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When we say no to a child, it often then loses meaning. “No” tells kids what not to do, rather than what to do. There isn’t much information in a no to helping the child move forward in a more productive way. So, you may be wondering, how can I say no to my child less?

Saying no is hard to do with children because sometimes their behaviours make it appealing to want to give in.

It’s important for your child to always feel safe and loved, so it’s important we provide boundaries to keep them safe. Often this may cause your little one to be upset because they don’t end up with what they want.

Saying no is important as it sets healthy boundaries, teaches them to tolerate other people’s boundaries, and deepens empathy, self-awareness and relationships with other children. It is important for them to understand why so they can come to peace with your decision.

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Explain the reason why

Take the time to tell them why they can’t. Statements such as “Because I said so” or “Because I told you so” are not efficient in this situation as you aren’t giving them an appropriate reason. This is important as it lets them come to peace with your decision, but also acknowledge their feelings as well.

“It’s expected to be disappointed, I would feel disappointed too.” 

If they are angry or frustrated, they might need to expel some energy outside for a few minutes, take some deep breaths, do some colouring in to calm down or maybe even have a rest.

Offer an alternative

Once the boundaries have been set and your child is aware of your feelings, we also want to offer choices. For example, if they aren’t wanting to get dressed for the day, give them a few options and ask them to choose what they would like to wear. This gives your child a sense of independence and control in the situation.

Redirecting their behaviours

We want to remind our children of their choices when they are challenging your boundaries. It’s important to keep consistent and follow through with expectations that have been made clear to them. Follow through with your consequences and reinforce their behaviour when they do respect your choice.

Modeling an appropriate behaviour can also be effective. For example, if they are patting the dog a little too aggressively, show them what to do by patting the dog softly and telling them what the dog likes.

If you are stressed in the situation, let your child know. Tell them “I am going outside for some fresh air for a few minutes, I’ll be back when I’m feeling better.” This shows your child how to respect other people’s boundaries as well as their own.

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Tips from a Little Scholars Educator

Little Scholars Educator Holly says “Instead of saying “no” to running inside, we often say “Stop. What feet do we use inside?” Or “Do you think what you’re doing is a good choice?”.

If a child is jumping off furniture we get down to their level and ask them “What is the chair used for?” “A chair is for sitting on.”

Sometimes we have children who want to keep the tap on in the bathroom just to experiment with the water and its cause and effect. During these times we ask the children “What are the taps used for? “They are for washing our hands.” “I understand you might want to play with water and feel different textures, so how about we set up a fun water experience instead?” Something more appropriate and positive to redirect.

Empathising with children during challenging behaviors is so important. Children want to be heard and understood like us adults do. Providing children with appropriate suggestions and redirection is more positive and beneficial than just saying “no” all the time. It doesn’t always allow the children to critically think as to why are they doing what they’re doing and what they can do instead.

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