Probably the hardest word for us to learn as parents is ‘no’.
Children wouldn’t be children if they didn’t test the boundaries, and when we say no, our children are determined to find a way to get to yes. There are many strategies they use to try to get to yes: complaining that we aren’t fair, that we aren’t nice, that we don’t understand them, that we aren’t fun, that their other parent would say yes, that their grandparents would say yes, that their teacher would say yes, that their best friend’s parent would say yes.
- Or they might go for rebellion and do what we have said no to, anyway.
- Or they might pout and not talk to us for a period of time.
- Or they might try to take revenge by trying to hurt us in some ways.
It is difficult to say no when you are under such duress.
It is helpful if we can get our children to realize earlier on that when we say no, we mean no. We really don’t have to have our reasons, because sometimes giving our reasons creates a new barrage of reasons why we should say yes.
We need to be kind and firm with our children, and learning to give the bad news with still being kind.
“I love you and the answer is no,” might help us avoid resistance and get the message that we say what we mean, but we aren’t mean!
Here are some helpful tips on other ways to say no from the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk:
Give information. When met with a situation, we can give information that will help the child figure out that right now is not a good time.
For, ‘Mom, can I invite Jimmy over to play?” instead of saying, “No, you can’t,” give decision making facts.
“Dinner will be ready in ten minutes.”
You don’t have to say no, and your child should have enough information to see that the answer is in fact “no”.
Accept feelings. Sometimes we can lessen our children’s disappointment or frustration if they sense we understand their feelings.
“But Dad, I don’t want to go to bed right now.”
Instead of no, we might say, ‘I can understand if it were up to you, you would stay up all night so you wouldn’t miss a thing.”
Describe the problem. “Mom, can Lucy spend the night?”
“I’d like to say yes, but your grandparents are coming this weekend.”
Give yourself time to think. Your child says, “Dad, can I have a horse at my birthday party?”
You can respond, “Let me think about it, please.”
When possible, substitute a ‘yes’ for a ‘no’. Your child asks, “Can we go to the mall?”
Instead of saying, “No, I’ve got to finish the laundry”, you could say, “Yes, just as soon as the laundry is folded and put away.”
These suggestions may seem like a lot of work and the hard way to say no.
But considering some of the drama we may encounter, sometimes the high road is the short cut to where we want to go when we need to say “no”.