5 alternatives to saying "no" to your children


The most common and natural reaction to being unimpressed with a child’s behaviour or requests is to tell them “no.”  Little ones, especially toddlers, usually can’t stand being told “no” and throw tantrums or purposefully act out as a result of it. The point is, children are never satisfied with being told “no” point blank, and with these 5 alternatives, they don’t have to be.

Each of the following alternatives allow children to make their own choices and decide how they would like to go about something, thereby teaching them accountability and responsibility from a young age so that they are more conscious of their decisions. 

Here are a few solutions to all the “no”-induced drama:

1. Communicate the consequences: Why you're saying no

Simply telling a child “no” won’t get through to them in the same way that actually explaining why you’re saying no will. When children become aware of the consequences of something, they are less likely to follow through with their decisions. Therefore, when trying to get through to a child, instead of saying “no”, try using “but.”

Take this scenario for example:

A child asks for something sweet to eat and a parent says “no.”

Naturally, this won’t sit very well with the child. 

Take this scenario instead:

A child asks for something sweet and the parent says, “You could have something sweet now but then you’re not going to have any space left for dinner.”

In the second instance, the child isn’t confronted with a “no”, but instead given the chance to think for themselves and learn how to make a choice that benefits them without deciding too hastily. 

“But” is essentially a way for children to become familiar with the consequences of their actions so they’ll think more logically about things before doing them. 

Of course, smaller ones will go for the sweet anyway; later when they don't have an appetite for dinner, you could remind them of the cause and effect of their earlier choice (see point 3).

Are there any alternative ways that you say no to your child? Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your stories/ comments on our site. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

2. Giving choices and making suggestions

If you’re lucky enough, in certain instances children will be open to suggestion when it comes to getting something they want. If you don’t particularly agree with something your child is doing or what they want, provide alternatives that seem equally, if not more appealing but still align with what you feel comfortable with. 

For instance, if a child says “I want to have this cake for breakfast”, a parent can respond with something like, “Let’s have eggs for breakfast then we can get cake, or maybe some other treats later today.”

3. Using past examples

Instead of being quick to tell a child “no”, use examples from past experiences that were similar, where their choices didn’t turn out to be all that pleasant. This will make your child reluctant to carry out their actions because they wouldn’t want the same thing happening again.

For instance, when a child says, “I want to eat [ ]”, and a parent responds with, “Remember you got sick the last time you ate [ ]", the child (hopefully) learns from the experience.

4. Rule repetition

What are the rules about playing with sharp scissors?

A good way to get a child to realise that what they want or what they’re doing is not the best option is to ask them to repeat the rule regarding it. They'll soon be able to make the realisation for themselves.

For example, “Can I go playing outside now?”

“What are the rule about playing outside in your school clothes?”

When they repeat the rule, they realise where they in fact are at fault and will also learn to abide by the rules in future.

5. Redirect

This method can be used to shift a child’s attention into wanting something different or getting them away from the temptation of the scenario or thing. This one works best on younger kiddies.

The trick is essentially to distract them from what they are doing.

For instance, if your child is playing with the remote or another object that isn’t a toy, simply give them something else to play with instead to redirect their attention.

This way, they will get the message to stop playing with something while simultaneously being enticed by something new.

It may be easy to say "no" to your child, but essentially, if you're not communicating your reasons or showing them why they shouldn't say or do something, they'll most likely just keep on doing it. These methods are harmless and definitely worth a try, so out with the "no" and in with the new!

Are there any other alternative ways that you say no to your child? Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your stories or comments on our site. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

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