How to say no to your child

how to say no to your child

The key to saying no, is not actually using the word no. Psychologists have said that when young children hear the word no too many times, it can cause lasting emotional distress and resentment. Another problem with saying the word no all the time, is that the word simply starts to lose its meaning. Just like the boy who cried wolf, often parents say no and do not follow through with it. This is not to say that we should let our children do, say and have whatever they want. It just means we have to be more creative in how we let them down.

If you do say the word no, make sure you say it once, in a serious tone that gets across to your child that you mean business. If they do not listen, do not relent. If your child knows that they can nag you into saying yes just once, they will continue to do so. If saying no once is not working for you, try these other techniques:

Say yes!
You can say yes while actually saying no. For example, if your child asks for a chocolate, instead of saying no, try “yes, you can have a chocolate after dinner”. If they are asking for a toy in the shops, “yes, you can get that toy for your next birthday”.

Often children will continue asking for something, or doing something they shouldn’t be, for attention. Consider the tactic of distracting them with play. Nothing will make a toddler forget what they were doing more than a parent initiating a game with them.

Even young toddlers sometimes need an explanation. If your little one is crying because you won’t let them hold the scissors, tell them why it is dangerous for them. If they are too young for a verbal explanation, try acting out what could happen (pretend to cut yourself whilst holding the scissors and cry). The age old saying “because I said so” doesn’t seem to work with very young and curious minds.

Give them another option
If your child is asking for something, try say no but also give them an alternative. If they are wanting a toy that someone else is playing with, instead of just saying no, offer them another toy that may interest them. If they are climbing up onto something, say no but help them climb up onto something safer.

Let them choose
The next time your child is crying to eat something they shouldn’t, give them a chance to choose between two other things that you don’t mind them having. Giving them this choice can distract them from what they originally wanted, while also empowering them to make their own decisions.

Remember, setting boundaries with your child is very important. They need to know what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Standing strong and following through with your decisions teaches your child that they can’t do what they want, and this in turn helps them grow into respectful young children. Try the above techniques and see what works for you and your child.


Toptots Early Learning SA

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