No, No, No — What Else is a Parent to Say?

I might begin a normal day by saying, “No, Joshua, you may not have a hotdog for breakfast,” or “No, Alex, please don’t throw your cereal on the floor.” After breakfast, I might say, “No, Joshua, don’t hit your brother,” or “No, Alex, don’t kick your brother.”

While I’m making lunch, I usually need to tell Alex, “No, you cannot climb onto the kitchen table.” By early afternoon, which is the time of day I set aside for my work, I usually find myself telling Joshua, “No, you cannot wake Alex from his nap” or “No! Don’t touch Mommy’s computer!”

By late afternoon, I find myself dmv handicap parking permit saying either one or a combination of the following: “No, you cannot climb on the dresser”; “No, you cannot sit on the dresser”; “No, you cannot jump off of the dresser.” By early evening my repertoire usually includes, “No, boys, you cannot crash your cars into the walls” and “No, Alex, you cannot eat the cookie you’ve dropped on the floor. No! You can’t take the dirty cookie out of the garbage!” On any given day, by the time my sons are securely tucked into their beds and are soundly sleeping – that can be anywhere from 8:00 until 11:00 – I have probably used the word no at least one-hundred times.

No has little value in our household, which I look upon as a microcosm of the world at large. People habitually ignore signs saying: no parking, no smoking, or no loitering. Last night, I watched a man park his car in a parking place reserved for the handicapped. Although the car had a handicapped parking permit displayed properly, none of the four people who emerged from the car had any visible handicap.

People generally look upon an answer of no as a challenge. Romantic movies are filled with plots in which the guy doesn’t give up until he gets the girl and they live happily ever after. If so many adults fail to respond to the word no, then how can I expect anything different from two small children? The answer is that I cannot expect anything different, yet breaking the “no habit” is a difficult prospect.

With such blatant overuse, the word no has obviously lost its meaning; at least it has lost its meaning for my sons. The more often I say no, the less often my sons respond to it; it is as if a viscous circle has taken over the discipline in our household. If I had not already recognized the overuse of this two-letter-word which has invaded my home, I would have been startled when Alex, my almost-two-year-old son, began saying, “No-no-no. No-no-no.” He has even been known to chant “no-no-no, no-no-no,” while walking through the house with a cup of juice. I console myself with the thought that he at least understands that juice does not belong outside of the kitchen.

I find this to be a very difficult situation. With boys like mine, I cannot sit idly by waiting for a witty response to hit me in the face. It is more likely that they will hit each other in the face – or somewhere else. My greatest concern is that one day they will be in a dangerous situation (thinking, of course, that they are having great fun) and that my warnings will go unheeded because no has no meaning for them. Not that jumping off of dressers and climbing on tables are not potentially dangerous situations; this is the reason why I do not waste time on brilliantly creative responses which would satisfy the gurus of child psychology before mobilizing into action. It simply seems that climbing and jumping are commonplace occurrences in my house. In retrospect, it is easy to tell myself that I should have been more creative in formulating responses to my sons’ exuberance and zest for life; however, in the midst of two boys rolling on the floor with legs and arms flailing, the word closest at hand is usually: No!

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