Telling Your Child "No"

Updated: Mar 9


Have you ever felt like you say “No” too much? Does your child even listen to you when you do say “No”? Or, are you afraid to say “No” fearing a major meltdown?

Here are Three Things to KNOW about Saying NO to Your Child:


1. Rather than saying “No” what CAN your child do instead?

So often we tell our children to "stop that" or "knock it off" or simply, "NO!" But, young children sometimes truly don't know what they CAN do! They think in pictures so telling them "no" does not give them a visual of what they CAN do. Here's an exercise to help you: Think of all the things your children do that you wish they didn't. Now, get a piece of paper and write all of those down the left side. On the right side of that paper, write what they could do INSTEAD.


For example, you may write: "Jump on the furniture" on the left side. On the right side, you could write, "Jump on the floor" or "Sit on the furniture." What if you wrote, "Running in the house" on the left side? You could maybe write "Run outside" or "Walk calmly inside" on the right side. Depending on the age of your children THEY may even help think of what they could do instead! The point of this exercise is to help you focus on what they CAN do rather than what they can NOT do. This way, the next time they are doing something you don't want them to do, you can tell them what TO DO instead without ever saying, "No!"


2. Sometimes you need to say "No" and they just need to listen.

This is simply a matter of safety! At times we may experience discomfort or even fear that our children will completely melt down if we tell them they cannot do something. However, life is - and will continue to be - full of "No's" from different people (teachers, bosses, significant others). The sooner we help our children understand that they can hear "no" and be OK with it, the better they'll be able to handle this disappointment. Also, if your child is about to run into a parking lot or touch a hot stove and you tell them "No" or "Stop" wouldn't you want him to listen to you the first time?


For example, say your child wants candy right now, but dinner is 30 minutes away and you know she won't eat dinner if she eats that candy. You COULD say, "You can have candy after dinner" (remember what you learned from #1?). Or, you could say, "You can't have candy right now." If your child whines and complains and you start to fear a temper tantrum is coming, take a deep breath, and empathize with her by saying, "You really wish you could have candy right now and you can't. That's hard (Breathe). It's stinky when you can't get what you want. But I know you can handle this. I will help you. Breathe with me."


Now, this is not a magic formula that is going to make your child instantly happy again. But that is OKAY! Read that last sentence again. Having upset, sad, disappointed, or even angry feelings is OKAY. Our job is NOT to help our children feel "happy" all the time! Our job is to help them (and us) manage the very large range of emotions they have!



3. You need to know how to help them manage their emotions.

So often WE are afraid of our child’s - or our own - strong emotions. We want everyone to be happy and stay that way. But that is just not reality. WE do not feel happy all the time, so why do we expect this from our children?


Over the next couple of days notice how YOU feel when your child expresses distress over things in your daily routine. . . .

-Do you want to "save" her from this feeling by trying to "fix" the issue so she stops crying, feeling sad, or acting upset?

-Do you feel like there is "no reason" for him to be acting this way and so you tell him, "You're OK. Stop crying. You're fine."?

-Do you sit with her in that uncomfortable feeling, assuring her that while this is hard, you are going to keep her safe and help her handle this?


Now think, which one of those responses would YOU like your closest friend to use with you when YOU are feeling upset? Do YOU want to be told, "Oh that's no big deal! Just get over it...want some ice cream...a cookie? Want to go to the park and forget all about it?"

Or, would you want to be HEARD, listened to, empathized with, hugged and be able to process these difficult feelings or situation in the presence of your closest friend whom you know loves you dearly?


I know which one I would want.


Please, leave a comment here or after watching the YouTube video on my channel about how this was helpful for you!

#ConnectPointMoms helps you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life.

This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you're in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them!

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