My own daughter's first word was "Dog" not "Mommy" like I had hoped with "No" a close second or third. One benefit of being an older mom though is the maturity and patience that comes along with age. When she started to say "No" and mean it, I was able to stand back and observe this little creature exerting her will. "How cute" I thought, "She is developing a personality!" It wasn't long though before she started to use the "No" word every time I tried to do anything with her. Getting her dressed became a chore, getting her coat on, putting on her shoes or boots, combing her hair, getting her into the bath, all day long was a symphony of me asking a question and her replying "No". I didn't lose my cool with her, I didn't force my will upon her, I started to use "timeouts".
We have a bench in our kitchen where I would make her sit and then set the microwave timer for 2 or 3 minutes. I had heard somewhere, probably on Dr. Phil, that a timeout period should include 1 minute for every year of age. So that's what I did. To my amazement she would sit there quietly while I went on with my day tidying up near by. During the timeout, I would not have eye contact with her but once that timer rang, I would run over, make a big deal out of what a good girl she had been to sit there and overly praise her for 15 or 20 seconds. She loved this and it worked! Whatever challenge had lead to the timeout was easily accomplished and we got on with our day.
I hadn't given much thought to this until my brother-in-law came to visit. Of course, like all opinionated family members who think they know it all, he had not raised any children of his own.
He was sitting at our kitchen table having his morning coffee when my daughter went into one of her "No" fits and wouldn't cooperate while I tied to get her dressed. As much as I hate to discipline her in front of others, I scooped her up and placed her on the timeout bench, told her not to move and then set the timer for 3 minutes. I then went about my business as usual. It wasn't long before I noticed my brother-in-law's face. We've all seen those disapproving looks, maybe some of us have even given them to others. In an effort to clear the air, I ask him what's on his mind. "Nothing" he lies so I tell him "Just get it off your chest, say your piece and be done with it, I've probably heard it before anyway."
As I expect, he tells me that he doesn't like how often she tells me "No" and wants to know why I put up with it. This entire time, my daughter is sitting quietly in her timeout waiting for that timer to ring and for the over-the-top praise she knows she will receive. On cue, the timer rings and I spring into action. I pick her up, tell her how good she was, we twirl around in the kitchen, laughing, hugging, I kiss her and praise her. When I look over at my brother-in-law, I can see from his expression that he doesn't approve. From the kitchen, my daughter and I move into the family room where I easily dress her, comb her hair and have her properly groomed for the day ahead. This has taken less than the three minute timeout with her full and enthusiastic cooperation.
With her playing quietly nearby, I walk back over to the kitchen. My brother-in-law gives me that disapproving look again. "Well?" I ask. "I don't understand why you let her tell you no, why don't you just make her get dressed?" he asks again. To this I respond "Look over at her playing, she is completely dressed, her hair is combed and neatly tied back, there have been no tears, no tantrums, no fighting, no hitting and she is content. What result do you think your method would have produced?" After pondering my point for a minute he says "Okay, but why do you allow her to say "no" to you so often?"
My response to him is still just a theory given that she is only 3 1/2. I haven't read any books on the subject, I haven't had the time! My belief is that as long as I don't react to her use of the word "No", neither she nor that word holds any power. Once I allow it to push my buttons, she has a weapon she can use and will continue to use time and time again. For now, I go about my day, ignoring the "No" word and using timeouts when she becomes uncooperative about doing the things that need to get done. So far, this has worked and I find I am hearing the "No" word less and less often, somedays not at all.
My brother-in-law sips his coffee, shakes his head and reluctantly agrees with my theory but then again, what else can he do? My house, my rules, my daughter Lol!