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Positive communication: 5 tips to help kids take no as an answer.

Parents often complain about their children not being able to take no as an answer. It’s not that they don’t want to accept the orders: the infant brain has difficulties processing commands that begin with the word ‘no’. Therefore, with the appropriate language, communicating and establishing limits can become easier. 

The answer is in neuroscience. The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that only matures during adolescence and plays a fundamental role in understanding the “don’t-commands”. When you say: “Don’t go up there” or “Don’t drop that'', they register exactly the words of command, like “go up " and"drop ", which activates just the opposite of your intention regarding their action. 

According to Maria Cristina Starcke, coordinator of children’s education, “don’t” is a command learned through living. That’s why it must always be followed by an action or associated with gestures, images and contexts. “The child expects a plausible justification that makes them change their mind, since playing in a pleasant and challenging way is what they want”, says Starcke. 

During playtime, the educator recommends that the words of command be used to encourage affirmative actions. It is possible to replace “Don’t go up there” by “Get down” or “Don’t drop that” by “Keep holding it”. 

Following are other five valuable tips to be used when establishing limits. 

Say what you do want them to do

Using affirmative sentences with children means reinforcing what you would like them to do. This puts the focus on the correct way of acting and is better understood by them. 

Avoid banalizing negative orders

Reducing the number of times ‘don’t’ or ‘no’ are said doesn’t mean you will be permissive, but that you are imposing limits in a different way. When overused, these words become banalized and kids give them less attention. 

Help kids understand your reasons

Besides using affirmative orders, as previously mentioned, you can explain why they should do as you say – i.e.: because they will fall and get hurt. Also, ‘IF clauses’ are very useful in this case, as in: “If you go up there, you will fall.” 

Set priorities and a routine

Instead of imposing prohibitions, let them know that there are priorities to follow and that some things are more important and must be done before others. Establishing a routine based on this and rewarding them when following it, is a great way to keep it organized and lighter. 

Be patient

Being a parent is no easy task, but remember that the way you behave towards the kid will impact their present and future directly, so try to be well and on good terms with yourself to be able to provide them with the best you can. Being perfect is impossible, but you can always try to find the balance between working on your flaws and recognizing your strengths.

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