No Means NO!
As a childless individual myself, I’m not sure how the concept of “No” works in your home; needless to say, it is really none of my business. However, if you have a child in my classroom, I can assure you that this word is said at least 50+ times a day. Not necessarily to just your child, but also to the 19 other preschoolers in the room. I should preface that my personal use of the word “No” is, by my responsibilities as an educator, not permitted without plausible reason and explanation to your child. For instance, if your son takes it upon himself to jump on a friend during circle time, I am not allowed to just say “No Billy, don’t do that.” I will say to Billy, in a firm but even tone, “No Billy, we do not jump on our friends during circle time, because that could cause you or them to get hurt. At home, a reason is your prerogative, but in my classroom, it is required.
A number of my returning students preparing to graduate next August for Kindergarten are able to understand what I call my nonverbal “No.” This entails a slight raise of the eyebrows and widening of the eyes; all cues that naptime, for instance, is not a time to be speaking with your neighbor on the cot next to you.
Fortunately, there are ways that I as a teacher can limit sounding like a broken record in my use of this phrase with the children. Children have a fantastic amount of energy, and keeping them inside for 10-11 hours is as naïve and dangerous as agreeing to a blind taste test of rat poison and Pop Rocks. Therefore, when the weather permits, I find that bringing the kids to the playground to ride tricycles, go down the slides, and play tag, and participate in relay races promises a much calmer return to the classroom 30-45 minutes later. Classroom walks are also beneficial for a change of scenery and breath of fresh air, but must be combined with a more rigorous gross-motor activity to receive anywhere near the same effect as the aforementioned 45-minute session of hype on the playground. So perhaps we’ll return inside and play with some Lakeshore brand exercise mats, pretend we are gorilla’s literally stomping through the jungle, reaching for a banana from the banana tree, jumping for the banana from the tree (which is too high to reach standing flat on your gorilla soles), and then thumping our chests and jumping up and down because we are so happy and full after finishing our bananas.
Children’s literature, such as the popular “No, David!” books by David Shannon, provide children to witness fictional characters finding themselves in nonfictional situations where the word “No” is often heard. Here, I can ask my students why David is being told “No”, and what else he could do so that he might not get into trouble. The children thus become advocates for the solution, rather than the problem. And isn’t that essentially our job as educators?
I’ll close with one bit of advice that has been handed down to me from parent to
parent, teacher to teacher, educational manager to educational manager, and director
to director. Whenever you say: “No” to a child, STICK with it. If you say to a student:
“No more Lego’s today, because you were throwing the Lego pieces after I told you
that that is not how we play with our toys or else they will break”, STICK with it. The
child may cry, scream, throw a tantrum on the floor, attempt to return to the Legos,
but do not budge on your word. A child may threaten to tell their parents, withdraw
your invitation to their birthday party, and state that they no longer like and/or love
you, but do not budge on your word. You are the teacher/adult, and the child is the
child. That is your relationship, and there is no room for compromise. Ultimately it is
what the child needs, and in the end will appreciate more than they can ever thank you.