Parenting

Why I love hearing the word “no”

Syona recently started saying “no” and Anchel shares why this is important.

Although I know that “no” is the bane of many parents’ existence, in our household, it is a very welcome addition.

Last week I came downstairs and asked Syona if I could have a kiss. She looked straight at me and said “No.” I thought this might be a fluke, so I asked again, “Syona, can Mama have a kiss?” This time she looked at me, gave a little grin, said “no,” and shook her head.

This was the first time Syona communicated “no” so clearly. She’s been shaking her head for months, but she did it because she liked the motion and she did it because it was fun and like dancing. (She obviously has her dad’s dance moves.)

Prior to “no,” her answer to almost everything was “ya.” Though this may sound like every parent’s dream, it really isn’t, especially when the “ya” is followed by her spitting in your face to demonstrate that she doesn’t want something or is all done (this is particularly fun when it comes to food, and by fun I mean kind of gross). On a more serious note, a lack of negative response also reduced her freedom. Imagine not having the ability to say “no” to something?

And Syona’s been thoroughly enjoying her use of the latest word in her vocabulary. For the first time, she’s able to exert some control without using a specific action or resorting to tears or screaming. This is a much-needed relief in our house, and I am really hoping that this ability to exert control leads to a bit more independence. Since that first “no,” she’s used the word to:

  • Communicate when and what she wants to eat (super useful since we all had a nasty bug last week that left us with flu-like symptoms and vomiting).
  • Tell us to change the song that is playing in the car. This kid has clear musical preferences (likes: Top 40 pop, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “The Ants Go Marching.” Dislikes: “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and talk-radio). Prior to “no” Syona would screech or cry when she wanted a song changed. When you spend as much time as we do in the car, shuttling from appointment to appointment, this can be a little — um, to put it delicately — unsettling.
  • Tell us who she wants to play with.
  • Tell us what she wants to do, and when she is all done.

As parents, we’re trying really hard to listen to when Syona uses her new word, even if it means holding back on my endless desire to constantly smother her in smooches. And since there is another option, a “ya” response is actually so much more meaningful now. When I ask Syona if she wants a kiss and she responds positively, it means a lot more than before, because I know she really wants a kiss from her mama.

And though I know that “no” is the bane of many parents’ existence, in our household, it is a very welcome addition to Syona’s repertoire of words. (Though ask me in a year and my answer may change!)

When did your children start expressing their preferences? How do they say yes or no (whether it is verbally or using alternative communication methods)?