This evening, my 4 year olds were building with blocks. They had created a nice sequence. It was then that J, who is 7, walked over and wanted to get involved. He particularly wanted to knock it down.
His sisters protested. They were still building. They didn’t want his interference. At this point, it looked like he might knock it down anyway, so we intervened.
“They said no. That means NO.”
Plain and simple. J realized we were serious, and he changed course. We ended up playing a game together instead. And my girls, not yet five, got the message that their “no” matters. That they have the right to speak up for themselves and to protect their environment.
I often wonder how much of what’s going on in the high school scene, college scene, and beyond is a symptom of how we allow “no” to be ignored early on.
“Boys will be boys”, or “It’s not that big of a deal”, or “He was just playing.”
No means No.
Stop means stop.
If a 3 year old asks you to stop chasing them, stop tickling them, stop. And don’t use those words yourself unless you mean them.
If there’s an interaction, even in the preschool years, where one child is clearly uncomfortable, we need to give that child permission to advocate for himself and not tell him he’s wrong for feeling uncomfortable.
Preschool emotions are legitimate, just as high school and college emotions are legitimate. The earlier we teach our kids to respect their own and each others’ boundaries, the better.