Do you dread saying the big N-O word because it causes your child to have a meltdown? Or do you find yourself saying NO to your kids in every other sentence (and they never listen anyway)?
Of course, it’s our responsibility as parents to keep our kids safe, to stop them from hurting others, or just sometimes to stop them from being plain obnoxious!
But when the word NO is overused, it quickly becomes ineffective.
And if you’re avoiding using it because of your child’s strong reactions, I’ve got some terrific ALTERNATIVE ways to say NO for you today!
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Why not save those NOs for the times when you REALLY need them – like when your child is about to stick a fork into the electrical outlet, hit a sibling, or dump a pile of mashed potatoes into the toaster – the times when it REALLY matters.
For all the other times, try these 5 handy responses instead – and keep your NOs powerful!
5 Ways to Say No (Without Saying N-O!)
1. The Delaying NO
Used When: You don’t want your child to do or have something right now, but that they CAN do or have LATER.
Instead of: No. Not right now.
Try: As soon as you _______, you can _________.
Example: As soon as you put your plate on the counter, you can have some dessert.
OR Try: Yes, after _________.
Example: Yes, you can have a cookie – after dinner.
2. The Stopping NO
Use When: You want your child to stop doing something that is annoying, inappropriate, or disruptive to others.
Instead of: No. Don’t do that!
Try: You may _______ or_______.
Example: Your child is running in the grocery store. “You may walk beside the shopping cart, or ride in the seat.”
OR Try: Tell them what to do in a positive phrase (versus telling them to stop what they are doing.) And be ready with: “I see you’ve chosen to….” as a backup plan.
Example: “Use your walking feet.” (Child keeps running?) “I see you’ve chosen to ride in the grocery cart.”
3. The Limiting NO
Used When: Your child wants something they can’t have.
Instead of: No. You can’t have that.
Try: We have enough.
Example: “Mommy – can I have a __________?” (Insert whatever useless item they desire from the local dollar store!) Parent answer: “Not today honey. We have enough toys at home already.” (See how easy that was? Now just get out of there as fast as you can if they’re about to meltdown!)
4. The Redirecting NO
Used When: Your child is doing something that needs to be done in ANOTHER place.
Instead of: No. Not in here.
Try: Redirecting them to a place where it’s okay to do what they want.
Example: Let’s go outside where you can run and jump. (Versus jumping on the couch inside.)
5. The Indecisive NO
Used When: You are not sure you want your child to do something or to get something they are asking for.
Instead of: No. I don’t think so. That’s not a good idea.
Try: Prompting them to come up with a compromise. “I need to do this, and you want that. Can you come up with a solution that works for both of us?”
Example: “I need to get the groceries inside into the refrigerator and you want to play outside. Can you come up with a solution/compromise that will work for both of us?” (Onetime suggested we put the groceries away, then play! Perfect!)
Thanks for joining us this week for our Positive Parenting alphabetic series. This week’s topic was G is for Gatekeeping.
What does gatekeeping have to do with saying NO?
When I think of “keeping the gate,” I think about keeping my son safe and helping to teach him what limits are important to me and my husband.
Sometimes using the word NO is essential.
For me – it’s when there’s a safety hazard, or when Onetime is crossing a limit that is non-negotiable – where someone else or something is going to get hurt or damaged.
But I want to keep it powerful. And so I use it sparingly, firmly, and respectfully.
I love Janet Lansbury’s suggestions for saying no with a simple explanation added on like: “I won’t let you, because that hurts,” or “I can’t let you, because that isn’t safe,” or “I can’t play with you right now. I need to get our dinner ready.”
Although these 5 strategies aren’t always going to avert a meltdown, they DO often help. I find they are useful phrases to have as a part of my positive parenting grab bag of tools.
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Thanks for joining me this week. You can find all our series posts on the Positive Parenting Page.