How to Effectively Say ‘NO’ to Your Child?

4 min read

Written by Pradeep


Such a simple two-lettered word. But such a big deal in parenting!
Saying No
There are countless articles out there that talk about why saying ‘no‘ is not the most effective way of denial, and the consequences of over-saying ‘no‘s. But we all accept that many a times it is absolutely necessary for us to say ‘no‘ and be assertive when doing so. Children are too small to self-regulate or make their own rules and decisions. They look up to us adults for this guidance. But often, many of us shy away from saying ‘no‘ and give in to the little ones’ demands, fearing the tantrums and crying that might follow a ‘no‘. This article provides you 10 tips on how to effectively and assertively say ‘no‘ to your child and get the result you want.

10 Tips To Effectively Say NO To Children
  1. Redirect: ‘No!‘ should not be the focus statement. Find something else to redirect your child’s attention. This works especially well for smaller kids whose attention span is, thankfully, short. Presenting a viable alternative helps the child understand what is acceptable and what is no. Instead of saying the dreaded word, see what you can offer the child to dot
  2. Be silly: This is extended ‘redirect‘. Gaming is just loved by kids, isn’t it? Is the child throwing a tantrum after a ‘no‘? Do something silly like dance around or make a funny impromptu song about the situation. This will distract the child and might even make him laugh – if you are really really silly!
  3. Don’t kneejerk the ‘no‘: ‘No‘ should not be your automatic response for everything. ‘Mom, can I go for a sleepover? ‘No ‘Mom, can I go for a movie with friends?‘No‘Mom, can I have an apple?‘No! See, what we mean? Ask them questions instead of saying a ‘no‘. Like ‘why do you want a sleepover on a weekday?
  4. Use it less: Once you start over-using ‘no‘, it becomes very unclear for the child what is okay and acceptable and what is not. Reserve ‘no‘ for things that are an absolute no-no in your judgment. Use alternative ‘no‘ for other less serious situations, like “may be another time” or “not now” or “let us do something else”
  5. Keep it short: They are small, they are impatient, they are not as mature as you, they have been just refused something by you, so they are angry / sad – don’t deliver sermons now! Give an explanation for your refusal, but keep it short. They cannot comprehend long explanations. Young minds at work, remember?
  6. Set the limit: Okay, you are not the only one who finds it easier to please them! They are happy, you are happy! If they are cranky, you go crazy too. So why not? Just give them what they want and enjoy some peace right? Wrong. Do not focus on short term goals. Decide on what is permissible and what is not. Set the limits. Now
  7. Be consistent: You need to consistently applaud them for same good behavior and reprimand them for bad behavior (once you have set the limits). Consistency is the key word here. In due time, this will help them understand what is okay and acceptable and what is not OKAY
  8. Don’t negotiate: Remember. Your child is ONLY interested in convincing you that he is right. You need to be assertive – accept that you understood what he wanted to do, accept that you realize he is disappointed, but do not negotiate. If your child realizes he can convince you once to change a ‘no‘ to ‘yes‘, he will always try to do it. You are the parent, and you can put your foot down
  9. Walk away: Do not feel compelled to engage the child after a ‘no‘. Let him sit on that ‘no‘, rage or be disappointed. This gives the child some time to reflect. It also helps the kids to understand that your decision is final and is not up for further discussion
  10. Take control: Your child would not take your ‘no‘ easily. He might shout, cry, protest verbally if big enough, follow you around wailing, beg you to comply and so on. Do not give in. If you do it once, he will cry more next time because he knows you will comply eventually. Is that what you want? You take control of the situation, be happy you have set the limit, tell him CLEARLY that this behavior would not fetch him what he wants and let the child deal with his emotions

How to say No
While all these tips sound sensible and simple, it is in reality very difficult not to have your heart melt over a teary eyed child. So once you have said no, once you have walked away, do something to distract yourself so that you do not feel guilty or sad. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You are the parent. And you are doing a great job at it! Be proud!


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