I never thought of myself as a negative person...until I became a parent. With a three-year-old and a nine-month-old, my side of the dialogue on a daily basis goes something like this:
"No, you can't watch Angelina Ballerina for the 100th time today."
"No, you can't have candy for breakfast."
"Don't take toys away from your sister."
"Don't push your sister."
"Don't throw toys at your sister."
Honestly, some days I'm bored of listening to myself. And now that the baby is crawling and wanting to explore, I find myself saying "no" even more often.
"No, baby, you can't play with the iron fireplace grate."
"No, baby, don't put your fingers in the hole in the wall." (don't ask)
"No, don't pull your sister's hair." "Don't pull your sister's hair." "Don't pull your sister's hair."
Don't get me wrong, I try the usual tactics. Redirection ("Baby, look at THIS toy instead!"), alternative phrasing ("How about we go outside and play, rather than watching TV?"), et cetera.
But I want my kids to understand the meaning of the word "no", so that when they find something dangerous to play with, they'll listen to me when I say it. So that when they run out into the street without checking for cars, a firm "No!" will stop them in their tracks.
As their mom, it's my job to keep them healthy and safe, and I'll do whatever I have to do to make that happen. I've come to terms with the fact that I need to be the enforcer.
But I'm also aware that if I say "no" too often, it will lose its power. So I've challenged myself to look more closely at my motives:
Am I saying "no" because it's something harmful or is it simply inconvenient? In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if the baby smears banana in her hair or the three-year-old wears a baseball cap and a princess dress for three days straight?
The next time my three-year-old asks if she can wear her pajamas to daycare or sandals in the middle of winter, I'll find a way to say yes—and maybe teach her how to compromise in the process.