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Ashlee is Mama of one darling boy. A 28 week early bird, now 1 and some change, doing beautifully. She lives near Chicago with her sweetheart husband and French Bulldog. She's a thinker not afraid to get her silly on. Babywearer, veggie queen, photography nut. Before the domestic days Ashlee was pursuing a future in developmental psychology but has happily shifted gears in favor of staying at home and couldn't imagine doing anything else. In her free time (ha!) you can find her whipping up babyslings, holding down the fort at Mama Speaks and spotlighting as an Itsy Bitsy Yoga Instructor.

Just Say No

Around the time Xavier became mobile we found ourselves saying "no". A lot. "No touch". "No, that's Oliver's". "No throw". "No this and that". And all too often X would give me that look as if wondering exactly when his silly, fun-loving, constantly looking at me oozing love, Mama had turned into a tyrant.

It's not that I'm afraid of telling my child no - there is of course a time and a place for that, but at 12 or 13 months old it is hard to see what exactly he's learning from a steady stream of us thwarting his attempts to discover and explore. Because we often say no, not when our children are doing something wrong, but simply doing what they are programed to do.

And so we've taken a different approach. Baby proofing was taken a bit more seriously, creating plentiful opportunities for "yes, touches". And when he comes across something - the dog bowl, or an empty glass that we've forgotten to put away, instead of rushing to say "No touch" we've turned it into a teaching moment. How easy it for me to say "Oops, Mommy forgot to put that away, can you help me find where it goes?" In the event it is something that really just can't be touched we've taken to saying "Freeze" and then redirecting - which has worked remarkably well. And we've turned what would otherwise be demands, "You need to sit" into simple family values, "At the table we sit".

Some of it requires holding your breath and looking at the situation through a child's eyes... At the dinner table allowing him to touch and squish and dump his food in addition to getting a bit in his mouth even it means soy milk or spaghetti on the floor (or his head) - He's learning about taste and texture. And he will eventually turn to me to ask for help in taking a bite with his fork or spoon... When we splash in the sink, watching happily as the inevitable bowl of bubbly water gets dumped overboard - he's learning cause and effect (and I needed an excuse to mop anyway). When we color not worrying about every mark of crayon getting on the page, when we paint allowing him to paint himself from head to toe... Learning is messy; we can clean up together when we're done. And we always do.

Our world is happier this way and I like to think we're raising a better child for it. It is not my place to blame and shame and pain him into learning the ropes of world, but to encourage him. To afford him the opportunities to test the waters himself and see what happens. To allow him to accomplish and overcome. To make mistakes and experience the consequences. And I think when we reserve the "no's" and "do not's" for serious circumstances, instances of real danger for example, the power of those words are taken for what they are.


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  • Blogger Tracey says so:
    11:57 AM  

    Definitely. It can be hard to do, but it's a great approach to not only parenting, but LIVING. I hope you guys continue on! top

  • Blogger Nicole says so:
    1:18 PM  

    I think that this is awesome. I do think that children need to learn the word "no", but I do think if that is all you say, it can be confusing. I have seen my share of kids that NEED to be told no and aren't. BUT if you have raised your child with appropriate boundaries, then doing what you are talking about sounds great. top

  • Anonymous Anonymous says so:
    1:21 PM  

    You let him paint??? I've never let the Beast paint! Never even thought about it! Paint? I'm in awe of you. I don't even give her a spoon or fork yet because it's just easier to let her eat with her fingers. You're prolly shaking your head in disgust. LOL.

    Paint???? top

  • Blogger New Mama's Nest says so:
    1:28 PM  

    Yes! We paint! But only with my special homemade finger paints, which are VERY washable - here's a link to the recipe: http://newmamasnest.blogspot.com/2006/10/xavier-pollock.html
    also required are a naked baby and floor covering (old sheet works) :) top

  • Blogger isunshine says so:
    1:48 PM  

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on this! I have tried to bring Isabella up without her being told "no" all the time. Like you said, if something is dangerous (hot stove) and such, "NO!" is what she heard (hears), followed by explaination, of course. Distraction worked well for me, most of the time. Now that she's almost 4, we're getting a little bit too sassy for our britches. I've been reading a book called "You Can't Make Me, But I Can Be Pursuaded". It's pretty good. It has given me some good ideas for when she's being her too sassy self. Instead of, "You don't talk to me like that!", which is said in the EXACT tone of voice she just used with me, I've been trying, "Wow, you sound upset (or angry, or whatever the emotion may be). I will listen to you when you can make your voice sound like mine." (in a very soft voice) It really seems to be working. Anyway, good luck with the no "no's" and sorry about the book for a comment. top

  • Anonymous Mama C-ta says so:
    7:20 PM  

    Oh cool, thanks for the paint recipe! I've been wanting to break out some paints.

    I recently posted something similar about the use of "no." I need to be better about it, definitely. It's so easy to be lazy, isn't it? top

  • Blogger Lynanne says so:
    7:43 PM  

    Nicely said! :) A week or so ago I was upset because my daughter took a pencil to the wall. Now I'm glad I didn't clean up the marks. This stage goes by so quickly. top

  • Blogger Keri says so:
    8:33 PM  

    That's AWESOME that you are changing your approach to using NO's. It can be easy to forget that children really need to be able to explore in an unrestrictive environment. They are usually happier kids if that happens. Thanks for sharing the paint recipe! I will definitely try that with my son...maybe tomorrow! =)

    http://www.jimikiwi.blogspot.com top

  • Blogger Christie says so:
    7:50 AM  

    i agree!!! we're similar, in that we speak productively, "we sit at the table", "we don't play with that", yada yada... and of course i already give my share of "no" but i would rather allow him to explore as much as possible without the possibility of getting hurt. "no" i like to reserve for dangerous circumstances or real no-no's. top

  • Blogger Robin says so:
    9:52 AM  

    Could he get any cuter! When Monte was little a wise woman who had raised 4 kids told me children respond better to direction then correction. Example....please put your feet on the floor. Not...GET YOUR FEET OFF THE TABLE.

    And yes, closing went okay. I had to leave in the middle to pick the boys up from school. They weren't ready when we got there. But we are home owners again. Payment and all :) Now we have to move in this bitter cold! top

  • Blogger Amber says so:
    10:43 AM  

    Great approach; the no thin grows old really fast!! top

  • Anonymous Barbara says so:
    12:45 PM  

    I totally agree. Your post reminded me ofThe Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff. It takes a look tribal/village-style parenting, and the people she studied have really content and joyful lives... it's really encouraging! (as is your blog!) top

  • Blogger Adventures In Babywearing says so:
    2:05 PM  

    This is a very good post! And shows how natural those things fall into place, and how approaching the discipline process in a gentle way has more of an effect after all! You are just too good sometimes to be a first time mom!!! top