By Brad Kayden, MHR
Youth Sports Instructor & Child Wellness Advocate
Franky is a typical toddler who gets into trouble doing the silly things children do. When Franky does something wrong, his family says, "Franky, no!" Eventually, Franky heard it enough that one day, not surprisingly, when someone asked him, "What is your name?" Franky responded, "My name is Franky, Franky No." At the embarrassment of his mother, everyone listening found Franky's response amusing. This example begs the question, how likely is it your child's last name could be No"
Whether Franky, Sam, Mary, or Pam, estimates are, by age five, children will have heard the word "No" 40,000 times. As a parent, communicating the difference between right and wrong to children is seldom easy and rarely happens at convenient times. What is easy is cutting corners and simply telling children "No." The problem is when they hear it so much; children become immune to the effects of the word "No." When it does have an effect, children can be confused by its meaning. For example, you know the difference between the disagreeing "no" of buying them candy and the panicked reaction of yelling "No" to the hazards of a hot stove. Does your child"
A way to avoid going unheard or sending confusing messages is to change what you say. One suggestion, especially when your child is faced with a potentially dangerous situation, is to replace "No" with the word "Stop." This simple change in directive, unlike the word "No," will avoid confusion in a child"s mind about how serious your expectations are. A child"s compliance, obviously, is the first step to success. You can further reinforce a child"s good behavior when you follow any action explaining why you did what you did. This is a healthy alternative to the out-of-control parent who relies on yelling, "No, No, No" at their child.
A second suggestion to avoid overusing the word "No," it requires a playful sense and involves a game I teach my youth sports classes. Children love "Red Light, Green Light." This easy-to-learn game is adaptable to virtually any situation; I use it to improve children"s listening skills and focus. You can use it to help children learn the value of the "Stop" directive. Based on the traffic light concept, children, perform a function like pushing a shopping cart, walking a dog, or brushing their teeth. They stop when you say, "Red Light" and start when you say, "Green Light." Using this type of learning fun in moderation, I have found children to be more receptive to listening. Always remember children"s motivations; you have to play just for fun first, not just when a "Red Light" is necessary.
Finally, avoid the "No" trap by focusing on the little things your child does well accompanying them with praise and affection. As a parent, be a good listener, and have a good attitude. If you use these suggestions, games and tips, you will help build your child"s self-esteem and hopefully prevent their last name from ever becoming No. See you on the court!