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How to Say “No” to Kids Without Saying “No”

We now know the benefits of saying ‘no’ but what if saying a straight no does not seem to work? Parents may also be afraid of dampening their child’s self-esteem due to the constant rejection. However, there are ways parents can say ‘no’ without using the word itself, here are 5 ways to do so.

1. Distract Them

This is probably the easiest trick in the book, but it works better of younger children as compared to older kids. By distracting their attention on something else, it may make them forget what they wanted in the first place.

2. Look For An Appropriate Redirect

Instead of focusing on the word ‘no’, give your child options on what they can do instead. For example, a child who wants a cookie can be redirected with “You can have a piece of cheese or an apple,” advises Brandi Davis, a family coach. Doing so provides an acceptable alternative to the rejected action.

3. Think It Over

Try saying “Let me think about it” rather than the straight ‘no’. This will show your kid that their needs and wants are important to you and that you’re making an effort to decide if you should or should not say yes.

4. Set A Budget

Once children hit their preteens, setting a budget for their expenditure can help them make reasonable choices and eliminate the need for you to refuse to buy them items in the first place. For younger kids, set aside the number of toys they can buy each year, and save those big buys for special occasions like Christmas and birthdays.

5. Get Strategic

If you say, “Don’t stand on the furniture” – all your child hears is, “Stand on the furniture.” Instead, it’s more effective to say, “Please keep your feet on the floor.” The point is not to over-correct, but rather to create a balanced style of parenting that’s clear, consistent and positive. We need to spend as much energy catching our kids being good as we do correcting behaviour.

Originally published in “The Art of Saying No”, written by Shaistah Munawar, in Singapore’s Child June 2014.

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