It feels like there are a hundred different methods to parenting, are with their own name and brand. Gentle, Secure, Attachment, Wilderness, Free Range, Great Depression (I'll admit I made up the last one or two but you get the picture). And there are some parenting techniques that discourage a parent from telling their child "No!". And though there are many who would scoff at that, "You have to be able to tell your child no!", I think there is something to be said about the difference between a child needing redirection and child needing to be told no.
Raising your voice to tell your 1-year-old no is as effective as asking your dog why he wants to chase the squirrel on the other side of the fence. Although your little one may understand your tone or intensity, they don't truly understand what you're asking of them. No, what? Crawling, sitting, pulling up, getting out the pots and pans, sticking something in the outlet, unrolling the toilet paper, eating the dirt found on the floor... All of these things are normal, positive things for an inquisitive kiddo to do and try. I'll admit, you don't want them to do these things, but in their world, it is all about discovery through their senses. They have no bad intent, they're just exploring!
However, a firm "no" or "no, thank you" has its place as well. Standing in the bathtub, pulling the dog's tail, biting (I'm so tired of the biting...) all receive a firm no. These are all behaviors that are not acceptable and are likely to lead to an injury for him (or me, this biting guys, I'm serious, it hurts!).
So, what do you do when the little guy isn't being bad but is in a space or doing something you would prefer not happen?
Redirect. Just like in the classroom when students are sidetracked but still being well-behaved, you steer the group back to the desired area of focus. When the cupboard under the sink is being ransacked, I offer the tub of bath toys. When he finds a particularly tasty shoe, I trade the shoe for a teething toy. And when the rubber ducky is ideal for sucking water out of, its time for his cup. None of these behaviors are negative or wrong; there's no reason to reprimand a baby for doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing. But there are better toys and outlets for his curiosity than the dirty laundry hamper or his dad's golf bag.
There are so many different ways to parent and when it's all said and done, what really matters is that you can consistently care for your child confidently. If "no" works best for you, by all means, use it! But I want to encourage you to be intentional with your reprimands and be mindful of your child's intent. Your little miscreant may not have a negative intention, only the joy of playing with something new in mind. Parenthood isn't easy but there is no need to sweat the small things! Let your kid be a kid and save the "No!" for when they're really in danger. Saving a firm "no" for certain things makes it more powerful for when you really need it, i.e.: running out into the street, putting something dangerous in their mouth, etc.
Whether you say "no" a hundred times a day or you intend to say it less, you're doing a good job keeping them alive, cared for, and loved. Here's to you, Mama, you're doing the best you can and that's all we can ever do!
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