The Positive Power of "No"
By Patricia Berry
Linda Eschenbaum's daughter, Jane, was supposed to be a flower girl in her aunt's wedding, but the two-year-old was having no part of it. Away from her Rice Lake, Wis., home and her normal routine, Jane was in a less-than-festive mood. As her mom attempted to put her in the pretty party gown bought especially for the occasion, Jane made her feelings known in a word: "No!"
Her behavior may have frustrated her mother, but Jane was doing exactly what she should be doing developmentally, according to Martha Erickson, Ph.D., director of the Harris Programs (Center for Early Education and Development) at the University of Minnesota. "'No' is a simple tool children use to establish a separate sense of self," says Erickson. "That's their developmental task, beginning at around two."
The Need for Control
It may have seemed as though Jane's rejection of the flower girl dress was about defying her mother, but it was really about gaining control over her situation. As babies, children raised in a supportive home are the center of the universe. Everything is done for them. In their toddler years, children begin to develop independence, according to Erickson. "They are programmed to begin moving from that tight connection to their parents to asserting their own wishes."
A parent's job, then, is to give her child enough room to make choices, but not so much room that the child feels like there are no boundaries. Children need to know their limits -- and parents need to define them -- in order for them to feel safe and secure. As much as they crave some independence, it is overwhelming to toddlers to have limitless options.
Jump to full text of this article here.
By the way, Martha Erickson, quoted in this article is also one of our Good Enough Moms. You can find some of their MomTalk.com articles here.
, Good Enough Moms
Related Articles: Positive Parenting and Discipline Strategies
, Disciplining Your Child