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Don’t Say No to Saying “No!”

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

By Melissa De Los Santos

The word no has such a bad reputation. Saying “no” has been associated with deprivation, limitation, and domination; but that’s not always the case. “No” should not be seen as a rejection, but a firm way of setting boundaries for your child — which is an important element in their development.

So how do we say “no” without being so negative?

Tell them exactly what you want them to do.

A child running inside the house will surely be met with a resounding “No running!” — which is not as effective as you think. Children will respond better when, instead of telling them what not to do, you tell them what they should do. You can tell the child to “Walk please!” or “Slow down!” to help them understand exactly what they need to be doing. This approach works especially with toddlers and primary children. Younger children may not be as adept in figuring out that walking is the opposite of running, and it will take them longer to realize what they need to do. So the next time you want your child to do something, skip the “no” and tell them exactly what to do!

Say no, and explain why .

“Mom, can I watch TV?”


“But why?!” “Because I said so.”

Does this conversation sound familiar? Exchanges like these give the word no its bad reputation. Feelings of rejection are heightened when the child does not understand why they were not allowed to do something. There must be a reason why you are setting this boundary for your child, and you should explain it. Tell them they can’t watch TV because you need them to finish homework first, or because you’d rather have them read a book. Whatever the reason may be, the child will handle the “no” better when they understand why it was being said.

You don’t always have to say “no” to say no.

Saying “no” is an easy thing to do, but sometimes, we have to rephrase this in a certain way so that the child hearing it will accept it more willingly than just a straight up “no”. You can give suggestions or options that you would rather the child do. For example, you are at the mall and your child wants to buy a toy. Instead of saying “no”, you can tell them something like, “That toy seems pretty cool, but that toy we bought last week is really cool, too. We should play with it when we get home!” Redirecting the child this way helps them move towards what you want them to do without feeling rejected.

These are just a few tips to help set those boundaries without feeling too negative about doing so. Do you have other techniques? Please share them with us!

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