Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What is wrong with the word "NO"?

I'm very lucky that I have a lot of friends with children - several with triplets - the same age as ours, going through much of the same "parenting" stuff that we're going through. I connect with these other parents - many whom I've never met - almost daily. We chat via e-mail, phone calls, internet bulletin boards, dinners and at playdates. We trade tips for the best new toys, sippy cups and finger foods. We swap ideas about how to wean a baby from a bottle, how to implement a schedule, how to educationally interact at playtime, and how to teach our kids discipline.

That last topic ... discipline ... is a tough one. One of the greatest challenges, I'm finding, in raising children, is teaching them right from wrong. It seems that there are so many *rules* for how to discipline your kids. If you mess it up ... you could really traumatize your child for the rest of their lives. Couple that with the fact that we have THREE kids going through the SAME stuff at the EXACT same time. It would be a lot easier to figure out what works and what doesn't work ... one kid at a time. So that by the point you are going through it with your next child - you have a clue. Yet, here we are, suppose to be teaching three little people right from wrong - on the fly. That's a lot of pressure to get it right the first time. Raising triplets is truly parenting by immersion.

Along the way of interacting with other parents - I pick up tid bits of what might work for us ... and what might not. I knew from the beginning that our babies would sleep in their own room - they would not - routinely, sleep with us. Sleep is extremely precious for us. If we are not well rested - nothing in our world is very happy or bright. The analogy of having three babies in bed with us ... well, we may as well sleep with a litter of puppies that squeak and squirm and roll all over the bed. I can guarantee we would not get a good night's sleep. When a baby is sick, we may bend the rules, but 99% of the time, our kids sleep in their own room. This doesn't make us better or lesser parents than those that choose to co-sleep, we just knew that co-sleeping wasn't going to be an option for us - especially not with triplets. Albeit a big one ... that was an easy choice for us because we were both on board with the decision.

Yet, as our babies are growing up ... we are finding it more and more necessary to correct them. And, in the quest for Charlie and I to stay on the "same sheet of music" in regards to discipline, it seems like we are constantly changing the rules for what we will - and will not do when it comes to parenting our children.

We are faced with situations every day where we need to provide guidance on their behavior. These are some real-life examples that have come up in the past 12-hours at our house:

It's right to sit on the couch ... it's wrong to jump up and down and fall off the back.

It's right to eat food on your highchair tray ... it's wrong to eat a snail in the backyard.

It's right to hand your sister a toy ... it's wrong to smack her in the head with it.

It's right to look at the pictures in a book ... it's wrong to rip out all the pages.

It's right to bite a cookie ... it's wrong to bite your brother.

From my communication with other parents, there are a few ways that I've learned I could handle these situations:

1) Correct the behavior and if it continues beyond one or two warnings - give them a quick slap on their hand or tush;

2) Correct the behavior and if it continues beyond one or two warnings - put them in their crib for a time-out, devoid of any blankets or toys;

3) Re-direct the child to something else, because at this *age* they don't understand discipline.

Depending upon the situation and severity ... I can either re-direct the child, give them a slap on their hand or tush, or put them in their crib for a time-out. Up until a couple weeks ago, scenario #3 worked great for us. But in the 14 days or so, I'm noticing that "redirection" isn't as charming as it once was. Unless Santa and his entire team of reindeer made a surprise appearance in our house ... I rarely can come up with a *redirection* that works to keep our children distracted once they have their minds set on something. So this begs a new question. How do you CORRECT a child, the correct way?

A long time ago (and again more recently), I followed a discussion where someone said they don't use the word "NO" with their kids. I remembered hearing this, before ... and I suppose since then, whenever our kids have gotten in to mischief, I stopped myself from using the word "NO", for fear it would cause some kind of emotional scarring. Instead - I'd make this guttural sound "uh-huh". It's not really a word, at least not an English word, because it's not in the dictionary. It dawned on me the other day that here I am striving to avoid baby talk like "ba-ba" and "wa-wa" and "wee-wee" and "poo-poo" ... and yet, I grunt at my kids when they are doing something wrong, because I'm afraid to use the word "NO".

I really see children as a reflection of their parents. If I see an obnoxious child ... I blame the parents. If the parent doesn't set limits and boundaries - who is suppose to? I hear about kids that are doing these outrageous things in school ... and I always wonder "Where are the parents? Don't they care?!" When I was a kid growing up, the one thing that usually kept me in line - was thinking "What would my mom say if she found out?" It was so important to me that I didn't disappoint her. That's not to say I didn't get in trouble - I did. I was a normal teenager. But, I could have gotten in to a lot worse trouble had my mom not always been in the back of my mind.

Maybe it seems like I'm getting away from the subject ... but the point is ... when do you start discipline - and how do you do it? Is there really a right way?? Is 17-months old too young to use the word "NO"? Is there a correct way to raise a child such that they are healthy and happy, they understand rules and boundaries, and have respect? What do I need to do, so that MY response to THEIR actions, will be in the back of their minds as they grow older ... a maternal conscience, of sorts?

Today, as Carolyn was trying to gnaw through the high voltage electric cable for our outdoor lighting, I surprised myself when I yelled out "NO!!" I equally surprised myself when I yelled out "NO!!" to William who grabbed a hold of lighter fluid that was just within his grasp next to the BBQ. Both of these situations put my babies safety in immediate peril and the first thing that came to mind was NO, not my guttural "uh-huh".

I, again, surprised myself when I yelled at both William and Elizabeth "NO CLIMBING ON FURNITURE!!" when I disappeared for all of two minutes to change Carolyn's diaper and found them perched, yet once again, on top of the coffee table pulling stuff off the mantle. The quick swat that I gave both of them on their rumps came about not from anger ... but because I had to get the point across that this is NOT ACCEPTABLE. They were startled. And then, they looked at me with big eyes and cried. I felt awful. But, I also felt validated because as the day progressed - they didn't attempt to climb on the table, again.

Did I do something wrong? Are my babies now afraid of me? More importantly ... am I now afraid of myself that I would be willing to use the forbidden word "NO" and spank my children? Gosh, I hope not. I hope that this doesn't wind them - or me - up in counseling. I truly hope that I'm teaching them they need to listen or there will be consequences. Isn't that part of my *job* as a parent? How many times do I grunt and redirect ... before I get down to parenting the way my mom did it? She'd say NO and she meant it. She was consistent and as necessary, she'd give me a swat. I don't condone spanking. But, I think that there are times - it's necessary. In my opinion, the anticipation of the spank was always worse than the spank itself.

We want to be the BEST possible parents we can be. We want to raise children that are happy and healthy in body and soul and confident in themselves and the world around them. We also want them to be well behaved and respectful. They are a reflection of us - after all. In the parenting department, we are striving for perfection ... we want to do everything right. And sometimes, that means letting your kids know when they've done something wrong.


  1. If you do not like the word no--you can have a secret word like Kangaroo--and when you say that first, and get their attention, they know that next comes the action. I think you hve to look in their eyes and talk to them get their attention---Look at me.
    Plus, Move that coffee table away from the Mantle. Great Pictures of my babies.

  2. I only have one baby who is not yet one year so I have NO IDEA what you are going through. Just to add a couple of thoughts to the mix that I have been told by others:

    1) Never discipline children by putting them in their beds. You always want their bed to be a place they welcome and not have negative feelings associated with it.

    2) Instead of saying "no" something like "we don't play with that because it is not safe (and physically don't let them play with whatever it is)." I guess if they don't constantly hear "no" then they won't constantly say "no, no, no..."

    These are just things I've heard, but again don't have experience with yet.
    Tracy B

  3. I spoke with Auntie today and she and I agree that if you hit, they will hit. So, take the time and remove them from whatever, and look in their eyes and say "Not safe" or Kangaroo or something to let them know you are concerned.
    This is such a great time in your life---what fun. Relax and enjoy them--it is over toooooooo soon.
    You are great parents and will do the right thing. If not, I will be out and bring my spatula.

  4. Hi Jen. Just read your info... love it. There's nothing wrong with saying "No" -- it's working for the anti-drug force!

    They are still babies. Don't hit or slap thier hands; they are learning everthing right now and they'll imitate everything you do. Get on thier level and talk to them briefly "we don't hit" "we don't whatever..." Time out is great for you and them but not in bed - on a rug or chair.

    Remember my Mother - with the "wooden spoon" still need counseling! They are to young to spank -- Wait until they are 12 or 15! Then it feels great & you can enjoy it more! Marg.

  5. Aunt Grace4/5/06, 2:42 PM

    Listen to me....do not, hit thoes babies. As Marg said at 13 it will feel good, hold their little faces in your hand and tell them No NO..it works. Remember I didn't hit you...much that is. I would hate to come out there with DSS. They are beautiful, you and Charlie are too, BUT do not hit.