“No!” Such a small word – but such a strong message. Parents use it with children on a regular basis to keep them safe, set limits, reinforce rules, or stop behavior.
“No running.” “No talking.” “No hitting.” “No, you may not go.”
“No more cookies.” “No way!”
Ever wonder how many “no’s” you might say in a typical day? Two or twenty-two? What might be the impact on your children? On you? On your relationships?
Kids may begin to tune you out or perhaps carry out the behavior without asking because they know the “no” is coming. You can start to sound like a “No Machine” which can increase stress in you and in your relationships with your children.
Consistent negative reactions can result in resistance and lead to negative, less healthy interactions between parents and children.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to saying no that still allow you to protect your children, set limits, or stop behaviors. Barbara Coloroso in her book, Kids are Worth It, provides three standard responses that can be effective with children of all ages.
“Dad, can I have a piece of candy?”
Or even more specific would be: “Yes, after we finish (dinner).”
Instead of denying a request, tell your child when it might be possible. By doing so, you are avoiding unnecessary power struggles, teaching your children what is acceptable, and continuing to work with- instead of against- your children. After all, you have just given them permission to do what they want- just not when they may have wanted.
“LET ME THINK ABOUT IT.” or “GIVE ME A MINUTE.”
“Mom, can I stay over at Anton’s house tonight?”
“Hmm, let me check our plans. Give me a minute.”
Kids often push for instant answers. When you take time to ponder the request and consider the consequences, you can formulate a carefully thought-out response. This also models for children the skill of taking time to think about answers in a society that emphasizes “hurry up.” If your child demands an immediate answer, you can say:
“If you must have an answer right now, it’s ‘no.’ If you can wait, and give me time to think about it, my answer may be different.”
“CONVINCE ME.” or “LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.”
“Pop, can I borrow the car tomorrow?”
“Convince me. I need more information to decide.”
You can then begin a dialogue by asking, “Where are you going, with whom, and when will you be home?”
A steady diet of “no’s” begins to taste bland or worse – it can become offensive and unpleasant. Save the “no’s” for the most important times and situations. Then accompany them with a reason or information to teach your children why you are denying their request or limiting their action. “No, we can’t stay at the park longer because we won’t be home in time for Daddy.”
All of these alternatives to “no” model a respectful attitude toward your children, even if they don’t always result in your granting them their wishes.
Variety in your diet keeps you energized and healthy. Restock the “No Machine.” Say yes to fewer no’s. You and your relationship will experience the benefits.By Pam Nicholson, Certified Parenting Educator
For more information about discipline check out the following books. Purchasing books from our website through Amazon.com supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.
If you found this article helpful, click here to make a donation to The Center for Parenting Education. Your support will enable us to continue to provide quality information free of charge.