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5 Ways To Say "No" Without Saying No

Saying no is never easy, but it’s often necessary. Here are several ways to make it easier on both you and your kids.

Is there anyone among us who hasn’t caved into a little child’s plead for wanting sweets or toys, even when we wanted to say no so badly? No one? Didn’t think so either. While it may be a little word, ‘no’ can be quite power-packed and influential, especially for parents. Even then, some parents try to avoid saying no as they know very well what the after-effects can be – screaming, tantrum-throwing, crying or sometimes even whining.

But, besides the ugly after-effects, have you ever wondered why it is so hard for you to say no? According to psychologist, best-selling author, and parenting expert Dr David Walsh, parents today are busier than ever before, and a lot of the time, they feel guilty for not spending as much time with their kids as they’d like. Hence, “when we are with our kids, we want them to be happy and have positive feelings about the time they spend with us. So we end up doing things they will like, and we’re reluctant to say no.” However, in reality, the good parent has to become the bad guy sometimes, because it is important for your kids to hear you say no. Here’s why.

  • It Sets A Limit
    Saying no to a child from a young age is vital, as they will constantly test and push their limits further to search for their own limits. Hence, it is important to implement discipline and rules from the start. Linda Liu, a psychologist and freelance counsellor shares that when parents are consistent in their approach, the little ones will understand what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
  • It Trains Them To Cope With Uncomfortable Feelings
    Dealing with uncomfortable feelings is a part of life and that is something parents should also teach their kiddos to accept. Preventing your child from experiencing normal emotions can be harmful to kids in the long run, especially if you’re always saying yes to them.
    Linda explains that instead of brushing your child off when they are upset, parents should take that opportunity to teach their child about feelings. “This is a great skill that will help your child become a responsible adult,” adds Linda.
  • It Shows Them That You Care
    Young kids naturally crave for all that attention. By giving in to them often won’t do them good. When kids do not have any rules to follow, it causes anxiety for them, as they would think that mummy and daddy do not care enough to set rules for them.

And, if saying a straight no doesn’t seem to work, or if you’re afraid that it may dampen your kid’s self-esteem because of the constant rejection, there are many other ways in which you can say no to your kids indirectly.

  1. Distract Them
    This is probably the easiest trick in the book but it works better on younger children as compared to older kids. By distracting their attention to something else, it may make them forget what they wanted in the first place.
  2. Look For An Appropriate Redirect
    Instead of focusing on ‘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 preteen, setting a budget for clothing 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
    According to Dr Walsh, 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, adds Dr Walsh.

So remember, while saying no to your kids is good for them to hone self-discipline, it is crucial that you use it sparingly. The occasional candy or extended play time is alright, after all. The key is to just strike the right balance.