Recently, I've been thinking a lot about toddlers and toddler personalities and the things I can do with and around Alexander. I want him to be thoughtful, empathetic, gentle, intuitive, patient. I want him to be willing to try new things. I want him to know it's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to have opinions that are not the same as mine or his dad's. I want him to take risks. I want him to learn to share, without forcing it.
I have read a lot over the past two years, but it seems that all those things are starting to come to a head in our house.
One of the biggest things that I've learned is that the best way to teach all of the things above is by modeling them. If I want a gentle son, I need to be gentle with him. If I would rather he not yell, I need to not yell. If I want a patient and empathetic little boy, I need to show patience and empathy -- to him, to my husband, to strangers.
I'm totally awful at these things much of the time! But I catch myself. I apologize. I explain why I shouldn't have done this or that, and we move on. I figure, as long as I am working towards being better, it will be good for our relationship. I catch myself, and I forgive myself. And I ask myself what I could do differently next time.
Alexander is nearly 2.5 years old. And just a few weeks ago, he started saying the word no more. He doesn't say it all the time; it's genuinely when he doesn't want something or doesn't want to do something. In fact, he says yes a lot more than no.
I came across an article yesterday. It said that toddlers hear the word no, on average, every 9 minutes! And since then, I have been noticing that I do, in fact, say no more than I would like. Just like with other things, I know that modeling is the most important way to teach a behavior.
I need to stop saying no so much.
This morning, after breakfast, we were working on a few sight words. I wrote the word mom on a sheet of paper. He sounded out each letter. Then I said Yes, mmmm - ahhh - mmmm. That spells mom. I asked him to tell me what the word was. And he said mmmm - ahhh - mmmm.
This was a moment when I had to catch myself. I could have said No, I asked what the word was, not what the letters sounded like. But he had a different mission. He wanted to sound out the letters again. He's 2! Goodness. I bit my tongue for a split second and changed my response to this: Yes that is what the letters sound like! What is this word? and I used my finger to underline the word. Then he said mom.
The no was missing. And that's really important to me.
Let me point out the other side of the issue. The word no is important. If he is running toward a street, I can't shout out Yes I understand you want to run right now, but let's run the other direction! I need to shout a firm no (or stop) and trust that he understands to stop immediately. So far, that's one that works just fine thankfully!
But I do fear that using no too frequently will cause him to start blocking it out. It's important to do it for some things, things where a natural consequence is just not an option. I think we can all figure out where that line is. If he burns his hand on a hot glass, he won't be scarred for life. But pulling a pot of boiling water onto himself could be very damaging, permanently. One of those requires a firm no, while the other requires some redirection and explanation.
I'm dealing with a changing toddler. And I want to start understanding his motives and motivations. I want to start speaking his language since he isn't perfectly speaking mine yet. I want to work with him instead of working against him, using the I'm big, you're small mentality. Those are the sorts of thing that will pay off in the long run.
Conclusion - SAY YES MORE!