The Power of “NO!”

We’ve all heard it before. Some of us in different instances than others. “No, you can’t have Captain Crunch for dinner.” or “No, crack cocaine is not a good thing for you to try.” As an adult, the only person I hear “No” from are the major authority figures. Other than that, a governing “No” rings out in my head. I know what’s wrong and what’s right, generally. You know who doesn’t know they shouldn’t pull the DVD player off the shelf? Or smoosh mac and cheese into their eyes? Babies.

The first time I realized I would have to say “no” to my son, I thought: Yeah, I got this! I will be stern and I will be authoritative, and when that kid hears my words he will listen. You know who doesn’t know the meaning of the word no? Babies. Not at first at least.

I’m holding my son and blowing raspberries into his neck. Every time my lips come close to his skin he starts to lose it laughing. His laugh is the type that makes you laugh when you hear it. Nothing else in the world matters when he breaks down in pure joy. When you hear it, you absorb it and hold onto that feeling as long as you can. I rear my head back getting ready to blow another spot on his neck. That’s when I feel it : Four small teeth that exist directly in the front of his mouth, biting down on my shoulder. I’ve never been bit by a beaver but I imagine it feels similar to being bit by a seven month old. First off, there is a level of shock that goes through your entire body when something (anything)  cute bites you. We expect to be bitten by snakes, bees and badgers. We thought we could trust creatures that made us coo though. In the freeze frame of my face just as Jude’s beaver teeth are cutting through my shirt and into my flesh, I’m sure there was a mix of pain, surprise and sadness that would have grossed out any SnapChat user.

“OW!” I yelled. Within a tenth of a second my mind flashed to the pediatricians office where just the week before I had asked about biting. Everyone in the world gives unwarranted advice about children when you have one. The advice I had received about biting was “Bite them back.” Telling our amazing (truly, truly amazing) pediatrician about this advice, she looked at me like a teacher looks at the dumb kid. Maybe you know the look. Maybe you’ve received the look. “Sure, go ahead and bite your kid. Just be prepared to have them biting other people.” Did we really want a preschooler biting his classmates? What about when he turns twenty and the only way to express his feelings is to reach over, grab the hand of the bank teller he’s holding up and biting her as hard as he can. In this future, he’s bank robber because we showed him biting was ok when he was a baby. I do not wish this upon my son. The less sarcastic bit of advice she gave was to set him down and say sternly: “No.” and to turn away.

With my tenth of a second over I said sternly (and loudly) “NO! We don’t bite!” and set him on the floor. I walked way while he was in the midst of what we call “the silent scream.” It’s silent because if it wasn’t, it would shatter glass and make our eyes burst out of their sockets. His face turns bright red and he continually exhales until the point of a slight faint. The cry that comes out after is no where near the power it held while it was silent but still packs quite the punch. The silent scream is truly hard to describe, I only hope everyone can experience their own variation someday.

Walking away from him crying on the floor, I expected to feel empowered and forceful. Instead I felt like a terrible person, the kind that leaves their kids to cry while they try not to laugh themselves. Laughing at this situation is the only thing you can do after the initial bite is over and disciplined. Some of the best comedy comes from biting gags. Think: Home Alone. I still kick myself in the ass for not being inside the house on christmas day when my 3 year old niece bit my mother’s leg. Perfect set up.

A word of advice though, do not let the disciplined see you laugh. You may gain great pleasure in watching the face of your scolded, but if they think your laughing at them for something bad they’ve done…well…lets just say the road to biting bank robber becomes shorter and shorter.

Over all though, I felt terrible. I continued to feel terrible for many months. For a long time every time I said “no”, my son’s face would contort into the saddest mixture of pain and frustration one can express. When my wife told him “no”, he would just sit and cry like all his friends left him and he was all alone.

Gradually he’s gotten better with dealing with frustration. As a parent you have to say “no”. Providing boundaries makes the child feel more secure and in turn teaches them what is ok and not ok to do. This may seem like a logical thought process for any parent but trust me, there are parents who do not tell their children “no”, no matter how old the kids are. I overheard a young parent once say that they were sick of telling their one year old “no”, that they would just give up. And then she laughed, she actually laughed! Yeah, its funny when you’re raising a sociopath. I’m just glad this girl seemed to be a single parent. When an undermining second parent is mixed into the equation and lets things fly, there’s an entire new set of rules of who lets who do what when and where they choose…that’s too odd of a sentence.

Being consistent with discipline, my son knows not to  touch the DVD player and to pet the cat in a manner that wont cause her to make sounds ålike the devil. I know that as he grows and learns more rules (and continues to push the boundaries of the ones already set) he will turn out to be a well rounded individual…and not a bank robber who bites.

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