“No” is Okay for Parents to Say!

How to Handle and Prevent the Backlash from, “No”

Yup, we’ve all seen it, kids who overreact to when they are told, “No” by their parents. Call it what you like but I have seen the following behaviors in response to this simple two letter word we are calling, “No”

  • Crying
  • Begging
  • Hitting
  • Laying on the floor
  • Asking again and again in hopes that the adult will change their mind
  • Yelling
  • Threats
  • Stomping
  • Slamming doors
  • Ignoring

Basically, it’s all about being able to have some kind of control. And this will continue as they get bigger as well in order to make a declaration of their own independence…if and only if you don’t get a handle on this NOW!

So what can you do?

Just breathe

The first step, as is the case with most things in regards to parenting is to stay calm. Take a deep breath and center yourself first.

Give choices instead

When you ask yes/no questions, you’re more likely to be met with defiance. So try formulating a choice. Instead of saying, “Your can’t wear your dress shoes.” Ask your child if she’d rather wear her sneakers or her boots. She’ll get a choice and that choice will feel empowering. As a matter of fact, the more choices you present to your young children in this way, the better the response you will get. Putting a positive spin on any situation makes it easier for your child to respond positively. Just make sure the choices you present to her are acceptable to you so that whatever she chooses you won’t be upset. This also works great as your children get older so keep this one under your hat.

Let them be a helper

Children are naturally inclined to want to please us. But why then do they get all bent out of shape when we ask them to clean their room or do some mundane chores around the house? Again, it’s because they feel powerless. Just like Huck Finn tricked his friends into whitewashing the fence, you’ve got to put that same positive spin on what you want done. So rephrase it. Things like, “I know you want to play outside, which will fun! You know, you’re such a good helper so once we get all of these toys put away we can head outside.” And don’t forget to thank your child too. She will be much more inclined to pitch in when you use this form of asking.

Don’t make it a battle from the beginning

Instead of fighting, head things off at the pass. When you tell your child you won’t take her to play at the park until she cleans her room or finishes her lunch or whatever it may be, it sets the stage for negativity. Try saying, “As soon as you finish cleaning up, we can go play in the park,” which will elicit a positive response, which is exactly what you want!

Say, “Yes” when you can

It’s not reality to always tell your kids, “No”. Even it is goes against the norm of your routine, it is okay to mix it up sometimes and say, “Yes, we can stay up an hour late.” Or “Yes, you can have desert before dinner tonight.” Don’t make a habit around going against the routine, but know that when you do it every once and a while, it builds the bond between you and your kids. It also makes those “No” time easier to manage!

Be empathetic

Let your child know you understand when she’s disappointed about something. And again, spin things in a positive light. So she doesn’t want to stop playing but it’s bedtime. You can tell her you understand that playing is so much fun, but you’re going to read her an awesome story after she puts on her pajamas to make up for it.

Leave your feelings out of it

It can be really hard not to take it personally when your child is spouting off at you when they are upset. I remember when my son first stomped away from me and slammed his bedroom door; not once, but twice!! I remember feeling like a failure and wondering why I didn’t handle that situation better. But these are just growing pains and when handled properly, he will grow out of it with consistency and patience.

Be firm

No means no. There are very few situations where your dicision should change to a yes. Why? Because each time a child wears you down by doing the behaviors listed at the top of this article and you give in, it teaches them that they don’t need to listen to us. And that what we say really isn’t what we  mean. This is totally a problem for when kids are constantly trying to get their way with. But it is an even bigger problem when it impacts their ability to take you seriously when you speak and act.

Start to create a set of coping tools

What is that? It’s a way for your kids (and adults) to manage their emotions. By tapping into what helps each of your kids handle strong emotions such as dissapointment, anger, and frustration you can decrease the stress responses that you get when that dreaded, “No” is delivered!

Remember, children need our guidance but they also need to make their own decisions. We can’t decide everything for them but what we can do is to raise them with consistency to help them achieve their very best as respectful and responsible adults.

In Empowement,

Barb Roba, LMHC

Founder of Behavior Corner, LLC

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