Framing and Parenting NO

Have you encountered parents who don’t say “NO!” to their children? I vividly remember a mother of a 4-year-old girl pulling me aside and telling me that “we” don’t say no or anything negative to our daughter. I had hosted a treasure hunt with a dozen other children at my house, and this child wasn’t actually invited (she was a guest of a guest). Taken aback, this was the first time I had ever heard of this type of parenting. It took me a few minutes to grasp the concept and try to understand how I could have a conversation without using the “no” word with the little girl, while leading a group of children on a treasure hunt.

This parenting concept is interesting because I have been learning about “framing” conversations to ensure that your message is clear. Check out Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff. I try to avoid using negative words and phrases to create a positive experience. For instance, when I hear “No problem,” my gut response is to brace for something awful until I realize it’s a double negative (which is a positive) and all things are good. So instead, I say, “That’s great! Or, my pleasure!” so my words feel good as they are received.

I guess my point is about how some pushy parents demand that others refrain from using the “no” word. It’s one thing to choose your parenting style; it’s another to expect others to do the same when dealing with your child. In this case, lead by example. When others use the “no” word, talk to your child so they learn how people communicate differently.

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