So many variations that little two-letter word.
And I am not talking about the word so favoured by toddlers, Digger included. It clearly empowers him, and the repeat use of it can be tiresome, but I’m happy to report that he uses a lot of yes’s too.
Actually, this post is about me – again. And my use of the word.
Aimed by the 97cm high being that is my 30-month-old son.
‘Nonononononono’ is completely channelling my own mother. Or my Dad pops up with with a series of pensive and non-committal ‘No…. no…no.’ Or sometimes with a serious ‘NO!’. I tend to inhabit my own more. The ‘Nope’, ‘Naaaahhh…’ or ‘Noooouuuuu..!’ or ‘Nooo way’. I come from a culture where ‘no’ is rife. It can actually be used politely.
Then there’s ‘Interesting…’ (That wonderfully not-so-genuine expression of actual interest). ‘Are you sure?’ or ‘Really?’ to which Digger will reply ‘Yes, sure.’ and ‘Yes, really.’ He definitely has my number.
‘Are you kidding me?!’ get’s the response ‘No. Kidd.’ And Digger usually means it. Like asking for chocolate roses before dinner, as he did tonight.
The English are World Champions of gracious, sly and evasive no’s. I speak as a non-native speaker, after decades as an outsider within. And I am still learning. It’s like tuning an old fashioned radio: sometimes it is all noise, but other times it is clear as day, and that can be a bit frightening. Suddenly understanding something fully. Or just in a new way. Though admittedly, not taking no for an answer, can now be disguised as ‘Sorry, I am a foreigner - didn’t realise…’. Often I should, and I do, know better. Cheeky. But effective.
I don’t think that many of these nuances are lost on Digger. In fact, I wonder whether this picture isn’t quite familiar to him…
At the moment, I am a little obsessed with parenting books, but that’s a subject for a another time. Suffice to say that I’ve given up finding that all-encompassing toddler owner’s manual with a handy trouble shooting diagram at the back. Now I read for inspiration. I read quicker and more critically. Somehow in my own insecurity and guilt-ridden stab at parenting, I am getting a strong sense of what I believe in, or rather, the mother that I am. And want to be. Wish me luck.
Many parenting experts have voiced opinions on the word ‘No’. It comes under disciplining. In itself a toxic area. Divisive at best. Some parenting styles recommends avoiding ‘No’ all together, or in so far as that is possible. I find the concept really interesting. For an avid user of the ‘nononononono’ this would obviously be a challenge. But then again... I am up for looking critically at any aspect of my parenting.
I experimented with a ‘no’-free world for a few days. But found ‘no’ just appeared in other ways. With the same force and meaning.
It clearly makes sense to cut down on the negative in any relation and form of communication. People bigger, stronger and more able than themselves govern the lives of tots in all aspects. Handing back some autonomy is as powerful as it is necessary for happy and smooth interaction within the family as a whole.
Are there any parents out there who haven’t experienced the amazing power of the positive zone? Living in a positive groove is self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing. It is very powerful upward spiral.
By the same token negative grooves can be very destructive, and everything can unravel very quickly. We know that too. Even if we have only glimpsed over the edge into the abyss … None of us do need to go down there to know the sway of the negative.
But abandoning ‘no’ seem extreme to me.
‘Is it red?’
‘No, it’s blue’
‘Mummy, can I have an ice cream?’ (or in Diggerish: ‘Izsshhseeehhh?’)
‘No, dinner will be ready in 5 mins.’ (This goes down a lot easier if delivered with a kiss and a smile.)
Those exchanges seem to me to be parenting in full stops. Reasonable ‘no’s. Not much to argue about. Facts. Different kinds of facts for sure. In the latter not so much about physics, as it is about different ideas of what constitutes good eating habits at 5.48pm. At dinner time mum decides when, what and where. But not how much.
‘No’ is the opposite of ‘yes’. It is simply a very useful word.
It is the delivery, the tone of voice that conveys most of the message of ‘No’ in any context. Much more so than the word itself. As per example, ‘I love you’ can be delivered through clenched teeth. Thereby negating any feeling of love or trust for that matter.
‘No’ can be delivered with too much force and can be very scary for a tiny tot. Or it can be understanding, respectful and soft. Those latter no’s are the ones I am practising. Though I am the user of many.
Using ‘STOP!’ instead of ‘No!’ obviously makes a lot of sense. As does ‘Danger!!’. These words can be used very effectively for extreme situations, like toddler heading out into traffic. In fact if they only get used in those situations they remain words of impact. Digger instantly complies when I say ‘STOP’. Delivered with panache, of course, and conviction. I think Digger can hear the fear in my voice. This is discipline on another level.
But no. I will never abandon ‘no’. In life, or in disciplining my son. I’m committed to cut down, as much as possible. There is always room for that with a ‘no’-ridden background like mine and a toddler in the house.
I’m guessing that no-one out there would like to use the word more. Would they?