Many parents and guardians are doing their best to refrain from using the word "no" while disciplining their children. At times, it can be incredibly difficult; especially when you need to react quickly.
From infancy, children's brains develop at such a quick pace that their need for exploration is essential. They're running around, expressing their emotions in ways that may not be viewed as "appropriate" and/or "right," and, as parents, we are doing the best we can to guide them in the right direction.
We have combined 10 great ways to respond to your child, young or old, in ways other than using the word "no". Some of these responses will be words. Others will be actions. In many instances, the body can speak louder than our words. Read ahead for some creative and effective responses.
10 Encourage Safe Discovery
As mentioned, children are exploring and discovering items, their emotions, and their surroundings. They are constantly in need of security, and we can assist in this comforting feeling. When we yell, "No!" the child's instant reaction will be fight or flight. Their stress hormones heighten because they know they are "not safe."
Instead of reacting instantly with "No!" approach the child. Bring them down from that large rock they've decided to climb and use words such as, "this is so high!" or, "Wow, you are incredibly brave!" By using positive sentencing, not only will the situation be calm, but you will allow them to focus on the fact of how brave they are to have attempted to climb something this high. Wow, maybe I shouldn't be doing this... I'm not ready...
Sometimes, it's unfair to feel guilty about acting instinctively. It will happen. Practice does make perfect, and the more we learn to put into action our intentions to connect with our child, the more we're likely to do it when another—and yes, there will always come another—situation occurs.
When a child misbehaves, connect to them. As this article on Family Education explains: children misbehave usually to get their parent's or guardian's attention. Bend down or sit up to eye-level of the child. Give them a comforting, physical touch. Whether this is a hand on the shoulder or a warm hug, having them know that you are there, present in this moment will calm them down.
If your child is very young, they are still forming strategies to express their emotions. This can be seen as a very negative thing at times. But, always remember; they need to connect with us before we react.
8 What Is It That You're Doing?
This question can bring attention to the actual situation. It will let them think. Especially if your child is older. "What is that you're doing?" can be a good, reflective time to ask them to think about the moment.
The trick with this question is; be careful with your tone. In the moment, it may be difficult not to project frustration and anger. Parenting takes a lot of patience. Ensure you are not condescending and it's not rhetorical. You truly want an answer from this question.
If all else has failed, you are welcome to re-direct the child to participate in another activity. The last thing you'd like is to ignore the situation and "bad" behavior. But, at times we need to signal to them that their actions are not appropriate and they must move on. Always remember to connect to the child. Then, allow them to focus their attention on a more calming activity.
Touching back on asking the child, "what are you doing at the moment?" is a way of reflection. Whichever way you take this approach, it's important that you stay calm and patient while they respond (age permitting).
Encouraging them to reflect on the situation may even allow them the time to calm down from their excitement. Either way, the child needs your love and compassion the most when they're acting out, no matter their age.
5 Be Specific
Instead of "no" or, "watch out" be specific in your suggestion. Point out what exactly is happening. For example: if your child is climbing up a slide rather than sliding down one, bring attention to the situation so they understand what is happening. "Sweetheart, children may be coming down this slide! You don't want to get hit!" may be something you can express across the playground. They will then reflect on the situation.
4 Please Do Not
One aspect of the parent-child dialogue that is incredibly important is being polite. It can be as simple as using words such as, "please" and "thank you" that will allow the child to appreciate your kindness. Especially in a heated moment, when the child recognizes that you're being strong, calm yet kind, it will allow them to truly be thankful for your compassion.
"Please do not empty the laundry basket, Mommy's been folding your laundry all morning," could be enough for the child to sympathize and reason. Whether this works or not, using "please" before your request is a great and healthy habit to get into. It will too be reciprocated.
Attend their activity and be a part of it. Even if this is an activity that you condemn, find something within it that passes your approval. For example, if they are balancing on a beam but they are only two years old, it's simply unsafe, and you know that they're not ready for this type of balance activity. In that case, hold their hand and pretend to balance beside them.
If they are participating in a very violent fist fight with an older (or younger) sibling, simply act fast (and calm) by coming between the two and participating in a nice activity with the two of them.
2 Signal Disapproval
We're not talking about that death stare or finger pointing we know we've all done before. We're talking about body language and how it holds so much power. This could be as simple as running up to the child and holding them back with a hug. Embrace the child and welcome the feeling of being safe. By signaling disapproval in a positive way, they may end up expressing their feelings by communicating what they were intending on doing. A conversation may flourish from there.
1 Create The Appropriate Energy
It is as simple as bringing positive energy into a negative situation. Whether you use this with words, with your body language, or with physical touch, bringing positive and calm energy into your day-to-day with your child will change the paradigm.
The way parents and/or guardians react to a situation (good or bad) will affect the way that a child will react in their future. Always consider their intent and react accordingly. Saying "no" may not be good enough in many scenarios.