So, I try not to say "no." Instead, if she's doing something that could be dangerous, we say "ta-ta." We then follow that by explaining why we don't want to do whatever it was that we just "ta-ta"ed. For example: She loves to try to climb on the stone fireplace. When she does this, we say, "Ta-ta, Audrey. We don't climb on the fireplace, do we? Fire is hot and we could get burned, and we could fall and get hurt on the stones. Mommy doesn't want you to get hurt. It would make her very sad. We can sit back here and look at the fireplace though. And if the fire isn't on, you can touch the stones, but we don't climb on them."
My hope is that instead of just hearing "no" every time she tries to do something she shouldn't (which is often), she starts to understand some of the explanations we give her, and learns to explore in safer ways. Do I really think she understands everything I'm saying right now? No, of course not! But she is very smart and I do think she has a basic understanding.
With time and repetition, I hope that this approach encourages her to explore her world in a safe way, instead of discouraging her and making her think she can't do anything. I feel like kids that are just told "no" all the time, grow up to be adults that are either afraid to take (safe) risks, or dangerously rebellious, neither of which I want for her.
So far, it is working well for us! She will approach something we have "ta-ta"ed before, stand there a moment, look at us, and then say, "aaaaaa-ta!" It is ridiculously cute, but also makes me feel like I'm doing something right.
I'm curious though, how do you approach situations like this? Some parenting experts seem to encourage saying "no" in a firm voice. Do you say "no" to your kids or do you have your own approach?