Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Stop vs no!

Do any of these sound familiar...?

No! Don't hit your sister over the head with that car!

No! Don't run away! (Whilst giving chase)

No, don't climb up there! You don't want to fall!

Negatives are a difficult concept to teach and to grasp. To littlies, hearing the word "no" can be the end of their world. To others with more complex language needs, it can be just another word they hear, but don't fully understand.

When I worked in a special school for children with severe learning difficulties, one thing we were always reminding staff of was that the children needed telling what to do rather than what not to do. If a child was running in the corridor, the teaching staff would naturally shout "no running!" Which would often seem to make the child run faster!! Instead we (the SLT's) would suggest to call the child's name, and tell them what they should be doing "Johnny, good walking, please!". This of course didn't work every time but did give a much better success rate!

Q: What's red and invisible?
A: No tomatoes!

At home, in similar situations, I have found that a quicker reaction is generally always achieved with a simple "stop!". If a hand gesture is used at the same time, and no additional language, the effect is even more dramatic. This at least gives you time to catch up with your littlie... And then give a positive alternative for them to try. So, "No! Don't pull your sister's hair, she doesn't like it!" May become "STOP! [with a hand gesture or sign] gentle hands, stroke her hair" or similar. 

"Never, ever..."

When a toddler is told "no" they can think it means they will never be allowed. And this can lead to tantrums and upset. If you can tell your child what you want them to do instead, and that they can do their activity later, this can be reassuring to them. E.g. Instead of "no tv" you could say "dinner first, then tv". When a child has language difficulties, a 'now and next' board with pictures can also be really useful to demonstrate this expectation. (I will be doing a future post on use of pictures and symbols, so will cover this then in more detail). 

Of course, every child is different and whilst these thoughts may be relevant to one family they may not be so useful for another. One child may learn "no" as his first word, and another might smile sweetly when you say it, but carry on regardless. Indeed in my family, my eldest (now 5) responded beautifully to my strategies. However, try the same things with my 20month son, and things end in an entirely different way!

Advice for me, please!

So, if anyone can leave me a comment to suggest what to do when my littlest one says "no" to me and creates a stand off, I'd be very grateful!!!  

How did you teach "no"?  Did your child understand "no"?  Was it their first word?! I'd love to hear from you...



  1. So simple but so effective. Thanks for this Katie. When my little one says no we have now turned it into a game by imtating her and we have a yes no game,which gets her laughing and distracts from the initial stand off! We copy her tantrums too and sometimes has the same effect!

  2. Great ideas! I will definitely try those tomorrow and let you know how we get on!

  3. I have since tried making a game out of it and it does seem to work, thank you! Have also tried distracting a lot, which also works a treat...