Our kids have a way of being very persuasive. My daughter is the best. She will find every angle in every situation and truly is incredibly smart in presenting them. I love that character trait, certainly do not want to stifle it but at the same time there are many times when she needs to hear that the answer is simply ‘no.’
Hearing NO is different for every age. Depending on your child’s age, here are 6 easy ways to say NO without your child over-reacting.
1) Rephrase your no with a statement. Instead of simply ‘no, you can’t,’ phrase it as ‘I understand that you want to go play with your friend right now, but I think it’s best if you don’t.’ ‘I know you really want some ice cream but I think right now your tummy would prefer not to have it mixed with the cookie you had earlier.’ When you let them know that you understand their request, but you are basically trumping it, it shows them that you care but know better. As parents we are supposed to know better, let them understand that as well.
2) There are some times when an explanation (not an argument) is in need. I happen to eat very healthy, and from the time my daughter was born she was fed even healthier food than I was accustomed to eating. There came a time however, when she started to ask questions about that mysterious McDonalds that these other kids were talking about. The first 5 years of her life it was easy to just say ‘we don’t eat McDonalds.’ As she got older, that explanation wasn’t enough. She was now ready for the ‘why.’ When they are able to understand the why in a certain situation, then you can introduce it.
With my ‘why’ explanation came a talk about the ingredients and our food choices. Health benefits and simple effects were introduced as well. It worked well. In fact she has become sort of an advocate for eating healthy with all her friends. I can hear her sometimes telling her friends why she will not eat a certain food or explaining how unhealthy an item is. It is awesome. Sometimes an explanation settles the whole argument and helps them make the better decision.
3) Distraction or changing their focus works wonders. Regardless of what age your children are, distraction is still a great tool to use when you need to tell them ‘no.’ If they are toddlers, distraction is simple and easily done. They want this, show them that. Their attention span is easily diverted. As they get older, it is certainly a little more tricky and harder to accomplish, but using items that can replace what they want works wonders. My daughter just had a friend over and they wanted to play with the sprinklers. I have watered the grass a lot lately and knew we were due for rain soon, so instead I offered the hose and we propped it up so it worked perfectly. Instead of belting out ‘NO’ I offered a different solution and they were fine. A child wants ice cream. Offer a popsicle or strawberries & whipped cream. Offer something that is also appealing but is a better choice. Again, according to age, you can even explain why it may be a better choice.
4) Turn the question back on them. If they want a toy as you are walking through the store, ask them why they want it. Ask them what they would do with the toy, and where they would keep it. Maybe ask them if they would like to be surprised one day with the toy instead. Ask them to show you another toy or two that they would like. This excites them and takes their focus on the one they wanted. It also shows them that you are interested and care and are taking notes. Many times why they want something is irrelevant to them. Pointing out the ‘why’ helps them see that they really don’t care about it, instead something caught their eye and it appealed to them for a minute. Help them through the thinking process and later in life they will be able to do the same thing with bigger decisions. Do I really need another new car right now only to add more debt? NO
5) Set a date in the future. If your child truly wants something that is possible, just not now, tell them! My daughter wanted to go ice skating last weekend. It was a little too late since they have set times for public skating, but I love going and think it’s a great activity so I had no problem telling her that we could schedule it for the following weekend. Helps them to know that it’s not always just ‘NO.’ Teaches them patience and planning as well.
6)Let them know they can earn some of the things they want. If they want a toy, let them know that they can do a couple of chores and they will earn the toy. If they are older, same thing. If you help out with this list for the week or month, then you can earn the right to go to the movies with your friends, or you can earn the money for the new dress that you want. So many valuable lessons in life can come from teaching children how to work for things. Working hard at school, sports, and a job are great life lessons and very beneficial to teaching your child how their life works.
Saying NO is not a bad thing. It sets boundaries and has the capabilities of teaching many good habits and skills to our children. It is important that they understand NO is a part of life. In order to have anything, we’ve all had to say NO to some things or many things. Say NO to your children and better yet, teach them to say NO themselves!