Do they understand “no”? Of course they do! However, I’ve noticed far quicker obedience when I am more specific about what I’m saying no about, particularly when it’s something the child doesn’t exactly know is unacceptable.
Last night, for example, Bethel (28 months) was pushing a very large model airplane that I had brought in from the garage and placed on the counter. I had a brief fear of the airplane careering off the counter and quickly said, “No.” Bethel looked up, and then continued pushing the plane. Was she ignoring me? I then said in the same tone and intensity, “Hands off.” She immediately took her hands away.
So I started thinking back to similar incidents, and I realized that she responds much better to specific, short commands instead of a vague no. It’s entirely possible that she really doesn’t always know immediately what she’s doing wrong and it takes a bit longer to figure it out. Alternative commands I can think of: Give Mommy. Get down. No touch. [I like Hands off better, though, because the first word the child hears tells the young child where the problem is.] Feet still [in church].
What do you think? Am I simply succumbing to secular psychological fuzzy wuzzy feel-good techniques? Of course I’m not saying the word no is never appropriate. I am just comparing the brain processing time of no versus a command like hands off.