It’s so important to put yourself in your little one’s shoes and try to see everyday from their perspective. It’s something I forget to do to so often, but when I take the time to slow down and actually think about, it’s so very enlightening.
We went home to visit our families a couple of weekends ago. My son and I spent some time with my mom while she was working. While it was amazing to see my mom and for her to get to see her grandson, my son was into EVERYTHING!!! I kid you not. Every. Single. Thing.
It’s an art workshop. There’s tools, glass, paints, glue, paintbrushes, customers pieces and projects that most certainly cannot get broken! You name it. He wanted to touch everything. And at every turn I was yelling at my son, “No! Don’t touch that! Put it back! Leave it alone!” I was beyond frustrated; no matter what I did, my son wasn’t listening to me.
My mom suggested we all go outside, and after a while in the sun, I was ready to get the little one back inside. I hadn’t brought any sunscreen with, and my mom got so upset. My mom is not easily upset by little things, either. I didn’t understand what the issue was with going back inside. I was at the end of my rope, but I didn’t understand why that would affect her. But she said something to me that has been on my mind ever since; it resonates deep within me to this day… She said, “No, everything inside is, ‘NO!’ Out here, he can just be.”
My mom has always been very zen, introspective, wise and intense, and she’s always right. She always sees way more than I do, and when she says something so profound, you never forget it.
And it was in that moment when I realized how often I’m telling my son, “No.” I mean, as parents we all know we tell our kids ‘No,’ a lot, especially our toddlers. We all get the jokes from other people when the only word our toddlers know how to say is, ‘No!’ But what she said really resonated deep within me. It made me reevaluate what I was doing and how I was parenting, and I didn’t like what I found.
Related: 11 Things To Try During Your Toddler’s Next Temper Tantrum…
I tried to put myself in my son’s shoes. I’m always telling him, “No!” Sure, in my eyes, he’s always getting into everything! But in my son’s eyes, I’m always telling him, “No.” I’m always telling him that he can’t have this, that and the other thing, too! And sure, it’s my job as a parent to be the tough one, to be the rule maker and set boundaries for my son. Obviously he can’t have cookies for breakfast.
We can’t always be the fun parent who says yes to every single thing. But when your child starts saying no all the time, every one makes a joke; “Oh, he must hear that a lot at home!” You know what, Carol, he does! It’s true! Too true. He’s a toddler! He is running around and pushing the boundaries. He is testing the limits and breaking the rules and it’s frustrating and infuriating! And yes, I tell my son no, a lot!
Of course, it dawned on me that my son doesn’t even know what the word, ‘Yes’ means. He never says, “Yes.” When we ask him if he wants something that he so clearly wants, that we knows he wants, he says NO! When he reaches for his cup, we ask him if he would like and he says no. We ask him if he wants a cookie, and he says no, even as he’s screaming and crying and reaching for one. And it was eye opening for me, because it made me think about how I would feel if I was constantly being told, “No!”
I thought about how it would affect me if my boyfriend started telling me no all the time; “No, you can’t have that. No, you can’t touch that. No, that’s not your room. That’s not yours, put it back!“ And I’m usually so at the end of my rope that I’m yelling all of these things at my son, because it’s the fifteen time he’s tried to hit the TV, or the 20th time he’s trying to throw a toy away in the garbage!
When I really thought about it, I realized that I was probably really hurting my son in a deep and profound way. If I was constantly being turned down at every turn, it would completely change who I was as a person. It would make me not want to be around that person. I would start to retreat inward and act out. I would probably be pretty sour towards them. It would make me want to fight with them and tell them that they’re being completely unreasonable! I’d want to tell them that they’re always telling me no and it’s really hurting my feelings!
But my son can’t do that. He can’t express himself that way, yet. He can’t tell me it hurts his feelings when I tell him no. He can’t tell me that he’s upset and frustrated with me, probably more so than I am with him! So instead, he screams, and he yells, and he throws the ultimate temper tantrum, because he’s figured out that that’s the only way to get me to stop and actually look at him.
I’m not saying I don’t look at my son or that I don’t see how I’m affecting him with my words. I’m not saying I’m a terrible parent. I’m not saying I blatantly tell my son no without reason. I try to explain the reasons to him, but at this point he’s just not able to understand the reason why, yet. Right now, he’s exploring, and he’s learning, and he’s getting into everything, and he’s pushy all the boundaries, because how else is he going to learn?
But I realized that these are all negative interactions with my son. Even if I kindly ask him to please put that back, or please don’t touch that, these still are negative interactions; it doesn’t matter how much I dress it up! These aren’t positive behavior-reinforcing interactions. If anything, I’m reinforcing his bad behaviors by combating him with my own negative reactions.
I realized that a lot of the interactions I’m having with my son are me constantly telling him, “No!” in one form or another. Start with that I already lose out on 9-10 hours a day with him while I’m working, then cut out the 10-11 hours he sleeps at night. That leaves about 3-4 hours of time we spend together a day during the week, if that. I’m tired, I’ve been at work all day and I’m just done with the day. My son’s tired, hungry, and probably a whole host of other emotions that I can’t even begin to think about, because I would probably start to feel tremendously guilty. Unfortunately, the time we spend together lately is mostly made up of me yelling at him and telling him the word no constantly.
And of course, I started to feel so unbelievably guilty. I’d love to tell you that I’ve stopped saying the word no, but that’s never going to happen. I have a toddler; I’ll always have to tell my son, “No.” I’ve at least become way more aware of how often I am saying no, and I’m trying to have more positive interactions with my son. If I get into a rut where I find myself constantly telling him no, I try and change what we’re doing. I’ll take him in another room and sit with him for awhile, grab a couple toys and have some one on one play time. I’ll make him laugh, and I end up laughing, too, which completely changes the mood! I’ll play with him or dance to some music, anything to make him smile.
Instead of yelling, “No!” I’ve been trying to redirect him and reinforce that change with a positive interaction. I try to do something to change the mood and get us off the path we are on. Otherwise, we will just end up with more temper tantrums, more disagreements and another strung-out battles-of-wills, because we both want our way!
It’s hard to know what’s right and wrong in parenting. All we can do is try our hardest, and do our best, and hope that we create amazing little humans that aren’t completely ruined and traumatized later in life. As always Mommies and Daddies, keep on loving those little ones like only you know how, and try to say, “No” a little less this week.