There’s a somewhat modern parenting adage that states you should never actually say the word “No” to a child. Instead of no, you’re supposed to redirect their attention, or use other words to stop the child from doing whatever it is they’re doing. The theory is, if a kid keeps hearing the word NO, they will eventually tune it out and it will become meaningless. It also means that the child will look at the world as a place that can not be explored because you’re not allowed to do anything.

Ok- got the theory and thoughts behind it?

For the moment, let’s say that we all understand the concept of limiting the use of the word NO when it comes to parenting…

Can the concept itself be applied to other situations that don’t involve toddlers trying to put their fingers in a light socket?

If adults keep hearing the word “No” does it begin to lose it’s meaning?

Do we somehow want to do the things that we are told that we can’t do?

Do we resent people telling us what we can and can’t do?


44 thoughts on “No

  1. No, no, no! I think that’s the first word my oldest child learned to say. Next, he went right to several words; Mommy, good job, and a certain swear word I said frequently while driving my car to the baby sitter’s on the way to work in the morning. Lol
    With my first child I recall being worried he’d touch the stove, run into the street, hurt himself etc. so, yes, I’m guilty of saying the word no when I thought he’d get hurt. . I don’t remember him ignoring it. He’d was a really good kid.

    I think it’s more the inflection of one’s voice rather than the word itself. I used to go over my sister’s and her dog would run up to me wagging her tail. Everyone would laugh because in the sweetest voice I had I’d tell the dog what a pain she was just to be funny. But because I was petting her and my voice was calming, the words meant nothing. When I was little I remember My grandmother would talk to our dog in Yiddish and he understood her because the tone of her voice was reprimanding. It’s not the word, it’s the intent and how it’s used. If you see a toddler running towards the road screaming out “No !” Is way better than saying, “Johnny boy, let’s think about your actions. You might get hurt.” That works AFTER You get the child’s attention and stop him/her from sticking his hand on a hot burner or running into traffic. Safety comes first! (Talking afterwards is helpful).

    I’ve heard parents who are negative non stop with their children. I’d much rather hear the word no now and then for safety reasons and have the rest of the time spent sending out positive vibes. I don’t think there is a parent alive who doesn’t say NO during their child’s terrible twos! SIMPLISTIC DIRECTIONS are necessary for young children. That’s my take…

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    1. Good point…much is the inflection of how you use a, and adults are going to ignore you if you use a calm voice for something serious…though I guess there are times you don’t want to startle someone… but I agree that too much negativity will threaten anyone


  2. Oops, I clicked send before adding this… I didn’t have my second child until almost 16 years after the first one. ( Life is never predictable!) But, I had learned a lot about parenting by then and was more comfortable in the role. Plus video cameras were invented. So I have footage of him talking to his toys telling them “Good job.You are doing great, Elmo! “ Or Be careful, you might get hurt.” Children mimic their parents and so I knew by listening to him play with his toys that I was saying the right things. With my first I learned when I put him in his car seat (which had a toy steering wheel attached to it) that when he turned the wheel on his car seat he accompanied his actions with a certain four letter word. I was horrified! But it meant that every time I got on the road I must have said some colorful words while driving. A good lesson for me. After that I never swore again when my children were little. Live and learn. Also wisdom and life experience helps. I was in my early 20’s and clueless with my oldest child and a few months short of 40 with my second. Being an older mom was physically more strenuous, but so much easier in other ways.

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      1. I definitely think waiting til you are older is better for parenting styles. I was a kid with my first one and an adult with my second. Yes, bending down was way harder lol. But we bring to the table so much more wisdom and self assurance. I highly recommend being older.

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  3. This may be an apples versus oranges thing if we’re comparing toddlers and adults especially if we are talking safety issues because I’m assuming adults have some level of sound judgement. I went to the concept though of adults who are repeatedly deterred from following an interest, passion or goal. How many adults have never attempted a dream because others have consistently discouraged them from it…

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    1. Yeah…I was sort of mixing apples with oranges, but I was trying to come up with an analogy of what happens if people keep telling you no. How long does it take before you give up, or break

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      1. I got it, and it’s a valid application that I don’t think a lot of people think about. We assume adults have the capability to use or refuse what comes at them, yet we internalize so many things without thinking about it.

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      2. I think often too many no’s may discourage some people. But I also think often it doesn’t discourage you, but makes you more determined, just perhaps more insecure due to the fact that your goals weren’t supported.

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  4. We were staying with friends who had a rottweiler and their training method didn’t allow “NO”. Our kids were running around the yard and the dog was nipping at their feet. My girlfriend said, “Softly Nikita, bite softly.”

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  5. Certainly “no” can be overused, but I would never have thought of not using it. When possible it is good to use a positive, but kids need to be able to clearly differentiate between right and wrong. Hmm. Now that I say that, I wonder if that is a small part of the chaos we have in society–an inability to see acceptable and unacceptable.

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  6. Stop using the word “no” and you start blurring the lines between right and wrong. Some things, such as manners, playing with electrical sockets and the rights and wrongs of invading neighbouring countries need to be clearly defined.

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  7. If someone tells me I shouldn’t read a book or watch something it definitely means I will read/watch as soon as possible. I rarely go places but when told I couldn’t during lockdown I desperately wanted to do things. I think no has the opposite effect on me than it should

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  8. I hate it when people tell me what to do or not to do, like HATE it! I think it’s because I was raised in an older family, where everyone but I, apparently, knew what was best for me 😉

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  9. Yeah, I’ve heard about that. And while I don’t think “no” should ever be a parent’s go to word, sometimes it is necessary. Reminds me of the time when the trainers at the animals shelter told us volunteers we weren’t allowed to tell the dogs “no.” Some of these dogs were quite large, had no training, and thought nothing of trying to play with us as roughly as they played with other dogs. Bruises and scratches were common. So I began to say “N. O.” to them. And you know what? Turns out, dogs can spell.

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  10. It’s just a word like every other word we use. I think it’s more in how it’s used. I’m sure I used “No” a thousand times while my son was growing up. It never lost it’s meaning and it never made him rush out and try to do it anyway.

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