How To Say No To Your Child

I don’t know any parents who enjoy saying no to their child.  The reality however, is that children need to hear the word as it helps them understand that they can’t have everything that they want and that the world doesn’t revolve around them.  In reality, parents with small children have to pretty much revolve around them but the kids don’t have to know that.  So here are some things to remember about telling your child no.

  • Be clear and firm with your voice when you say it.  Kids aren’t stupid and will note any indecision as much as sharks smell blood in the water.
  • Take a few seconds to think about things before saying it and be ready to have a simple and legitimate reason.  With multiple kids and multiple activities, I’m prone to reflexively saying no in the moment and then have to go back and reconsider if the child responds with a good point.  That few seconds of thought can save you from the reputation of going back on a decision. 
  • One parent taught me that if you’re saying something to stop a child from engaging in a potentially dangerous activity, use stop instead of no.  Some kids do understand that the word stop has safety issues involved while the word no has the automatic impression of Dad just saying it because that’s what he says.  I’ve tried it and it actually does make a difference.
  • Don’t take it personally if the kids respond with attitude or appear not to like you.  Part of being a father is remembering that you’re a grown-up and it’s your job to look at the larger picture.  It’s irritating, but I can go for days without being liked – C’est la vie.
  • Be prepared to repeat yourself and don’t be afraid to apply consequences if the nagging doesn’t stop.  If you have a legitimate reason, stick with it.
  • That said, as the kids have aged, I’ve tried to offer alternatives when the situation allows.  It teaches the kids – over time – that there are other possibilities that can be explored and found acceptable.  No, Johnny can’t spend the night because we leave for Grandma’s early tomorrow morning.  But he can come by for a while this evening and I’ll take him home.

Kids want what they want and that’s the nature of children.  But it’s our jobs as fathers to temper their wants with the reality of daily life around us. 

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