Understanding “No” and the Importance of Discipline

I am about to write my opinion. This should not be confused with professional advice or something you should practice with your children. Some of you may think I am off my rocker for talking about a subject that I have yet to really dive into, but my little rascal is crawling around the house, climbing onto everything, and trying to leap from A to B, and I feel like getting a grip on discipline early will be crucial in preventing headaches, heartache, and ER visits.

I grew up scared of wooden spoons. It was the preferred method of punishment in my family’s house and I can’t say it didn’t work. I hated that method of discipline. If I did something wrong, the wooden spoon was swatted at me. I may not have been the best behaved child, but I knew that if I f*ed around, it was the wooden spoon I got.

I always said that I wouldn’t use the wooden spoon with my children, but never thought too much about what method of discipline I would use. I wanted to be the cool mom, the mom who was a friend to her children, but also someone they looked up to. I wanted to be the best mom I could be, but didn’t overthink discipline while pregnant and, even nine-and-a-half months into motherhood, don’t know which method we will use, but what I will tell you is my views on the subject.

Discipline is necessary. Actually, parenting is necessary. If you let children run amok, they will not respect you as their elder and bad things can happen. A child needs to understand the word “No.” A child should also understand that using the word “no” doesn’t mean you don’t love them.

I absolutely adore children, but occasionally a friend brings their kids along, and I want to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. I have a few friends that don’t use the word “no.” They let their kids do as they please and, for the most part, they are good-natured, happy children. My friends even tout about how well-behaved they are in their homes. Here, you see, is the first problem. Just because a child is well-behaved in one environment, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the word “no” in someone else’s space.

On a recent sleepover, a friend’s child screamed for a good two hours while I tried to put Atticus to bed. Not once was the word “no” used, and not once did the child behave appropriately. I can understand positive reinforcement to some extent; I try my best to limit the word “no” when telling Atticus not to do things. I will instead say “how about we do this,” or “this is for Atticus.” I understand how important it is for children to understand what is and is not for them, and what could hurt them. When parents choose to avoid the word no entirely, it just sets up a recipe for disaster.

Children need to respect their surroundings, in and out of their own home. If a child who doesn’t understand the word “no” comes into my house and starts disrespecting my property or hurting my son, the other child needs to understand that his behavior is unacceptable.

Discipline is like a mental hug for children. They need it. They will thrive off of it. Expecting a child to behave perfectly all the time isn’t realistic, but what is realistic is giving the child ground rules for good behavior. And if using the word “no” guides them in a better direction; I don’t see the harm in using it. Perhaps I am old school when it comes to discipline, but using the word “no” is not going to mentally damage your child if you use it sparingly and in the correct manor. “No” is a universal word that is understood everywhere. By using it in the correct way, we could potentially save our child’s life in the event someone of a different nationality has to tell them to stop doing something harmful.

I would love to find out how you plan on disciplining your children and how the word “no” fits into your household.

About the author

Xza Louise Higgins is the founder of MommyCon, creator of The Mommy Dialogues, and punk rock mom to two year old Atticus in the great city of Chicago, IL. She is incredibly passionate about birth options, human rights, and promoting gentle parenting practices.

No Comments

  1. Name (Required)katie -  September 13, 2012 - 4:45 pm

    I totally agree with you about the right usage of the word no. I don’t feel you should not say no at all and I don’t feel that you should only use the word no and not include some sort of action. For instance, I will tell my son no when he is trying to climb onto our brick fireplace, but only after I remove him from tHat area and try to explain that the bricks can hurt if he falls. They will definitly mimic us once they get older so I have to remember that and make sure I treat him the way I would like him to treat others.

  2. Amy -  September 13, 2012 - 5:02 pm

    I would like to copy your last paragraph and post it as my status on Facebook, with several people tagged. In all seriousness though, children thrive on routine, discipline, and knowing what is okay, and what is not. Caleb is the same age as Atticus, getting into everything, including stuff that can hurt him. Not screaming at him, but saying in a firm voice, “Caleb no.” or “Let mama do that.”

  3. Michelle Tafoya -  September 13, 2012 - 5:24 pm

    No usually means “you can’t”, whereas “stop” means “immediate danger”. There simply must be universal words that convey to children, especially little ones exploring their world, how important it is to listen and heed an adult’s firm command. Discipline and training go hand in hand. It’s not really about how you feel so much as what is necessary. Going over the rules before you get frustrated, when possible, is usually a good time to remind them of dangers and rules. At someone else’s house, I would make a point of reminding my child of manners when in someone else’s house.

  4. Heather P. -  September 14, 2012 - 6:04 am

    Agreed! My son is almost two and half, we do use “no”. I work at telling him what I want him to do and not what I don’t want him to do. Example saying walk gives him only one option, were as saying don’t run gives him many options to hop skip and so on. No is used for repeat offences, and dangerous actions. If I have told him what he is allowed to do and he does the opposite then he gets a “no and what did I tell you?” With this he has to repeat what he is allowed to do. This has worked very well for us inside and outside of the home.

  5. Erin -  September 16, 2012 - 11:04 am

    Lennon, just like me, is a stubborn little person who more than anything, needs to know the ground rules in order to thrive. I really discovered this about myself as an adult, in university with professors who were so lenient that I would miss class, miss assignments, and generally do as I pleased full well knowing that I wasn’t thriving or excelling the way I should have been. And then I had this one professor who was so intense on deadlines, no exceptions on tardiness or missed class, and even though I complained about her endlessly, I thrived beyond all expectations I had set for myself. And it was then that I realized I am absolutely the type of person who needs a firm leader to guide me kindly but consciously so that I can achieve everything I set out to.

    And then I had Lennon. And she was a mini version of myself. And I knew right away that for her to thrive and be as amazing as she is destined to be, she needed me to step into the role of leader. Which meant guiding her through what is acceptable and unacceptable. And helping her through the frustration of wanting to rebel whole heartedly against those that tell you what to do. And of course. accepting that this is a natural reaction in developing a mind of her own. We started using time outs around 18 months, and she protested fiercely. Now, all you have to do is ask her if she needs a time out and she will step in line. Her behaviour is manageable and she is happy knowing clearly and consistently what is expected of her. Helping your children thrive is as important as helping an adult thrive. Everyone is different, and everyone requires a different level of guidance and discipline.

  6. Mandadawnn -  September 19, 2012 - 10:53 pm

    I agree about using the word “no”. I find myself already feeling the need to use it with Averie, although I feel I may use “quit” and “stop” and “let go” more often depending what she’s doing. I also feel like (especially at such a young age) a lot of disciplining is the tone of voice you use. Granted, these are all my opinions, it seems to be effective thus far.

  7. Hollie -  September 20, 2012 - 4:56 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. I love looking into different aspects of parenting! We use the word “no” and I was also a wooden spoon baby lol!

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