Would you agree that one of the “side effects” of motherhood is to increase the daily use of the commands “No!”, “Don’t!” and Stop!”? I invite you to count how many times a day you say those commands to your children. Maybe 50? 100? 393? More? Don’t be shy because you are not alone. If you don’t believe me, just go to Target, Publix, Zoo, Children’s Museum or any place that has moms with small children to witness this phenomenon.
If you live in the world of “No, Don’t and Stop”, just like I used to a year ago, you repeat those words a million times a day, in public or at home, with an unpleasant voice, mad face on, in disapproval of your children’s behavior. Right? What about if I share that I have been working on abandoning this “three word addiction”, and that I want you to enter a new world with me, the one of giving clear directions to our children with a calm voice?
In this world, if my 2-year-old boy stands up on the chair during mealtime, I say “Sit down on your behind!”, repeatedly, instead of “Don’t do that!”. Or if my 3-year-old daughter colors the walls or her lamp with crayons (she is an artist and everything in her eyes is a white canvas), I choose to respond with “Color the paper”. My day goes on with me making the choice over and over of repeating what I want them to do instead of what I don’t.
Of course I have my slips and sometimes I feel like giving clear directions will fry my brain and that this is as exhausting and as frustrating as yelling or telling them “No, Don’t, and Stop”. By the end of the day, though, I remind myself of how giving clear directions can be our long-term investment in having effective and clear communication with children and adults in my life.
What a specialist has to say? I recently interviewed the psychologist, Jillian Childres (on the left with her four-year-old son Luke), from the Department of Pediatrics at U.S.F., Division of Neurobehavioral Health. Dr. Childres reminds us that “it is our choice as parents as to whether we spend the day teaching and reminding our children of appropriate behavior or fussing, nagging, and yelling at them to stop doing unwanted behaviors.” Dr. Childres recognizes that breaking the habit of using “No, Don’t, and Stop” can be challenging at first. But with patience, persistence and the examples below, I have high expectations for all of us moms out there. Are you up to the challenge?
Extinction of “No, Don’t and Stop”. Dr. Childres explains how effective it can be for children and everyone else to hear precisely what others expect from them or want them to do. We are not prohibited from saying “No, Don’t’ and Stop” to our children, but the idea is to save them for special occasions such as when they are in danger – about to touch that hot pan or oven, cross the street by themselves, or touch a dog who is not friendly.
She suggests that a “No” should be followed by a clear direction because “whatever children decide to do after a “No” is likely something they see as fun, or another silly, inappropriate, dangerous, or challenging behavior that we will have to keep telling them to stop.” Following her suggestion, when my boy is in the middle of the street, trying to cross it to pet my neighbor’s dog, I should say “Stop” followed by something like “Come back to the sidewalk. Let’s cross the street together.”
Need extra help? If you are like me and would like some extra support and help with “No, Don’t and Stop” and motherhood struggles, consider registering to one of the HOT DOCS (Helping Our Toddlers, Developing Our Children’s Skills) parenting programs offered in Tampa (FL). This seven week program offers caregivers a problem-solving approach towards understanding children’s needs and solving everyday behavior problems. I took the course in 2017, and my husband and mother-in-law just finished it this year.
Upcoming HOT DOC classes – From June 6 to July 25, once a week, from 6 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., on Wednesdays, at two locations – at U.S.F. in Tampa (13101 N. Bruce B. Downs Blvd., at the Children’s Medical Services building on campus) and at the South Tampa Family YMCA (4411 S. Himes Ave., Tampa, FL 33611). For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org and (813) 974-1048.