The word no is probably most overused word in English language. I speak from experience since I myself use it frequently.
I might begin a normal day by saying, "No, Joshua, you may not have a hotdog for breakfast," or "No, Alex, please don't throw your cereal on floor." After breakfast, I might say, "No, Joshua, don't hit your brother," or "No, Alex, don't kick your brother."
While I'm making lunch, I usually need to tell Alex, "No, you cannot climb onto kitchen table." By early afternoon, which is time of day I set aside for my work, I usually find myself telling Joshua, "No, you cannot wake Alex from his nap" or "No! Don't touch Mommy's computer!"
By late afternoon, I find myself saying either one or a combination of following: "No, you cannot climb on dresser"; "No, you cannot sit on dresser"; "No, you cannot jump off of dresser." By early evening my repertoire usually includes, "No, boys, you cannot crash your cars into walls" and "No, Alex, you cannot eat cookie you've dropped on floor. No! You can't take dirty cookie out of garbage!" On any given day, by time my sons are securely tucked into their beds and are soundly sleeping - that can be anywhere from 8:00 until 11:00 - I have probably used word no at least one-hundred times.
No has little value in our household, which I look upon as a microcosm of world at large. People habitually ignore signs saying: no parking, no smoking, or no loitering. Last night, I watched a man park his car in a parking place reserved for handicapped. Although car had a handicapped parking permit displayed properly, none of four people who emerged from car had any visible handicap.
People generally look upon an answer of no as a challenge. Romantic movies are filled with plots in which guy doesn't give up until he gets girl and they live happily ever after. If so many adults fail to respond to word no, then how can I expect anything different from two small children? The answer is that I cannot expect anything different, yet breaking "no habit" is a difficult prospect.
With such blatant overuse, word no has obviously lost its meaning; at least it has lost its meaning for my sons. The more often I say no, less often my sons respond to it; it is as if a viscous circle has taken over discipline in our household. If I had not already recognized overuse of this two-letter-word which has invaded my home, I would have been startled when Alex, my almost-two-year-old son, began saying, "No-no-no. No-no-no." He has even been known to chant "no-no-no, no-no-no," while walking through house with a cup of juice. I console myself with thought that he at least understands that juice does not belong outside of kitchen.
I find this to be a very difficult situation. With boys like mine, I cannot sit idly by waiting for a witty response to hit me in face. It is more likely that they will hit each other in face - or somewhere else. My greatest concern is that one day they will be in a dangerous situation (thinking, of course, that they are having great fun) and that my warnings will go unheeded because no has no meaning for them. Not that jumping off of dressers and climbing on tables are not potentially dangerous situations; this is reason why I do not waste time on brilliantly creative responses which would satisfy gurus of child psychology before mobilizing into action. It simply seems that climbing and jumping are commonplace occurrences in my house. In retrospect, it is easy to tell myself that I should have been more creative in formulating responses to my sons' exuberance and zest for life; however, in midst of two boys rolling on floor with legs and arms flailing, word closest at hand is usually: No!