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The Power of No

October 4th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  5 Comments

At 22 months, Sasha is deep in that language-acquisition mode that makes parenthood (and, I imagine, toddlerhood) so enjoyable. Every day brings new vocabulary and new insights into how children use language. (Why is “no” so easy to learn but not “yes”? It reminds me of Chinese and Vietnamese, actually, where “no” is easily defined but to signify assent you assert a positive verb or adjective. But I digress.)

The wonderful part is that much of this is out of our control. Sasha brings new words into the conversation that we can’t remember having taught her—like “tired.” But her learning it and adopting it are evidence of her growing independence.

The not-so-wonderful part is that much of this out of our control. The other night, we were trying to get Sasha to eat something new—borscht, I think—and when she refused at first, I broke into song. See, Sasha’s recently become enamored of “Yo, Gabba Gabba!,” and one scene she’s watched often is a song called “Try It, You’ll Like It.” (Guess what it’s about.)

Anyway, it worked! She tried it! And… she hated it!

And then, as she made a yuck face and walked away, I joked, “Try it, you’ll hate it.”

To which she immediately responded, “I hate it!” Then she said it again. And again.

What made this extra-annoying is that I’ve been trying to figure out ways of teaching her the word “like” and “want”—the kind of affirmative concepts that can be slippery if, you know, you’re less than 2 years old.

The upside, however, is that should a restaurant critic job open in the next decade or so, I think she’ll be a natural. A.A. Gill, watch out.


  1. Accidents says:

    October 5th, 2010at 10:21 am(#)

    Hank is 19 months, and he can say things like “Captain America wearing a diaper!” He talks about things being “noisy” and “messy.” He can count to 13 and sing the ABCs (of course these are mere memorization, but they *seem* impressive). He will learn your name within a few minutes of meeting you and remember your name the next time he sees you.

    All of the above is not meant to brag about his super special snowflake-ness, but rather to puzzle over the fact that, with many multi-syllabic words and sentence structures employed, the kid WILL NOT SAY THE WORD “YES.” Nor “yeah” or “okay” or even “yuh” or “sure” or anything of the sort.

    What’s up with that? Why is “yes” such a difficult word/concept?

  2. Matt says:

    October 5th, 2010at 10:31 am(#)

    I know exactly what you mean, but I don’t have an answer. I’ve dug up some possibly interesting links, though, and when I’ve digested them I’ll present my findings.

  3. TechyDad says:

    October 6th, 2010at 9:28 am(#)

    We stumbled upon this “Thousand Times No” video ( http://www.vimeo.com/6591554 ) and made the mistake of showing it to our 7 year old. Now he is saying “no” to us in multiple languages!


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