Tuesday, December 7, 2021
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The Power of NOT Saying “No” to Your Kids

How Many Times a Day Do You Say NO to Your Kids?

For many parents, it often feels that all they say is “No.” Saying “no” all the time sets a negative tone for parent-child interactions, and makes many parents feel like they are always acting like the bad guy.

One of the guiding principles of the Purposeful Parenting program is to promote positive and warm parent-child relationships. However, it is hard to promote warmth when the temperature is always set to cold because of the word “No.”


What to Say Instead of Saying NO

Here is an experiment that I ask parents to try for a day: go a full weekend day without saying NO to your child.

Now, to be clear, does that mean it is a free-for-all weekend where the kids rule the roost? Absolutely not. It is about being purposeful with the language we use, the tone we set, and the warmth we promote.

“Can I have a cookie for breakfast?” Instead of “no” try, “For breakfast, we are having waffles, but we can set aside that cookie for dessert after dinner.”

“Can I play video games now?” Instead of “no” try, “When you finish up all of your homework, then yes, you may play the video game.”

“Can I have more time on the IPad?” Instead of “no” try, “Looks like you have used up your IPad time for today, but now we get to play basketball outside and I’m looking forward to seeing your jump shot.”


Related: What is a Helicopter Parent?


“Can I have a snack?” Instead of “no” try, “If you are feeling hungry let’s see what healthy choices we have.” Or, “It is getting close to dinner time so why don’t we hold off on that and start dinner together.”

In all of the above conversations that child is, in fact, being told “no” they cannot have what they want at that exact moment. However, it is being done in a way that reframes the response in a positive way. This helps set a warmer tone between children and parents.


Why is a Warmer Tone Important?

Because the way we speak to our children is a model of how we want to be spoken to and how we hope they will speak to others. Because always feeling like the bad guy saps away the joy of being a parent.

And, perhaps most importantly, in the moment when your child is asking that question, the warmer tone decreases the likelihood of the dreaded meltdown.

When a child hears the word “no” they feel shut down, given no alternatives, no say. They feel defeated, mad, and angry that they can’t have what they want.

Can they express all of that? Usually not, and so they meltdown.

However, when responses are reframed with warmth, a child feels that they were heard and respected. Will meltdowns still occur? Probably. Will they occur less with warmth in your response than if you simply say “no”?

Try it for a day and find out!

Click here for more content by Dr. Terri James!

Dr. Terri James
Terri James has a Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Studies from Cornell University and a Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical and School Psychology from Hofstra University. Dr. James specializes in the assessment of children with learning issues and in helping children, school and parents plan appropriately for the child’s success.


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