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Why kids don’t hear “no”

April 19, 2011

This was my then 3 year old who can't stand to hear "no"

Parenting Through Picture Books #2:  Boundary Pushing with “No, David” by Alice Kaltman

Have you ever tried to count how many times a day you say “No” to your child?

No, not now.
Time to go.
No, that’s dangerous.
Put that down.
No, don’t touch that.
Pay attention.
No, you cant.
Be quiet.
Stop that!!!!!

Sometimes our children listen, but many times they don’t. It isn’t because they’re trying to intentionally push our buttons. Young kids are remarkably present-focused. Whether it’s a wall to be climbed, a cookie to be eaten, a dog to be hugged, a game to be played, or a song to be sung. Whatever is immediately in front of them is the most important thing in the world, EVER!

They’re not trying to drive us crazy on purpose. On the rare occasions when they are trying to get a rise out of us, a mischievous grin or giggle will give them away. Most often they’re just doing what children are hard-wired to do: explore worlds, test boundaries, and discover passions.

I can’t think of a better example of a kid doing what a kid does than that energetic, boundary pusher David, the guileless mischief-maker in David Shannon’s book titled (of course) No, David!

David is a force of nature, with uncompromising, often exhausting child-like drive.
His exploits continue in the David book series, but No, David! is the first and a true classic.

No, David! is a picture book that relies on very few words. Shannon’s artwork has a frenzied, hilarious quality that sets the tone perfectly. While David plays with his food, makes various messes, runs around naked, and doesn’t listen, he does so in a fevered pitch, always at the brink of total disaster. David’s mother reprimands, warns, and scolds, but David is not one to be stopped. He goes from one potentially damaging, embarrassing or dangerous activity to another with arms akimbo and a wild grin on his face.

His mother attempts to protect him from harm, as a mother should. Her tone gets increasingly exasperated, and she loses her temper. Afterward she realizes that maybe she’s been a bit too tough. She must remind poor “Davey” of her unconditional love. Sure, he wreaks havoc, but he is just so darn cute and clueless!

Kids love No, David, as just about every kid can relate to constantly being told “NO”! This is a book that can be useful when discussing the difference between good, old-fashioned messy fun and property-destroying pandemonium.

But I particularly recommend No, David! to parents as a reminder of the intractable and loveable nature of risk-taking children. It’s important to let kids go the limit, whenever possible. It’s crucial to protect them from harm. But it makes all the difference in the world to provide a loving hug when they’re upset by having gone too far.

No, David! is about the power of parental love above all else. It reminds parents to lighten up before, during and after the damage is done, and to save the “I told you so” for later, or never.

Other posts by Alice:

  1. Sharing: should we expect our kids to do it?
  2. Teaching Kids Tolerance
  3. Parenting: which style is “you”- how to work it out
  4. Kids regressing? Spiraling is okay
  5. Self-run parent camp: how to make it work for all of you
  6. iphones, blackberries? Why the parent in you should put them down
  7. The Parenting Res
  8. To Work or Not To Work?
  9. Regression Over the Holidays
  10. Should you lie to your kids?
  11. Can you get kids to do what you want?
  12. How can family rituals help?
  13. How to help siblings get along
  14. In defense of dads: roughhousing is good
  15. Know-it-all-mom and dad

Alice Kaltman

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Alice Kaltman, L.C.S.W. has been working with parents and kids since 1988. In 2006, she co-founded Family Matters NY with Sara Zaslow, L.M.S.W. FMNY is a parenting coaching service for Brooklyn and Manhattan families, providing support through home and office visits. Alice lives in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn with her teen-age daughter and husband, the sculptor Daniel Wiener. She also writes fiction for kids, and dances professionally in her spare (?) time.  Write to Alice at info@familymattersny.com.