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Stop Saying No


Two animated faces smiling

Johnny says "I want that cookie instead of lunch". Susie says "I don't want to stop playing in my fort". Mary puts her hands on her hips and says "no bath for me!". In order for our children to grow into independent people, they need to express their desires and begin to assert their autonomy. At the same time, many parents are often overcome with stress and exhaustion and push back with boundaries of their own.


At a very young age, our children get accustomed to hearing us say "no" to most of the requests they make that it no longer has any meaning. Many parents begin to express concern that their children no longer respect their parameters.


Some parenting programs, rightfully so, suggest to parents to make some changes to this reactive language. Try a few of these for a week and just see how the energy shifts with your child:


  1. Notice how often you are saying no to simple statements or requests from your child.

  2. Replace no with a reflective statement. For example, Johnny says, "I want a cookie instead of lunch" and instead of saying "cookie's aren't lunch" you could say "oh, I really like cookies too. I can see that you'd like to have cookies more often".

  3. Allow the yes to happen more often. "Johnny, that sounds like a fun idea to me too. How about if we eat 1/2 a cookie before lunch and 1/2 a cookie after lunch".

  4. Begin to wonder and evaluate the requests your child is making and what the potential downside is. Obviously, there are safety issues that you must say no too... but most of the time it just feels inconvenient or out of order with how we think we should be parenting.

Finding ways to join with our child often gives us more collateral when we really need to set strong boundaries or say no. Our children will be more accommodating with No's that are used less frequently. In addition, beginning to show up with them at their level tends to build good will and more calm and enjoyable interactions.