I have gathered some material for you on the use of the word "no" and
other negative utterances which may affect children's attitudes as
they grow into adults.
"A UCLA survey from a few years ago reported that the average one year
old child hears the word, No!, more than 400 times a day! You may, at
first, think this must be an exaggeration but consider this...when we
tell a toddler No! we usually say, No, no, no!. That's three times in
three seconds! If that child is particularly active, perhaps it's
true...perhaps that child really does hear NO mega times a day. And,
although it's a good thing that they come to understand NO early (so
that they can live to celebrate a second birthday!), the bottom line
is that toddlers, from all cultures and across all time lines, learn
what to do by constantly being told what not to do. Then they grow up.
They go to work...and the pattern of speaking and learning is set from
the earliest of days. So, by the time they hit the workforce, even if
they are very positive, energetic and optimistically focused
individuals, they are probably speaking with negative language
throughout each and everyday without even knowing it!...
It's always more powerful, influential and persuasive to say what you
do want rather than what you don't want."
Nina Spence: It's only words?
Parents can purposefully make a change in their speech habits,
according to Mimi Doe, author of 10 Principles for Spiritual
Parenting. 'If you use negative words - catch yourself. Count how many
times you say don't to your children. One study estimates that the
average child hears the word no or don't over 148,000 times while
growing up, compared with just a few thousand yes messages,' she says.
Doe adds that negative words can push the spirit out of any situation.
'Of course we need to use firm words at times and alert our child to
emergencies and dangers, but the habitual no's begin to eat away at a
child's spirit. Moms (and dads) should say yes as much as possible,
without compromising your limits. We often snap a no out of habit,'
Babyzone: Becoming a Yes Mom
"Do you realise that the brain cannot process a negative command or
statement? If you say to your child 'be careful, don't spill your
milk' as they carry the glass full of milk across the kitchen the
child has to actually think of spilling the milk so that it can take
the necessary action not to do it. We tend to get what we focus on and
so by the child thinking of spilling milk that is often what tends to
happen which normally results in a loud 'But I told you not to spill
that milk'. So the moral of the story is ask for what you want, not
what you don't want."
Happy Child: Negative Statements
"The more parents talk and read to their baby, the more rapidly their
baby's vocabulary develops. And, according to early childhood experts,
language skills grow faster in children whose parents use positive
rather than negative feedback. Children who hear 'no,' 'don't' and
'stop it' have poorer language skills than children with parents who
use more positive feedback."
Grow Up Reading: Helping babies to Grow Up Reading
"From years one to three, children develop some independence if they
are encouraged to develop skills at their own pace. They can make
simple choices, to use their motor skills, and assert themselves
appropriately. Children who are told no continuously or who are
shamed, begin to doubt their abilities and may respond with defiance
or act ignorant of authority. If children are not allowed to make
choices when they are young, they may become over-dependent and
fearful when they are older. Some children may withdraw or others may
strike out aggressively.
It is important to establish firm, reasonable guidelines for conduct
in order to encourage autonomy. With these boundaries, children will
not feel overwhelmed by their need for independent and by their lack
of mature judgment.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point: Social-Emotional Development
"Some parents can be played like slot machines. Put enough whines in
and eventually they'll pay out.
'If your child knows one of your decisions can be reversed with
sufficient whining and pleading, you are going to have whining and
pleading until there's a payoff,' [Dana Chidekel] writes. 'And as with
the slots, he may not know how long it will take or just what the
payoff will be, but he knows he will gain something.'
Children learn the meaning of limits based on what parents say and how
they follow up, Chidekel notes. "The child who is told 'no' and whines
and pleads until parents acquiesce is a child who is learning that the
meaning of 'no' is, in fact, 'Keep asking.'...
The right kind of 'no' prepares your child to participate in the
social world outside your home... A clear command is a simple
imperative sentence. It is not a favor you are asking. It is not an
invitation. It is not a question. It is not a threat."
International Child and Youth Care Network: Who's in charge here?
"Studies which have investigated the relationships between statements
made by significant others and self-perceptions... have found that
positive interactions and statements made by significant others were
related to high self-esteem and that negative interactions were
associated with low self-esteem.
Additionally, statements by significant others have also been found to
be related to children's self-talk... Further, a number of studies...
have reported associations between self-talk and self-perceptions.
Collectively the results of these studies suggest that self-talk may
play a mediating role between statements made by significant others
and self-concepts and self-esteem...
There is evidence that indicates that verbal abuse (negative
statements by significant others) adversely affects self-esteem and
self-concept... Joubert (1991) investigated self-esteem and mother and
father treatment of self when younger and found that men with high
self-esteem tended to have fair mothers, who were interested in their
activities and less likely to engage in verbal abuse, whilst high
self-esteem in women correlated with parental praise, interest, and
less verbal put-downs...
Positive statements correlated positively with self-esteem and
non-academic self-concepts, while negative statements correlated
negatively with reading self-concept and with relations with mother
and father self-concepts. Interestingly, positive statements were more
highly related to self-esteem suggesting that their presence or
absence appeared to have a stronger influence on self-esteem when
compared to negative statements."
Australian Association for Research in Education: THE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN SIGNIFICANT OTHERS' POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE STATEMENTS AND
SELF-TALK, SELF-CONCEPTS AND SELF-ESTEEM.
"Issues related to self-esteem and stress are a big part of life for
most teen-agers. Happiness and success in school and the rest of life
will come easier to teenagers who possess a positive self-image,
supported by the adults in their lives, say teen behavior experts...
Low self-esteem can be a sign of depression... Most times, it's from
the parents who project a negative inner critical voice that kids
The findings of a recent study by the research group Child Trends
reinforces the importance of the role played by parents. Teenagers
with high self-esteem, the study shows, generally have parents with
The Enquirer: Talking with Teens about a positive self-image
"Unless something is threatening the safety of your child, never try
to get across more than three discipline points at any one particular
time in his/her life.
1. It is hard to develop self-esteem when you constantly hear the word 'no.'
2. Consistency in discipline is all important. It is easier to be
consistent when focused on fewer discipline situations.
Choose three habits or situations that need discipline in your child
and work on those until you feel each discipline situation is under
control. As each discipline situations is under control, you add
another discipline. If you try to 'fix' everything at once, you will
constantly be saying "no." Again, a constant 'no' is NOT the way to
build self-esteem in children...
Try to avoid needing discipline while building self-esteem. One way to
do this is to promote a feeling of success by letting your child know
what to expect in any new situation. Well-explained events become
adventures rather than scary trips into the unknown. Confident
children need less discipline. Successful adventures and new
situations keep adding to self-esteem."
CyberParent: Rule of Three in Discipline and Self-Esteem
"No one likes to hear the word 'no.' Some kids will let their emotions
escalate immediately upon hearing 'no' and stop listening to any
further explanation. If you notice that your child gets angry the
instant the word 'no' comes out of your mouth, try saying it a
'Can I go to the movie tonight?' (a school night)
'Yes, you can go to the movie. . .on the weekend.'
'Yes, you can go outside, after you finish your homework.'
Saying 'yes' and then stating the rule or conditions avoids the
harshness of the word 'no.' More importantly, it provides you with an
opportunity to remind the person of the specifics of the rule. It also
focus the child's mind off the 'no' of the moment, to the
circumstances of a future 'yes.'
Even 'yes, you can have a new bike. . . next year.' gives something to
look forward to."
Mentor Media: Say "yes" and "when"
"No' is one of the shortest yet most powerful words in our vocabulary.
It's one of the first words we hear as an infant when our parents try
to keep us from harm and we hear it every day til the day we die.
Somewhere along the way 'no' got a bad rep. We've come to think that
'no' is exclusionary, rather than inclusive. 'No' seems to shut down
interaction with others. 'Can I have a puppy?' 'No.' 'Do you want to
go out Saturday night? 'No.' 'Boss, can I have a raise?' No!'
'No' means 'no' and 'no' is BAD! Or IS it?
Saying 'no' is a subtle yet extremely powerful way of exercising
control over your life. When you begin to enjoy the freedoms of
success you will find yourself saying 'no' and being empowered by it.
When you're operating from a position of strength as opposed to a
position of weakness you can do what you want, when you want, and 'no'
becomes an increasingly important part of your vocabulary.
If growth comes from letting go, then you can't grow until you let go
of what is holding you back. And you can't let go of all the
unnecessary details, unwanted commitments, and unwelcomed
entanglements of life until you can say 'no'.
The key is to begin exercising control over your life NOW. No matter
what level you're at or where you plan to go, the sooner you start
letting go and saying 'no' the sooner you will achieve your goals."
Real Estate Promo: The Power of NO
"It helps to remember that kids hear the word 'no' far too often. 'No'
is a fighting word. Kids may wage war against 'no' in a subtle way.
They try to get the parent to do all the thinking while they stand
back and judge the parent. Their opening ploy is often, 'Why?' 'Why
can't I?' 'Why do I have to?' Parents who are busy reasoning with kids
have neither time nor energy to win battles. Caring parents feel
guilty about saying "no" so often and are soon hooked into doing lots
of thinking and explaining...
You can turn the tables on children, forcing them to do most of the
thinking. State your decision without saying "no". Then, whatever the
youngster says, simply agree that it is probably true and repeat your
original decision. This is called Negative Assertion. Here's how it
can work in practice:
Teen: I need to use the car to go skiing.
Dad: Feel free to use it as soon as your gasoline bill is paid up.
Teen: But, Dad. I promised my friends.
Dad: I'm sure that's true ... and feel free to use it as soon as your bill is paid.
Teen: Yeah, but then I won't have money for the lift ticket.
Dad: I bet that's true, too ... and feel free to use it as soon as
your bill is paid.
Teen: Geez! Money is everything to you.
Dad: That could be true, too... and...
Teen: Yeah, I know. Don't say it again!"
Parent Trust: 'No' is Not a Four-Letter Word
"Never say 'No'. Let?s face it, most toddlers like to explore and to
take things and walk places they should not. The primal instinct is to
say, 'no' about 4400 times a day to the toddler, or perhaps a cute,
'no-no'. This word will come back to haunt you if you do. We strongly
believe that instead of saying no, parents should say, 'please stop
hitting the clock' or 'please move away from the stairs'. In other
words, be specific about what it is you don?t like. In about 90% of
the cases, the phrase, 'Please Stop' is a perfect substitute for
'no-no'. 'No' is negating; stop is much more specific to the
It is extremely important to follow through on what you and the family
say and do. Inconsistency, in word or deed, is confusing and
demoralizing. It may take more time to follow through, but the
benefits in the long run are enormous."
Leigh Thompson: Some Ideas about Raising Children
"Conflict between parents and children has been a fact of life for
countless generations. It has occurred throughout time and in every
family. Studies have shown that parents and their children are
genetically related by 50 percent and genetically different by 50
percent. This means the two groups will not always see their ideal
courses of action perfectly coincide...
Conflict resolution at home actually lays the groundwork for tougher
situations your child is certain to encounter in life, such as dating,
drinking, drugs and smoking. Kids must learn that people who care
about each other will sometimes disagree. In order to survive and
succeed, they also must learn how to deal with the world...
Often a child's adverse behavior is ignited when he or she hears the
word 'no.' Parents can avoid this by stating refusals and giving
explanations to a child's requests. If you say 'yes' and follow with
the rule or conditions, you evade the harshness of the word 'no.' For
example, saying 'Yes, you can go outside, after you finish your
homework' gives you an opportunity to remind your child of your rules.
Your child can focus on a future 'yes,' rather than this moment's
'no.' Similarly, 'never' and 'always' are argument-escalating words.
Avoid using them. Teach your child not to use escalating words. It
might not eradicate conflict, but it will keep a discussion focused
and limit emotional explosions."
ABC7 Chicago: Conflict with Kids
"The rise of violent crimes being committed by children devastates
both families and communities alike. When a crime occurs, the number
one question on everyone's mind is "why": Why are children committing
violent acts against their families, friends and strangers? The answer
to that question makes perfect sense when you understand that current
childcare practices violate children's rights because they are based
on authoritarian behaviors that are emotionally and physically
Commands like the word 'no' are harsh and build resistance in
children. It is easier for children to hear how to do something
correctly rather than to hear what they are doing wrong. More often
than not, when given respectful information, children comply with
social guidelines rather than resist them. Our language helps to mold
a child's thoughts. 'No' is a negative word and implies wrongdoing. It
is also used to deny, refuse, or disagree. 'No' is not meant to be
flexible or compromising. You may have heard a popular saying, 'What
part of 'no' don't you understand?' This kind of language molds
controlling and negative thoughts, which can be damaging to children."
About Fatherhood: Respectful Discipline
"Yes is magic and opens hearts - no blocks heart.
Yes improves love life - no destroys love.
Yes opens for direct communication - no ends communication.
Yes establishes a link of love - no cuts that link.
Yes creates oneness - no separates.
Yes creates holiness - no creates ego.
Yes creates divinity - no creates destruction and disaster.
Yes creates peace - no creates tension...
The Ego tends to say NO; the soul would prefer to say YES. YES has the
potential power to re-establishes harmony within you. NO creates
blocks and illnesses within you. No creates stagnation of spiritual
progress and flow of energy - YES creates continuous process of
experiences and spiritual learning / growth.
For any NO in any particular situation you may expect a NO from anyone
else in any situation. Maybe the single most important situation for
yourself to expect a YES may be turned into a NO by any previous NO
from you. Repeated NOs will kill any relationship or communication."
Kriya Yoga: YES or NO
"Picking on a person doesn't help. It's the same with children. The
more you honor them, the more you love and adore them, and lift them
up and praise the good, the better they become. And we're all
To condemn, and to only pick out, and point out the annoying behavior,
and the difficult aspects of their character always makes a person
A child who lives with criticism learns to condemn.
A child who lives with hostility learns to fight.
A child who lives with fears learns to be anxious.
A child who is pitied and viewed as pathetic, learns to feel sorry for himself.
A child who lives with jealousy learns to feel guilty.
On the other hand...
A child who lives with encouragement learns to be confident.
A child who lives with praise learns to be appreciative.
A child who lives with acceptance learns to be patient.
A child who lives with approval learns self-esteem.
A child who lives with recognition, learns to have a goal."
World Religions and 101 Cults: To Condemn and to Encourage
I'd like to close with a quote that has meant a lot to me:
"If it's true that we have the power to choose how we feel, why do
most people choose the negative? It's because WE'RE BORN TO WIN, BUT
PROGRAMMED TO FAIL! We are programmed into the negative from the
moment we come into this world. It starts with our upbringing. By the
time you reach the age of 18, you've heard the word 'no' 200,000
times, seen 30,000 acts of violence, and have received more than 12
million messages in the form of advertising telling you how to look,
what to eat, and hnow to feel. No wonder most of us grow up with a
negative self image!"
(from "Get Off Your Assets!: How to Unleash the Power in You," by Desi Williamson.)
My Google search strategy:
Google Web Search: "hear OR hears the word no" parents children OR child
Google Web Search: "speak OR speaking negatively" child
Google Web Search: child "positive attitude" "say OR saying no"
Google Web Search: "instead of saying no" child
I hope this is useful! Please request clarification if anything is
unclear or incomplete, or if a link does not function.