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Know How to Say No!

As your toddler starts speaking words like “I want this”, “gimmee that”, “Mommy puh-leeeeeese just one more”, many moms get bogged down because we love to hear the sweet sound of our “yeses”, (and of course so do the kids!) But sometimes “Nos” just have to be said. Yet, there are ways to make “NO” into a symphony that both you and your kids can listen to!

What’s so hard about Saying No to Children?

Well, who really wants to face it, on the weekend family day on the way to your friend’s holiday luau at the private club, a no to some off-putting request or demand might get you those downright unpleasant loud responses—you know the ones, “you’re the worst mommy, this is the worst day of my life, I don’t belong in this family, you hate me, I’m packing my bags, wagghhhhhh” (loud sounds of kicking, and screaming). And who really wants to deal with the quiet master debater, the skilled school age politician on the campaign trail who never tires of the possible bargaining and begging rights, that can just wear you down right into a yes. “Pleeeeaaaaasseeeee. Pretty puhlleeeze you’re the sweetest, let me give you a huge hug, you’re sooooo pretty mommy, I was good just now, I’ll be good behaving, I promise, I’ve got it, I’ve got a deal for you…..”

What goes into being able to say no to kids effectively?

Pointers from both child professionals and experienced moms:

  • Don't cave in to tantrums, pleading, whining, tears, just to keep the peace, unless you want a lot more of the same advises child professionals and experienced mom’s too.
  • All child psychology specialists agree that giving in only reinforces a child’s understanding that they have the power to wear you down and influence you.
  • Make your “No’s” the sound of perfecting a symphony.
  • You don’t want to be loud and shrill when you admonish with a no. Nobody likes shrillness…we know ourselves how easy it is to “tune out” a tone you don’t like.
  • Your “No” should have the weight and seriousness to convey the strength of your authority and conviction.
  • Once twice, three times you’re out…It may be hard to keep track of this ball game, but saying no can become ineffective when it's overused–kids can just begin to ignore it-- a little like crying wolf.

There are ways to say no as a positive parent

  • Be a little creative twist and turn of the word and the phrase that may help to ward off some turning off reactions to nos.
  • Instead of the quick snapping “no”, try flipping the same idea into a sweet, soft yes… “Yes, later or tomorrow, or another time "Yes, you can have candy after dinner. Let's go look for an apple for now."
  • Offer right off the bat, if you can, 2 other possible choices that are yesses, instead of snapping at the no. "You can roll the ball indoors or take it outside and throw it — your choice.”

Be Empathetic Towards you Child

Listen to the child’s feelings, be empathetic with whatever it is they are asking for, wanting, demanding. Usually, they are coming from their imaginary mind of fun and happiness, so try to see it their way for a moment. Uses phrases such as:

  • “ I see you were really wishing that Sarah could come over for a Playdate, but she needs to see her grandma today - I understand that you are disappointed because you knew you would have fun, but now this negotiation is over.”
  • “I hear that you are very angry that candy will have to wait until later, so in the meantime, you can choose one of these fruits. I understand that you are frustrated at not being able to run in the park, so let’s try to see what else you can do to get your legs moving.”

Rehearse the Rules

Go over rules in easy time, not right after a “no” meltdown. Explaining how you want the child to accept a no can go like this: “when I tell you no, I don’t want to talk to you any more about it. If you don’t like no, if it makes you frustrated or angry go to your room and draw or do something to calm yourself down. We talked about taking slow deep breaths, or listening to music, or resting. Review your own rules that have a no answer to be sure of what you won’t accept and why. Your strong conviction will help you to not cave in to whining, cajoling, pleading, begging, and bargaining.

Kids Taking No for an Answer

  • Kids may need a good space for an emotional release in dealing with a no answer. For younger kids, make a comfy chair available, some tissues, a blanket, and a time to be in their room in order to gain self-control. Comfort with “I’m glad you’re getting the tears out.”
  • Belt-tightening can offer kids valuable life lessons, Before having to say, “no, you can’t have that” talk about it in family meeting or at dinner table. Bring children in on a plan where they can learn what they can do to deserve something or to earn it—doing chores, being helpful.
  • Prevent Some of the ‘NO’s that have to be delivered because of cases of “the gimmes” by consciously delaying gratification. Instead of always buying things for kids, give them an allowance and let them save for their own purchases.

No great piece of music can be made with only one note. While we might like the sound of “yes” – to make our kids into beautiful well rounded individuals whose lives will lead to a symphony of success – we often have to give them a resounding NO!