Other Ways to Say No

30 Jul 2015

It is the summer time and many parents are dealing with cranky and tired kids. In a previous article we spoke about how to prevent temper tantrums. We discussed how tantrums are a normal part of growing up and how sticking to a schedule can help. We also spoke about trying to figure out and understand what can trigger tantrums including factors like loud noises, fatigue, new places or new people.

There is another trigger for tantrums. Saying “no.” A “no” can set a child off. Children who are independent or strong-willed have an especially hard time taking “no” for an answer. It’s a pretty natural reaction when you think about it: even as adults, we hate it when someone says “no” to us. For our children, when we say “no” it sets the stage for conflict, arguments and hurt feelings.

As a part of growing up, children need to learn to hear and accept our “no.” However, when our children are on edge already, it is not the best time to do our teaching. Our goals as parents are to teach our children enough life skills so that they can manage one day on their own and be productive members of society. Strong-willed children already have a solid dose of the independence they need to make it in the world on their own and we should recognize it for the strength that it is. Remember that many great people were strong-willed and mischievous as children. It is a sign of good character, creativity and persistence. Not being able to hear the word “no” is not necessarily a bad thing.

Here are some creative ways to avoid saying the dreaded “NO” word:

“Can we play with the legos now?” GIVE INFORMATION: “It is time for our session to end.”
“I don’t want to play with pick-up sticks. I wanted to play with the Lite Brites. ACCEPT FEELINGS: “You were really looking forward to the Lite Brites, the problem is the Lite Brites are broken.”
“Can’t you pick me up for therapy after gym?” DESCRIBE THE PROBLEM: “I would really like to try to change my schedule, but the problem is this is the last period of the day.”
“Can we do our therapy on the playground?” SUBSTITUTE A YES FOR A NO “Yes, tomorrow we can do that. Today we have to be inside.”
“Can I bring Brianna the next time I come to see you?” GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO THINK: “Let me think about that and I will let you know later today.”


Adapted from Faber, A., Mazlish, E. (1999). How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids will Talk. NY: Harper Collins.

Check out Adina Soclof’s other columns here.


The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.