How often does this happen: your child does something unacceptable and you stop them by saying “no,” then your child goes crazy and throws a tantrum!
I know it seems odd, but there’s a better way of saying “no” without actually saying the word ”no”.
The negative effects of saying ”no”
Saying “no” to children makes it appear as if you are against them; as if you are stopping them just because you want them to stop, and not because it is best for them. The word ”no” itself sounds aggressive and doesn’t justify anything. Instead of saying ”no”, make your children aware of the consequences of the behavior you don’t approve of.
What to say instead
For example, “Jane, please don’t throw the blocks at your brother, the blocks are hurting him and making him cry. How about we go over to your brother and see if he’s okay, and then the two of you can play with the blocks together.” Notice that I didn’t use the word “no,” but instead, I told Jane how her actions could hurt her brother and I also gave her an option to walk away from her actions that were causing her brother pain.
This strategy also works for when your children want an item, and you cannot give it to them. For example, instead of telling your children “no, you can’t have that,” try to express this without using negatives words; here’s an example: “John, I cannot give you that chocolate bar, but instead I can give you some fruit to eat, so that it will help you grow big and strong. After your fruit I will give you a piece of that chocolate bar.” This example also involves an alternative (“…instead I can give you…”), which is excellent in that it shows children you are not completely rejecting their wishes, but simply replacing it with an option that is better for them.
Working together to find a solution
Finally, if you do not agree with your children’s decision, try finding a solution together. For instance, if your children want to wear a shirt that no longer fits, don’t say, “No, you can’t wear this,” but let them know you will work together to find a more suitable option: “Jo, this shirt is too small and doesn’t fit you anymore. Here are two shirts that still fit you, which one of the two would you like to wear?” It is important to note that this strategy gives your children an opportunity to feel like they are in power by allowing them to choose between two or more options.
Children are not always going to want to listen to you-okay, they aren’t going to want to listen to you most of the time- however, we have to use language that will make our children to feel important. We also have to work together with our children to help them make the right decisions for themselves. Parenting isn’t always about just giving orders, but it’s more about working with your child and guiding them.
I hope these strategies work well for your family, like they did for mine!
Until next time!