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    “No” is a word that many parents use when “disciplining” (or trying to discipline) their kids:

    “No hitting!”

    “No running, please!”

    “No fighting!”

    “No tantrums!”

    “No, no, no!”

    In fact, according to “The Kid Counselor” and licensed private-practice play therapist Brenna Hicks, research shows that “toddlers typically hear the word ‘no’ 400 times daily.” That is a bit too often, don’t you think?

    This is why Hicks, along with other positive parenting advocates and educators, encourages parents to learn to say “no” without actually using the word “no.” She includes discussing choices and having the right tone of voice as alternatives.

    Locally, there are also many parents who choose to say “no” to their kids in different ways.

    Mariel Uyquiengco and Rosanne Unson, owners of The Learning Basket, a “parenting and early education hub that inspires even the busiest parents to be their children’s first and best teacher,” talk about this — and more — in the parenting workshops that they give. They share some pointers with us.

    Know when to say “no”
    For starters, Unson says that parents should be aware that saying “no” to a child without actually saying “no” is totally possible but not entirely applicable to every situation.

    “While it's true that we should always try to be positive in dealing with our children, what I think is more important is for our children to understand why we are saying no,” she explains.

    Uyquiengco adds, “You have to say ‘no’ sometimes, like in an emergency situation for example.”

    Saying “no” without saying “no” is part of disciplining your child

    Dr. Lucille Montes, a licensed physician, psychologist and guidance counselor who holds clinic in the Makati and Alabang areas, emphasizes that knowing when to “say” no to your child is all part of discipline.

    “Discipline means making a disciple of your child, meaning, you exert positive influence because of your bond and his love for you — this is the best way to shape his behavior,” she explains.

    Hence, Dr. Montes says parents should think about which scenarios are ideal for inculcating the virtues they want in their children.

    “Usually, when parent and child are having fun together — when there is no conflict -- that’s when the teachings are best absorbed,” she adds.


    Too many “no’s”?
    Dr. Montes advises parents to examine themselves and check if they have too many "no’s” for their kids.

    “Some parents have too many rules, such that their children are deprived of opportunities to explore, learn and mature,” she explains.

    She advises parents to limit their "no’s" to where it matters. If matters don’t concern being morally right or the kids aren’t in danger of getting hurt, she says parents should be more flexible, such as in discussions about bedtime, mealtime, etc.

    Uyquiengco agrees with Dr. Montes, saying, “It is true that some parents tend to say ‘no’ as an automatic response.”

    “This is when we should start working on saying ‘no’ without saying ‘no’ by understanding the reason behind our children's actions and then talking about it in a peaceful, gentle manner,” she expounds.

    Different ways to say “no”
    Here are some ways to say “no” to your child — without using the word “no”:

    1. Rephrase.
    “Rephrasing our statements is one way of saying ‘no’ to our children in a positive way,” Unson explains. “For example, instead of saying, ‘No hitting!’ we say, ‘Hands are for hugging, not for hitting.’”

    2. Validate.
    Uyquiengco says parents can validate their children’s feelings while saying “no” to them at the same time.

    For example, when your child hits another kid because he took one of his toys, you can say, "I know you're really upset that X got your toy. What should you do instead of hitting when you're mad?"

    “This is assuming you've already talked about what your child should do when he or she is mad, of course,” Uyquiengco adds.

    3. Explain.
    Unson points out that explaining why we do not allow something also makes our children understand the logic behind our "no".  For example: "Chocolates before dinner is not healthy."

    “The key here is to use ten words or less as children tend to space out when we explain too much,” Unson discloses.

    4. Give choices.
    Unson and Uyquiengco, whose Positive Discipline workshops are well-attended and received by parents, cite one of their favorite Positive Discipline tools as another positive way of saying “no” — giving choices.

    Here is an example:

    Instead of saying, “No writing on walls!” opt to say, “I can see that you love drawing. Would you like to draw on your whiteboard or on a piece of paper?”

    Dr. Montes says doing so will help make a child feel that he or she has a “say in things.”

    “For a toddler who is throwing things that can hurt people, you can offer him or her a soft toy and say, ‘Here, sweetie, you can throw this soft toy instead.’”

    5. Understand and teach acceptable behavior.
    Dr. Montes expounds on giving a child choices by encouraging parents to teach “alternate behaviors” to their children.

    “If the child is exhibiting unacceptable behavior, the best is always to offer an alternative behavior,” she explains. “The alternative behavior can be taught beforehand for predictable typical situations.”

    For example, teach your child that when he or she is angry, he or she can say, “I am angry now, may I go to my room please?"

    “If the child is too young to speak coherently, address the behavior when it is happening and provide the words for your child,” Dr. Montes expounds.  

    For example, when a toddler is having a tantrum, the parent can say, “(name of child) is upset about something. (name of child) can come with me to a quiet corner to calm down."

    Doing so consistently will help the child incorporate that statement into his or her language and thinking pattern.

    Observe your child
    To end, Dr. Montes emphasizes the importance of observing your child, especially his or her “readiness” to learn or respond to certain situations. “The child's developmental level must be taken into account when it comes to discipline,” she explains.

    At the end of the day, remember that getting to know your child is a crucial factor in making the discipline process easier.

    It’s also important to note that discipline involves teaching our children, not just getting them to obey rules. The word “discipline” actually comes from the Latin disciplina, meaning “teaching.” Let us, therefore, strive to be the best teachers to our kids.

    “Every home is a university and the parents are the teachers.” — Mahatma Gandhi

    Hicks, B. (2008, Feb. 3) Stop Saying “No”! – Tips for Positive Parenting [Web log post] Retrieved from http://thekidcounselor.com

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