From the moment a child learns how to walk, they start hearing the word ‘no.’ Parents get just as tired of saying ‘no’ to their children as the children do of hearing it. What are some alternatives to saying ‘no’ while still establishing firm and secure boundaries as your children grow up? And, without driving everyone crazy in the process. Here are 10 tips for saying no to your children.
1. Agree – on your terms, not theirs. “Yes, that is a good idea. Let’s do that later.”
2. Give a different option – “How about we have this instead.”
3. Offer a choice – “You could have that, or you could have this instead.” With your ‘this’ being a better option than what your children asked for initially.
4. Distract – Sometimes all you need is a quick change of subject. Point out something interesting, or if we’re talking about young children offer them a toy they particularly like.
5. Get playful – Make up a silly song, a silly dance. Include what they’re asking for in the lyrics for bonus points. It shows that you hear them, but at the same time you’re redirecting their interest in that particular item in a new direction.
6. Ask what someone else would do – use a favorite character from books, TV, or movies and ask what they would do if faced with the choice.
7. Commiserate – after all, it’s not so hard to remember when you wanted that very thing yourself. Sometimes a little sympathy goes a long way.
8. Enlist help from authority figures – remind them what their dentist or doctor said about sugary snacks when their begging for treats. Couple that with a little wise advice along the lines of, “Hey, remember when your doctor said you should snack on a nice piece of fruit?” Just remember to keep this positive – the last thing you want to do is to paint an authority figure as the ‘bad guy.’
9. Remind your child of what happened last time they asked- “Remember last time when we went to the park, and it rained? That wasn’t much fun, was it?”
10. Make a sign – Start with an art project. Make a big sign that says ‘OK’ on one side and ‘NOT OK’ on the other. When a situation comes up, that calls for a decision, point to the sign as the final authority.
The word ‘no’ doesn’t have to be present to establish a boundary. By using these alternative suggestions, not only will your child be enjoying a more positive environment in which to grow, but you as the parent will be more relaxed and happier as well. Remember, ‘no’ might be necessary, but it doesn’t have to be the only word you choose to get your point across.
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