The Art Of Saying A Positive ‘NO’

August 3, 2016 at 10:58 pm by Abhilasha Dey  0

No is a negative word, be it for you yourselves parents or your child. the word ‘No’ brings disappointment but it’s true that the first step in disciplining your toddler is to get him to accept ‘no’, because accepting a no means saying ‘no’ to oneself. This is much work because before this they haven’t been vocally stopped or just been prevented wordlessly. As they grow up they recognize their ability to do something about the situation to revert it in their favor. Hence, it becomes a challenge. Parents find themselves either being too harsh or being too liberal. So, we are here with ways to tutor in the art of saying ‘no’ positively.


PC: The Huffington Post

1. Strike a Balance Between ‘Y’ and ‘N’

In this case, your child feels just like you do. If his day is too full of ‘no’, he grows to think that everything is negative. On the other hand, if the child gets a ‘yes’ one too many times, he tends to be more disturbed and frustrated the few times that he does get a ‘no’. So, try to strike a balance between saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’. In most of the families, the child quickly recognizes which parent is most likely to say ‘no’ and which parent is more likely to say ‘yes’.

2. The Growth of ‘No’

The art of saying ‘no’ grows too as the child grows. During the first year of the child you are mostly a ‘yes’ person because you know that the baby’s needs and wants are the same things, that is to say, that the wants are not unreasonable or harmful. As the baby slowly grows, you start using more of ‘no’ as the needs start differing from the want. During the second you are both a ‘yes’ and ‘no person. From 9 to 14 months you use ‘low energy ‘no’s’ , then after as the child starts protesting more firmly you start saying ‘no’  with more energy and conviction. This is the place where parents need to be creative and more convincing, telling their child that they are old enough to handle life.

3. Creative Alternatives to a Direct ‘no’

Work on making the ‘no’ a positive thing. If your child is romping about the house doing things that obviously you do not want him to do, and both you are tired of the ‘no’s you have sprouted since morning, why don’t you just take him/her outside and play with him? This gives him a chance to romp about while giving you peace of mind as well. Don’t tell the child that he can’t do something, tell him instead what he can do. If you do not want him to stop dirtying the floor with colors, simply ask him to spread a few sheets of the newspaper instead of asking him to stop doing what he is doing.

4. Body Language

Your ‘no’ is much more effective if your body language says ‘no’ as well.You should start making your disapproval known through your looks and actions starting from that first nip during breastfeeding which registers the expression of pain on your face. Studies have found that if the child is more attached to the parent he is more likely to interpret and take notice of negative body language. Make your child so used to positive body language that even a slight change in your body language makes the child sit up and take notice. A mother of a connected two-year-old has spoken as such- “Usually, all I have to do is glance at her with a slight frown on my face, and she stops misbehaving.”

5. Work With Stop Sounds

Parenting comes with the challenges of voice modulation as well. a  disapproving look or change in your body language is just the first step in expressing your displeasure. Step two is the ‘parent voice’ which absolutely demands that the child pays attention and stop doing what he is doing. Hence, this voice has absolutely gotta be impressive. Even the child understands that when ‘the voice’ is out it means that he has done it for the say. Modulate your voice to say ‘stop doing that’ in a different way to convey the gravity of the situation so that the child may understand if that was just a warning or if that was the red light.

6. The Look

Remember the ‘frosty nose stare’ from ‘The Umbrella Man by Roald Dahl’? That is what we are talking about. If not, then just try to remember that look of disapproval that your mother reserved only for you, which made you shrink. A master disciplinarian masters ‘The Look’. The look that says ‘ I do not like what you are doing but I know that you know better than that and will stop immediately. This is a look that the child recognizes and will register if you convey harshness or contempt. This may be hurtful and hence ‘The Look’ should be followed with actions which say ‘I might disapprove of what you did but I love you’. Make the child understand you disapprove of the action, not him.

7. Find Alternatives to the Word ‘no’

Saying something repeatedly causes the thing to lose its punch. Same goes with saying no.Try using a different tactic. For example, if the child is reaching for the dustbin, you say -dirty! will make you sick’, that combined with a disgusted expression will make him realize that something is wrong about the action. The next time the child does the same thing, use this approach again. This will make the child realize from your expression, what is good behaviour and what is not. Use phrases like ‘not for Johnny’ or whatever the child’s name is instead of an outright no and if possible, offer the child a better alternative. Saying no is almost an automatic reaction but it is irritating and disheartening for the child as well. Always make the child understand the reason behind you saying no and express that it is only out of concern for him.

8. The Voice

We do not mean the T.V show as much as we would like to. Just Like we discussed that you need to master ‘The Look’, similarly, you need to cultivate ‘The Voice’ as well. Remember that voice which your mother used and which effectively used to stop you in your tracks and realize that things just got serious? We are talking about achieving that. Reserve a special tone for your kid which is recognized as ‘shit-just-got-serious’ tone and stops in his tracks immediately.

9. Package the ‘No’ Better

Sometimes you should say no in a way that the child does not realize that you are saying no. Let’s take the example of a scenario in which your child is whining for M&M’s and discuss the various ways-

  • Agree-” Sure you may have the M&M but after dinner.”
  • Offer a choice-” having one now will kill your appetite, so you may have one now or may have four after dinner, it’s your choice.”
  • Provide an alternative- “You already had candies in the afternoon, how about some tasty berries?”. But the alternative should be compatible with the original demand, it’s a trade after all.
  • Distract- ”hey look, Blueberry the squirrel is back! where was he all these days..I wonder..” and the M&M;s are effectively forgotten.
  • Get Playful- Chase her around with the monster claw ( your hand) yelling ”I eat kids who want M&M’s before dinner! who was it that wanted them?”
  • Enlist help from authorities– ”I don’t think M&M’s should be had before dinner, honey. Why don’t we do a thing, the next time we visit Dr.Q, we will ask him to confirm, okay?”
  • If you can’t beat them, join them-“Even I want some. How I wish the rule for not eating M&MM before dinner did not exist.”
  • Write I O U’s– ” Here lemme write this Mama owes you 4  M&M’s after dinner.”
  • Appeal to her Logical part-” You know what happens when you eat M&M’s before dinner, you are unable to eat properly and then you won’t become a big girl like Sarah.”
  • Sing silly no songs- “The N says no..The N says No! Every letter makes a sound… N says ‘ no M&M’s before dinner’… Well, it works!

10. Avoid Setting Yourself up

Avoid putting yourself into situations in which you will be forced to say no.If you are going to a toy shop to buy a birthday gift for someone else with your child, it is only natural that the kid would want to buy everything in the store. Make it clear to the child that you are in the store to buy a birthday present for someone else and not a toy for him so that he does not expect a toy for himself.

11. You can Receive a ‘no’ Too

No is a child’s word too. Suppose your child is happily playing with water at the kitchen sink and you ask her to stop and she emphatically says ‘no’, your automatic reaction is ” this tiny thing is talking back to me! I will show her who is in charge here..”. Well, we would like to tell you that it is not to be taken personally. The child has just staked out her territory and feels that she can do whatever she likes in it. So be prepared to receive a no as well. This is a part of growing up for the child and is important too as the child has to pick up where the mother has left. Understand that this does not undermine your authority. Taking away your child’s right to say no is like curtailing her ability to say no in important situations in the future.

12. Mean a ‘no’ When you Say a ‘No’

Follow through your directives always without leaving a doubt in the child’s mind that you will follow through with what you say.Every parent makes little deals with their children like- brushing teeth before bed means unrestricted bed-time stories, eating the veggies at the dinner table means 4 M&M’s after dinner etc. Martha, a mother of three says-” I and my husband have always made my daughter understand that there would be no bedtime stories for her if she does not brush her teeth. One day she decided to call my bluff and I could see the set of her jaw that she wouldn’t brush, so I calmly said ”no stories then, time for bed” and switched off the lights. My daughter understood that I was calling her bluff and from then  onwards there has been daily brushing and unlimited stories.” So, this is how it works.

13. Be Considerate

Saying no does not mean that you have to be rude as well. Suppose your baby finds the roll of wrapping paper left over on the floor, he would obviously think that it is a great toy and will start exploring it and by exploring I mean tearing odd parts and littering the floor. Your first reaction would be to swoop in, snatch it off his hand bark a ‘NO’. But this will leave the child pitifully wailing, so what you can do is explore this wonderful toy with him before tearing off a bit off the roll and giving it to him while you safely tuck in the roll elsewhere. See? It’s as simple as that.

14. Personalize the ”No”

Remember, the more you respect the child, the more he will respect you. Respecting the child does not mean that you are giving over power to him, it only means that you are giving him the incentive to love you even more. When you say no, don’t just shout a balant general ‘no’, try addressing your child like ”No, Lauren” or whatever the name of your child is. This somehow softens the blow  of the ‘no’.

15. Have a ‘Yes’ Day

For some parents, the child does not mind even when they ask him to do the simplest things, this makes for a cranky parent and ultimately an unhappy child though the child is unable to understand this. Why not give him the option of a ‘yes’ day? Ask him if he would likes a happy mummy or unhappy mummy? If he wants a happy mummy, all he has to do is gather ‘yes’s throughout the day. If the number of ‘yes’s exceeds the number of ‘no’s in a day, then you have your ‘yes’ day and you should something special with your child. Your child would soon understand that a happy parent is far better than a cranky parent and will try to obey as much as possible.

You see from the above points that your kids are not to be treated as your inferior, as your child of course but to bee treated with respect as they are little human beings as well. Treat them as you’d treat yourself, your spouse or your friends because they feel too. Be sensitive towards them.

Happy Parenting!

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