing dangerous, annoying or inappropriate behavior; “stop” is a close second.
You can use the word “no” as your answer to almost any parenting scenario.
When your child wants to make a “potion” out of ingredients from the kitchen: “No.”
When they want another piece of cake, but it’s clear the sugar has changed them into a different, scarier, more hyperactive child: “No.”
When your beautiful daughter wants to go on a date with a boy who’s 4 years older than her: “No.”
When your son brings a gigantic frog to your front door and says it needs a home, say it with me now: “No.”
“No” can even be used before you know what sort of ridiculous thing you’re going to be asked.
“Mom, can I — ”
“ — No.”
“But I was going to ask if I could — ”
“ — No.”
Isn’t it nice, nipping destructive ideas in the bud with a single, two-letter answer?
In all seriousness, I understand the idea behind replacing “no” with other, less negative words and phrases. I’m definitely going to start paying more attention to the things I say to my daughter and the way I say them. I won’t lie to you and say that “no” will disappear from my vocabulary, but I promise I’ll try to say it only when it really matters. Or when I don’t feel like getting up.
Also, when any gigantic frogs show up at my door.
(Editor’s Note: Debra Carpenter is a novice mother, wife, and college student. She writes about the parts of parenthood you didn’t expect when you were expecting. Like the fan page at Facebook.com/MotherInterrupted or visit the website at MotherInterrupted.com.)