Tanya Enberg: Unexpected Mother


Is No a Bad Word? No Way


In our household, no means … well, we don’t exactly know what it means, but it doesn’t yet mean no. 

Our baby has just turned nine months and suddenly he’s on a mission. Literally overnight he decided it was time to bust out some new skills. He’s figured out how to pull himself up to a seated position, worm wiggle his way across a room, and now he’s realized that by grabbing onto inanimate objects, he can pull himself up.

And just as suddenly as the arrival of these milestones, my hubby and I have been ‘no, no, no-ing’ all over the place.

Baby discovers electrical socket. No!

Baby tries to pull chair down. NO!

Baby reaches for the garbage can; figures out how to open drawers and, like a bee to honey, aims straight for the corners of walls and every piece of furniture with a sharp edge attached. No! No! No! No!

He has snagged my hairbrush and dumped the contents of my makeup bag all over the place. He has typed random gibberish using my computer keyboard, nabbed our cell phones and makes a move for the remote control every chance he gets.  

Indeed, operation ‘Baby Proofing’ has arrived. In other words, another big shopping expedition is around the corner. 

Since our son's transformation into Mr. Mobile, I've become aware that our home is a potential death trap.

An oversized TV sits atop a table not bolted down. Then there are wires. What the heck do you do about wires? We have outlets at baby level all over the place (why these scary sockets are of interest at all is rather perplexing) and then there’s the furniture. Really, what kind of Dodo brain puts sharp edges on furniture anyway?

Everywhere I look, edge, edge, edge, edge.

So yes, in the past week or so, we've introduced ‘no.’ Does he understand this two-letter word? No, probably not.

He often responds with a yummy gummy grin and sometimes the kid even giggles. Apparently the serious mommy tone I've been trying to master is quite funny. The nerve.

According to BabyCenter.com, most babies begin understanding 'no' between 12 and 18 months.

But of course, like almost everything child-related, using it is controversial.

According to some studies, children who are told ‘no’ too often exhibit poorer language skills than those who receive positive feedback.

Instead of ‘no’ there is an entire school of alternatives available, such as saying yes with conditions, explaining your feelings regarding the offending behavior and negotiating.

On his website, Dr. William Sears (author of the famous tome, The Baby Book) offers 18 ways to say no positively, such as this handy tidbit: “You can't have the knife, but you can have the ball.”

In the film Parental Guidance, starring Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott as rigid, Type A helicopter parents, the absence of 'no' in their parenting style is a reoccurring joke.

Instead they chime: ‘Consider the consequences.’

Of course this approach is about as ludicrous as trying to get a bear to befriend a fish or training the family cat to use the toilet.

I recognize it’s still early days for us, but I suspect no will become an important part of teaching our child right from wrong. Eventually no will mean no. Or so we hope. 

We won’t overuse it and we will be creative whenever we can, but we’re not going to shy away from it either.

Thing is, we're responsible for setting limits, ensuring his safety and letting him know we’re the bosses here.

After all, if he could look after himself, he wouldn’t be heading straight for pointy corners and scary electrical sockets, now would he?

No, no he wouldn’t.

So, until that day comes, mom and dad will just have to know best.