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I have attempted to extricate myself from this circle in which no resembles yes more than it resembles itself. I have tried laughing; they laughed with me as they jumped from fourth step of stair case. I have tried getting on floor and rolling around with them; they pinned me down and Alex almost choked me as he tried to climb on my back for a piggy-back-ride. At that moment, I again reverted to humor saying to my son, "Alex, you are an instigator. Do you know what that means?" He threw his arms up in air and yelled, "Fun!"
I have tried to curb my use of word no by curbing my sons' activities. My attempts at discipline have included giving time-outs, sending them to their rooms, and putting them in corners. These methods seemed to have some immediate value, but only until next time. I even tried to instill more meaning in word no by saying very seriously, "No means no!" I have to admit that I have been reduced to this innocuous statement more often than once.
There are times when I simply let chaos reign. I listen closely for danger signals and intervene only if and when I hear them. I can also count on Joshua, who recently turned four, to tattle. It's wonderful because he even tattles on himself.
Recently, I ignored all of thuds and booms that I heard coming from toy room. I even ignored cries and screams since none lasted for more than a few seconds. Eventually, Joshua came downstairs to tell me that Alex was in bathroom taking everything out of cabinet. I walked up stairs, expecting to find towels strewn about. Instead, I found Alex standing on vanity removing all of medicine from medicine cabinet. Joshua, who had followed me up stairs, left bathroom and returned a few moments later with a large bottle of children's cough medicine and a small bottle of syrup of ipecac that he had found in Alex's bedroom.
Somehow, no did not pack enough power to deal with situation, so I immediately purchased safety locks for bathroom and laundry room doors. That eliminated several instances of no per day.
Since I cannot remove all of furniture from my house, and since I cannot alter my sons' perception of word no (any more than I can stop my brother from parking illegally downtown), I must continue my search for other successful methods of eliminating no from my vocabulary. The tactic that usually works best with any child is patience; although, it is difficult to be patient when your children are perpetually black and blue, so I must use patience cautiously when jumping and climbing are involved. There are, however, plenty of other occasions in which word no surfaces in my house. On these occasions, it is my goal to find another response to situations which arise. So next time I catch Alex eating Vaseline, before groaning or screeching - No! - I'll have to take a deep breath and say, "Alex, are you hungry?"
If I can successfully reduce these instances of word no in my vocabulary, I hope that, with age, my sons will eventually learn that no does have a meaning. Until that time arrives, I am left with several years of holding my breath every time I hear Joshua say, "Alex, let's jump!" In meantime, I have stocked up on Dalmatian Band-Aids and Bactine.
Michele R. Acosta is the mother of three boys, a writer, and a former English teacher who spends her time writing and teaching others to write. Visit TheWritingTutor.biz for more articles as well as other writing and educational resources for young authors, teachers, and parents. Copyright (c) 2004-2005 The Writing Tutor & Michele R. Acosta. All rights reserved.