Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekly Column: Just DON'T Say No

Toddlers are funny little creatures.

If you tell them to stop plunging their hands into the peanut butter jar, they’re likely to listen, and then run those greased-up hands through their hair. If you say ‘NO!’ they might look at their hands as if they’re just realizing that they’re coated in peanut butter, and begin to wipe them on the carpet to ameliorate the situation. If you scream ‘Stop!’ they may just burst into tears before running to you and grabbing hold of your clean shirt by way of apology. (I know none of this first-hand, of course…)

When you tell a little one ‘no’, that’s all well and good. What’s even more important, though, is to tell them what you DO want them to do. Instead of giving a simple ‘NO!’ it’s much more helpful to say ‘Hold out your hand – don’t touch anything – and stand still while I get a towel.’

Until they’re old enough to figure out the best way to handle a peanut-buttered hand, it’s your job to tell them. And that goes for just about every situation they get into that is against your wishes. For example, instead of saying ‘STOP!’ when a toddler is dancing on the coffee table, it’s probably more helpful to say, ‘Get down, please.’ Or instead of giving a stern ‘NO!’ and then walking away when a little one wants to dig in the potted plants, it might work better to follow up with an alternative -- something you DO want them to do, like ‘Come play with this tightly closed peanut butter jar.’

But that one’s a tricky alternative.

Because toddlers are also highly dexterous creatures.

[Online version here.]


  1. Wow, you made it to the online edition - awesome! I just love your columns. Seriously, every week I consider printing it out so I can reread them when I have a toddler!

  2. I love this one! And way to bring the peanut butter jar back into play at the end; I laughed out loud! You are brilliant :)

  3. Very good idea with the positive distraction technique!

  4. You're so funny and wise! I feel like every week you give me exactly the piece of good advice I need--that wouldn't have anything to do with our same-aged daughters, now would it?--but you always manage to make me laugh in the process. If you weren't on-line, I'd probably subscribe to the Joplin paper just to keep the good advice coming. Thanks!

  5. You are so right!! And now if only someone would teach me how to think that way in the heat of the moment. :-)


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