Along with walking, we are entering the world of talking! Children are constantly surrounded by the many forms of language, but a large shift occurs when they begin to use the language we all share in a way that is recognisible. Now during our day we have many conversations, questions, stories and wonderings, which involve less of me talking and more of it being a cooperative experience. The conversations have been simple and direct, but they are there, part of our day from beginning to end.
One word has stood out far above all the rest – “NO”. It is an easy word to say and it makes a big impression. “No” gives the children the ability to make choice and have that choice understood by another, which is huge step of gaining autonomy: letting others know what you like and don’t like, agree or disagree with.
It’s also a word that can be frustrating for both parents and the child. I have spent the last few weeks observing the children, and I have noticed that No! can mean many different things! Here is what I have noticed the word "no" might mean:
“not right now”
“I’m playing with this ____” (when a material is involved)
“I don’t want you to have _____” (sometimes a material, sometimes a person)
“I don’t want you to do that”
“I don’t like _____”
“I don’t want to eat _____”
“I do want to eat ____”
When “no” involves a choice about their own body – what they eat/don’t eat, a book they do/don’t want to read – we hear them. Everyone gets to make choices about their bodies and we get to listen to them. This is how we build respect and communication skills, practicing advocating and listening when someone is speaking. h.
Trickier circumstances are when it involves safety or during transitions. At those times, smaller ‘no’ choices can be made so that a sense of choice and autonomy is preserved: Would you like blanket or no blanket at nap?; It's time to change your diaper. You can head to the bathroom now or in a minute.; We are going outside. Do your sunscreen now or come back after someone else is finished?
“No” is a powerful word and we are having lots of amazing conversations. As we head into the world of a toddler, they are constantly looking forwards to advocate for themselves and find more and more ways to be independent. I wonder what “no” will mean tomorrow…