“No” is a powerful word. Adults use it in daily life to assert themselves, express an opinion, reject unwanted sexual advances, etc. but for some reason, when a child says “No” it is viewed as defiant, and is worthy of punishment.
We respond with time-outs, withdrawal of attention, and removal of favored toys. When we strip our toddlers of the ability to use the word, we remove their right to have a say in their environment.
To an adult, saying “No” when offered a ride in a car by someone who makes us uncomfortable, is the same as a child being asked to eat dinner when they are not really hungry. “No” in both situations is appropriate, but for the child, it is not an option.
I let may kids say “No” all the time. So what if she doesn’t feel like eating. What difference does it make if she takes a bath later vs right this very minute? I am far more concerned with her ability to assert herself as a young adult than I am with whether or not she has rejected the outfit I selected for her to wear.
By allowing her to say “No”, I am giving her the ability to control her body as well as her environment- and that is worth everything to me.
So the next time your child says “No”, why not try a high 5 instead of a time out?
If we empower our children we will bring forth a generation of strong, confident girls and more respectful young men.
Carolyn Flynn is an RN who lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three kids. Intense self-reflection, evaluation, and reconsideration led her from mainstream to gentle parenting. Carolyn advocates for gently parenting children who carry an autism diagnosis- just as she is learning to do with her spectacular son, Eric.