The Magic of ‘No’

Every parent knows that saying no to your children is usually picking a battle. It can mean arguing, and crying, and creating a lot more work for yourself as a parent than if you could give in and give your kiddos what they want. However, immediately saying yes isn’t always what’s best for your children in short and the long term. Here’s why saying no is so important and how to say it without actually saying it.

Some people believe it’s dangerous to try and be more of a friend to your kids than a parent, but how do you find that balance? Using ‘no’ when necessary can help you stay from being your child’s best friend, instead of providing them with the guidance they need to be successful in life. When a child never hears no and always gets their way at home, they begin to believe that this is how the world works. They will start to expect everyone, in every walk of life, to give them exactly what they want when they want it. In short, they will become entitled. This can lead to bad behavior in public. They may not listen to school to their teachers or be a good friend to their peers. It may be harder for them to participate in organized activities like sports, band or choir because they have a hard time taking instruction or doing things they don’t necessarily see the personal benefit.

‘No’ is a powerful tool to be used in your household, but there are other ways to tell your children they aren’t allowed to have or do something without it sounding so negative. Instead of saying, “No shoes in the house!” you can try positive languages such as, “Only socks on the carpet!” It shows them that you make the rules, but it also doesn’t sound harsh. This sort of language can be spun for any rule you want to make. It sets guidelines gently but forcefully, teaching your kids that rules are made to follow, which will carry over into other aspects of their life.

Explain to your children why you are telling them no, and avoid the promise of ‘maybe tomorrow.’ For example, if your little one wants to eat ice cream before dinner, explain to them how it will spoil their meal, and avoid promising them that they can have some tomorrow or later. Putting them off isn’t telling them no, it’s just postponing a fight. You can also deflect with something else that’s good for them but is still appealing; in this situation, offering a healthy snack or no snack at all as an ultimatum for ice cream.

The most important thing to remember is that every time you want to tell your child no, you are being faced with an opportunity for a lesson. Your child has misstepped or done something wrong and might not be aware of what it is. It’s an opportunity to teach them and grow with them, and that should never be taken for granted just for a natural ‘yes.’