NO! Have you had enough of hearing that?

Written on the 10 January 2020 by Meg Parkinson

There isn't a person alive who doesn't hate being told no, but it can be infinitely frustrating when this word repeatedly comes at you from young children, sometimes after the most innocent request. The 'attitude' in which it is said, increasing in gusto as they get older.

If you are getting 'No!' answers way too often, here are some ideas to reduce them:

1. Give choices that can't be answered by yes or no. E.g. Do you want to wear your yellow t-shirt or your red t-shirt? Do you want me to read 'Cinderella' or 'The Bear who Followed the Rainbow'? Do you want to take the bins out now or after dinner? Are you going to set the table tonight or wash up?

2. Tell instead of asking. Asking gives them the power. When you ask your voice goes up at the end of the question, you don't sound like you are the one in charge, and you often don't sound like you expect them to respond the way you want. Tell them what you want them to do. E.g Would you like to buckle your seat belt? - It's time to buckle your seat belt. Would you like to come sit at the table for dinner? - It's dinner time, up to the table now.

3. Often saying no gives children a sense of power. Give them power in more appropriate ways. Give them age appropriate jobs to do in the house. Believe it or not, helping out gives children a sense of responsibility. Ask them to help you make decisions about your daily activities together.

4. Check that they really mean no, young children just love saying the word because it is short and strong. Don't get involved if they are just having some fun with it or they will realise its power and start using it against you. Just go on with your activity, gently take them by the hand and move them in the direction you wanted them to go. Use humour. Tickle them, smile. It is no fun having a power struggle with someone who is not fighting back.

5. Listen for feelings. If children are feeling upset they are less likely to be obliging. Say, It sounds like you are upset because you were really enjoying playing on the swing and now we have to go. I wish we didn't have to go too!

6. Accept the no answer at the time, but discuss it later when you are both calm to avoid power struggles. (It is better to lose the battle to win the war!) Recognise that they are trying to establish themselves as individuals. Honour that by telling them that it is ok to say no. Talk about the circumstances where they can say no. Explain how you want them to say it so it doesn't sound rude. Let them know that if they don't agree to what you are suggesting then they have to come up with another idea that you can both agree on.

7. Find a way to 'yes'. Do you notice that you are often the one saying 'No!' On many occasions, children ask us for something, and we want to say no. For example, your child may ask, "May I watch T.V?" Instead of saying no, you can reply, "You may watch T.V as soon as you finish your homework". This reply is far more positive; it is a 'yes' rather than a 'no'. It also establishes that you expect your child to be doing the right thing.


Author:Meg Parkinson