Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Creative ways to say "no" to young children

As parents, we try to look for ways to say "yes" to our child's requests, allowing them to explore their world and develop their independence. Often, however, our answer must be either "no" or "not yet". When declining or postponing a young child's request, whether because we are unavailable at the moment or because the request itself is unacceptable in some manner, there are a variety of ways to get the message across without a direct "no".

These variations acknowledge the child's requests, validate their desires and emotions, and give them a clear picture of what options are open to them. Because the focus is on acknowledgement and positive phrasing, the child is likely to be more receptive to the response and less likely to experience overwhelming emotions and melt down as they otherwise might in the face of a simple "no".

Using age-appropriate phrasing, consider the following alternatives:


The answer to the request may be yes, but perhaps that exact moment is not the best time. In that case, postpone the request using a variation of the following phrases:


"When your pajamas are on, then we can read a story."

Yes, after ___.

"Yes, we can go to the park after your toys are back in their basket."

I can help you with that after ___.

"I will get you a glass of milk after I finish washing these pots."

Right now I am ___. Would you like to join/help me?

"Right now I am doing the laundry. Would you like to put this shirt into the washing machine for me?"

Wish Fulfillment

Sometimes a child's request cannot be accommodated. It might sound like a great idea to the child, but it's simply not going to happen. Try wish fulfillment, a form of playful parenting, to acknowledge your child's desires:

That would be fun, wouldn't it? Let's try ___ instead.

"It would be fun to paint the dog. She would be so colourful! I don't think she'd like it very much though. Let's collect some rocks and paint them instead."

I wish we could ___, and then _[expand on fantasy]_! How about we _[more acceptable activity]_?

"You want ice cream right now? I wish we could too! I'd put cherries and chocolate sauce on mine. What colour of sprinkles would you put on yours? Wow, that sounds delicious. Talking about food is making me feel so hungry. Dinner is nearly ready, so let's set the table together."

Redirection and Distraction

While aspects of redirection and distraction can be found in the above phrasing, these approaches are useful in their own right. Here the focus is on avoiding power-struggles through simple observation followed by providing acceptable options:

"You may not play with Mommy's book. Here is one of yours."

"It is time for Quiet Time. Which CD would you like to listen to?"

"I see that you are spitting. You may go spit in the sink. When you are done, would you like to read a book with me?"

Additional Resources

Of course, this is only one tool for use in one particular scenario. Taking "no" out of the equation helps to side-step a power-struggle with a small child, but it holds no guarantees; meltdowns and tantrums happen during this time of development when young children are learning how to express and work through their emotions. When the situation warrants it, reflect the child's feelings back to him and, if needed, offer help in expressing those feelings in a healthy, appropriate, and acceptable manner.

For further reading as it relates to the gentle discipline of young children, check out these additional resources:

The Hows of Discipline
Ten Alternatives to Time-Out
Gentle Discipline for Toddlers

Friday, 20 January 2017

Adapt and Renew {One Word 2017}

Each year, in lieu of resolutions, I choose a single word on which to focus for the next 12 months. The fluidity and holistic nature of this word fits my spirit better than one specific resolution. They flow one year to the next, Grace leading to Joy leading to Presence, Intention leading to Rhythm leading to Habit, the culmination of all of those Opening my life wide for what may come. Then, a hard year, a decision to simply Go Forward bravely, one step after another. The year following demanded that I Fearlessly rebuild and heal and live, while the year after that brought Light: Live Light, Seek Light, Be Light.

Now another new year has arrived, and my focus is shifting once again.

2010: Grace and Intention
2011: Joy and Rhythm
2012: Presence and Habit
2013: Open
2014: Go Forward
2015: Fearless
2016: Light
2017: Adapt and Renew

Adapt. Renew. I find these two words circling each other as I look at the year ahead. These past two years have been ones of intense and deliberate habit building. I have shifted my sleep schedule, taken up running, adjusted our homeschooling rhythms, and developed a solid work-from home routine. It's been good. Really good. I'm happy with these rhythms.

But change always comes, and I know myself well enough to recognize that the perfectionist in me doesn't adapt well. If I can't keep my ideal routines, then it's easier to simple cast them aside rather than try to fit them into new shapes.

Well, change is coming again. In June, we look forward to welcoming our fifth child into our home.

I can't tell you how grateful I am to be able to say that.

I also can't tell you how very much this changes those intentionally-developed rhythms and routines.

I've already had to give up running. I had visions of running throughout my pregnancy, or at least for as long as felt comfortable, but my quickly-loosening joints put an end to that early on. The usual first-trimester exhaustion and nausea meant I was sleeping later and napping frequently. My work hours began to dip and homeschooling rhythms shifted as well. And naturally the prospect of a baby meant that further changes to our family routine would become necessary in the months ahead. Such is the nature of pregnancy: a demand to slow down, to rest, to do less.

It didn't take long for that perfectionism and anxiety to start speaking up. If I can't run and if yoga just doesn't quite compare, then I guess I can't really do anything. If I can't get up before the kids are awake, then my usual pre-kids morning routine simply cannot happen at all. And so it goes.

Unsurprisingly, that wasn't working either. I could feel it as my anxiety rose, my patience dropped, and my internal motivation went for a run and didn't bother coming back.

And so I must Adapt. These rhythms, routines, and habits must be Renewed for the coming year. Rather than write it all off as a lost cause, a bit more creativity and flexibility is required of me. The renewal has begun; we are shifting things around, finding what works, always the continual change but this time keeping a little more of the Good from the hard-won habits of the past two years.

Adapt. Renew. The latter brings a sense of birth, fitting for the year ahead, while the former has a less delicate feeling to it, a demand to simply do what must be done. They feel equally fitting, somehow, and I take from each what I need for this time and for the time to come.

Do you have a One Word this year? a resolution? a new goal or habit? We'd love to hear about it!