Say “No” to “No”

No is said several ways, “No”, “Don’t”, “Stop that” or “Shhhhh”.

When your child does something that you don’t want them to do it’s easy and tempting to say, “No” or, “Don’t”.  But if you say that often enough they will stop paying attention when they hear the word.

Instead, try giving an explanation. I love watching little people’s faces when you explain why and they soak it up—they’re just trying to figure out the world and giving detailed explanations really helps them do that.

If your child is jumping on the bed rather that saying, “No”, “Don’t do that”, or “Stop that right now”.  Try telling them WHY they should not be making that choice. Tell them, “If you jump on the bed it might break then you would have to sleep on the ground and that would not be warm or comfortable”. Or, “Jumping on your bed makes all the blankets and sheets come off and get dirty. I don’t want to make my bed again today, do you?”

Or if they are eating while sitting on the carpet, try explaining why you don’t want them to do that. Say, “When food gets on the carpet we can’t just wipe it up like we can when it’s on the table or tile. I don’t want to pay to have our carpet cleaned when food spills and if you don’t want to pay either, then you should choose to eat in the kitchen”.

Church is the classic “NO” time. For some reason it’s tempting to say “Shhhhhh” when a child asks a question during a reverent time.  I think it’s because we don’t want to be irreverent by talking. But chances are the more you “shhh” a child the more frustrated they will become, and that could get louder. Ask them if it the question can wait, if not have them whisper what they want and give them a quiet answer.

For example if the child is kicking the bench in front of them instead of, “Don’t”, try saying “The people sitting in the bench your kicking can feel it and it makes it hard for them to pay attention to what’s going on in church”.

If you are at the library and you child is treating a book rough rather than, “Stop”, tell them why it’s important to be careful with expensive books.

If you’re at the park and they dump sand on their sisters head… what should you do? YES—explain WHY that’s not a good idea.

Don’t throw the words, “No” and “Stop” out of your vocabulary. Save them for when your child is running out into the street or in a life-threatening situation where you need to act quickly – that’s where they belong.

A tip to help you break the “No” habit; if you start to say, “No” or “Don’t”, STOP, and start your sentence, instead, with “If” or “When”.  Tune in next week for some examples and sample words you can use to help you stop saying, “No” so much and help you learn to be a more affective parent.

Use each experience as a teaching moment. Remember they might not know why you want them to stop and saying, “No” is no explanation.

Create a Solid Foundation for Reading


You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.

The Reading Mother by Strickland Gillian

I adore reading!  I could read all day long!  When I go on vacation I take a couple books because I enjoy it so much.  I know this is not the case with everyone and I’m sad that people miss out on the enjoyment and adventure a great book can read.  As a teacher I have met kids on every part of the reading enjoyment spectrum.  I have found that the kids who really enjoy reading gained that love from an early age.  They say that children become readers on the laps of their parents.

Before children learn to read, there are a few things they need to establish.  We talked about playing with sounds and how that ties into reading before.  Today I want to write about concepts of print.  Essentially, this is understanding the elements of a book.  When a child understands the basic elements or reading, then taking the next step (becoming a reader themselves) is easy and natural.  Here are some of these concepts (which can easily be learned when you read to your child regularly):

  • You open books on the right side
  • Where the front and back cover are
  • On each page words go left to right, top to bottom
  • The pictures and words on a page to together
  • The title is on the front cover and the title page
  • Where to begin reading in a book
  • That words are groups of letters with spaces separating them
  • Being able to show the first and last pages, pictures, words on a page, etc.
  • Understand that you turn pages while reading and that the story continues on the next page.

Here is an assessment you can look over and use with your child if you are interested.

If you make it a habit of reading to your child regularly, these will come along incredibly naturally!  Happy reading.

“Now what do I say?”

The last two weeks we’ve talked about what to DO at church.  This week we’ll talk about what to SAY.” Hopefully all these ideas will help your little people tolerate enjoy church more.

If your child chooses to be taken out of a church meeting, make good use of that time.  LDS church buildings have lots of beautiful artwork hanging in the foyer and halls. If you have taken your child out of a meeting and are walking through the halls point out the pictures to them. Stop and talk to them about the content and details of each picture. Below are some ideas of words you can use as you verbally pick apart a painting and ask questions.


Ask, “Who is this?” “What is Jesus doing?”  “Jesus is blessing the children, would you like to be blessed by Jesus?” “Jesus can bless and heal people because he holds the Priesthood”.  Or simply tell them things that are happening in the picture, tell the story of what is happening, such as, “Look at the boy with the hurt leg, Jesus can heal him and make him feel better and walk again”. Use a second sense by touching your child while you’re explaining. Put your hand on their head, or touch their eyes or whatever part of the body is being recognized in the painting. You might say,  “This is Jesus cleansing the temple. That means he’s cleaning up” “Does Jesus look happy in this picture?”  “He is sad because those people are not being reverent in the temple”. There was a beautiful painting that hung outside the Relief Society room in the building where we attended church while I was raising my children. It was a slightly impressionistic painting set centuries earlier in a small, poor kitchen. A mother sat in a tall back rocking chair, sitting next to her was her young daughter who sat in a tiny chair, eating from a small plate. In the corner of the room there was a baby, asleep in a cradle. I spent collective hours in front of that painting asking my toddlers about what the mother was saying and what we thought the daughter was eating and if it was morning and they were having breakfast, or if it was evening and they were going to eat then go to sleep. We would even use our fingers to reach up and pretend we were taking food from the tiny plate and would pretend we were putting it in our mouth while making yummy sounds.

 I think there is an art to learning how to speak to a child in a way that they will listen and learn. Or maybe it’s more of just getting in the habit of thinking about it and doing it. But don’t be hesitant to talk and explain to them because you think they are too young to understand or they don’t know the meaning of a certain word. Educationally speaking, the types of conversations that happen in the chapel foyer, during the sacrament, in the car as you’re driving by a construction site or some other interesting place, and at the grocery store are incredibly beneficial! They help a child learn new things, increase their vocabulary and attention span, and help them learn sentence continuity. Because of that, we are excited to make a “What do I say now” series a frequent occurrence on our blog.  Are there any situations you’ve wondered about after you had a conversation? Have you wondered what the better response could have been?  We’d love to hear about it and discuss it!

Bag of Tricks


Last week we said we’d post some ideas of things to take to church to keep a toddler busy and happy. I’m sure the possibilities are almost endless but I’ve listed a few of my favorites for you and would love to hear what you take.

I must admit that I have included item unrelated to Sunday such as a mini flashlights and Scotch tape (no, the tape does not go on the mouth!) in my bag. It’s fun to just give a child a piece of tape and watch him figure out that he can’t drop it, at least not until it gets dusty. They can figure out that it only sticks on one side, that it can hold things together like two pieces of paper or your fingers, etc. When I was young there was only one type of transparent tape – it was shiny and it could not be written on. Now there is Scotch Magic Tape and unless you’re older like me, you have probably not even noticed there is a difference. But at some places (like the dollar store) you can buy the old style, cheap, shiny type, which cannot be written on with a pencil (or colored pencil). After your child gets tired of sticking things together, putting several pieces of the shiny tape (placed in such a way that it forms a word or picture) can be put on a blank piece of paper and the child can scribble on the paper to find the hidden word or shape.

Mini flashlights that turn on by being squeezed, or a push button can be fun without being too distracting to those around you. Before the child figures out how to turn the light on, the mystery of why and when the light comes on can hold a child’s attention week after week. You can pretend that it only comes on when they kiss the hand that’s holding it, or when they touch their nose, or what ever you make up. When they finally figure out how it works and have a strong enough finger to turn it on, it can be used to shine through paper, fingers, or at the words of the songs in the Hymn book (this makes it church related).

Another item that a young child really likes is a small tape measure that retracts when a button is pushed (they can be found in fabric stores, or on line). Kids love to pull it out and see it go quickly back in, over and over and over. If they are older, they can measure how long everything is. Just make sure the tape measure is not the kind that clicks loudly as it’s pulled out (I learned that the hard way when I replaced my broken, quiet one). And make sure it’s plastic, not metal because the metal ones can hurt tiny fingers as it whips back in.

Perhaps a whole chapter could be written about Cheerios. They can be used as a snack for small stomachs at the same time as entertaining them. When a Cheerio is moistened, it can stick to the tip of a nose or to a forehead. Watching them try to find and grab it off their own forehead, before they’ve perfected their hand arm coordination is probably too amusing to adults and to the children sitting on the row behind you. I once found a small wooden building block that had a hole drilled through the middle. We discovered it was just the right size for a Cheerio to fit into loosely. When the cereal was in the hole, an older person could quickly push from the bottom with a closed pen, or other blunt object and the piece of cereal would pop out of the hole and cause the child to grin with delight. This simple trick supplied hours of reverent entertainment!

Another cereal activity idea is to have the child find where the cereal it. If Mom or Dad shows a hungry, or antsy child a piece of cereal in their hand, then closes the hand into a closed fist, the child can figure out how to get the food that he can no longer see. This isn’t meant to be torture, help them discover how to retrieve it. At first you use your other hand to open the closed hand to show them how to get to the cereal. Having them pull up one finger at a time is the next step, then having each finger that they pull up close if not held open makes them use their other hand to hold each finger after it’s opened. This might all seem overly detailed, but it’s a good way to make a little cereal last a long time all the while teaching as well.

It might go without saying, but I’ve seen it happen so I feel like it needs to be said anyway; beware of keys on the metal chairs or in the overflow where there’s a wooden floor. Once you give your child your keys, it’s hard to get them back with out a fuss.

If the child reaches the point that they can’t be happy, even with things you’ve brought THEN it’s time to take them out of the chapel as to not disturb others. Whew, who’s more tired, them or you?

Have fun creating your bag of tricks and let us know what works for you.