How To Say No To Your Kids

When NO feels like the only answer you ever tell your child

Do you feel like you are always saying “no” to your child?

Children are naturally very curious, so in most cases, parents have to keep an eye on anything a child gets up to. When we constantly keep them from doing what they want, they will eventually have a temper tantrum. Is there someplace that we can say yes, or know how to say no to your kids in a nice way and let them explore in ways that will enrich their minds and help give them a love of learning?

During our Shichida early learning classes, we encourage parents to say “yes” to learning at all times. While our curriculum definitely has a high standard that teaches kids excellence and improvement of their skill levels, we use language that helps a child explore different concepts that will leave lasting positive impressions on learning. Here are some ways we can say “yes”, and at the same time guide them towards more effective ways to learn a subject or make better decisions in life:

1. Use this phrase often: “That’s one way of seeing that. Maybe we can also see it this way. It might give you a better result as well.”

When our child makes mistakes, we often want to react by saying, “No, that’s wrong!” By saying this you are closing the door to your child’s heart. When they are still learning to do a particular skill, they won’t have the ability that an adult has. We have to see the positive aspects of what they have done, and then use those points to get the child to see a more effective way of doing a particular activity.

By acknowledging what the child has done and then using that as a starting point to their learning, children will feel accepted, and they will be more open to suggestion and guidance.

2. Avoid open-ended questions. Only give two choices: “Is it two things or three things?”

One of the most common mistakes parents make when helping to guide a child towards more effective decisions is by asking too many open-ended questions. Many times, instead of asking, “Don’t you like vegetables, why do you always want lollies?” we are confusing the child even further. Perhaps we can ask the question, “Do you want to eat your broccoli before you eat the mash, or do you want to eat the broccoli last?” Or another option might be, “Do you want to eat the broccoli and then dessert, or do you want not eat broccoli and not have any dessert?”

This might seem very obvious to an adult, but a child needs their options very clearly stated and they need to be constantly reminded of what consequences their actions have. In this way, we are providing both consistency and also giving them a sense of control, that will help them to make better decisions in the future.

3. Be the example. Give them a behind the scenes look at how it all works.

When you are making certain choices that you would like your child to take, maybe you can verbalise to a child why you made the decisions. If you have a particularly difficult craving, like chocolate, instead of just mindlessly reaching into the fridge and grabbing some chocolate, you can tell your child, “Hmmmm, Daddy would like to have some chocolate, but you know what? Chocolate might make my appetite go away. Maybe we can share an apple?” In this way, you can show your child other options they might take, instead of always having to say, “no” to them, you can offer other healthier or more constructive options.

Using these language patterns and ways of giving options and nice ways how to say no to kids helps them learn how to control their urges positively, helps them learn patience and gives them an ability to compromise, a very important skill that will help them in adulthood.

4. Distract them with something else

Kids are always interested in new things. When you want them to focus on something more useful or positive, you can always use an excited tone and say, “Wow! What’s this?” and give them something else to focus on before they become too fixated on the original object. This requires quick thinking and you will get better at this the more you do it.

One clear example of doing this happens often during Shichida lessons. Kids are playing with one Shichida activity and refuse to hand it back. Instead of grabbing it from their hands (one should never really do this of course, unless it’s something harmful or dangerous), Shichida teachers often take out the next object and make a big deal of how interesting the new activity is: “Wow, I have this really fun activity coming up next! Thank you all that passed the original one back. You will all have lots of fun with this new activity!” Very often, the child will hand back the activity quickly in order to get the new one.

5. Explaining to them why something wasn’t appropriate:  It will hurt their feelings

Very often we say “No” to kids because what they do might bother or harm another child. One way to help a child learn why they shouldn’t do something is to help instil a sense of empathy in them. We can help them understand that by doing something they will make someone uncomfortable and make them sad and maybe even cry. Of course, while children are very sensitive and clever about their environment, sometimes they might not fully empathise with others and not understand that their negative actions hurt other people’s feelings. Be sure to use clear language and repeat both the positive and negative consequences of their actions often, so they can see how they affect others. “Great job Sue. You shared your toy very kindly with the little boy. He felt really happy to play with it.” “Please talk in a more quiet voice. If your voice is too loud, you might wake the baby from its nap and he will feel sad and cry.” A clear explanation of what action is being taken, what the consequences of the action are, and how it will make people feel, will help a child understand how they can make a positive difference in the world.

These options to saying “no” will give you more choices to help your child become better decision-makers and help them understand that they can make other people feel loved and supported as well, as skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

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