How to Say No to Your Kids

Learn how to say no to your kids. A tough part of being a parent is having to say "no". Why is this hard? We want to see our kids happy. If the child wants something and we say "yes," we know the child will be happy. It's nice for them and nice for us.

It's Easy to Say No
It's easy to say no when you are keeping your kid from getting hurt, as in, "No! Don't touch that hot stove!" That's not the hard kind of saying no, that's a parent's job: determining what is good or bad for a child and helping to teach the difference. Sometimes, though, kids will have a different opinion. That's when saying no can be hard.

The act of saying no itself isn't the challenge. Parents usually have a pretty good sense of when the answer should be no. Sometimes you'll face a tough decision with grey areas that need extra consideration, but even that isn't too hard. What's hard is anticipating how your child will react.

Kids react to being told no in a few different ways, all of which can be trying for parents. Here are the most common reactions, and how to deal with them.

Anger: Kids get angry when they are denied something they want. Parents feel bad when their kid is angry with them, and may even feel guilty for making their child angry. Get over it. You know that you made the right decision in saying no. Having boundaries is important for kids, as is knowing the parent is in charge. Whatever you do, don't back down. If you change your no to a yes because your child is angry, he learns that you can be manipulated by an angry reaction. That makes the parent weak and the child strong. This is not a good parent-child relationship.

If your child is handling her anger inappropriately, with rude words, physical aggression or a temper tantrum, she needs to be taught to manage her anger. Send her to her room or a time out space until she feels in control again. When she feels in control, she may rejoin whatever is taking place. If you need to leave a store to deal with this, do it. You can try getting her to pull herself together in the car, or you may need to return to the store at a later time. She'll learn that you mean what you say, which is what's most important. Do your best to stay calm, as meeting anger with calm firmness is much more effective than shouting back.

Arguing: Kids will try to reason, plea bargain, insist, beg or badger you to get you to try to change your answer. The pressure can make it very tempting to give in to make it stop. Again, don't back down. If you give in, you teach your child that his techniques will work the next time you say no. Sometimes you may wish to make a compromise. This is okay in certain circumstances. Not everything is black and white. Just be sure that whatever compromise you come up with is something that makes sense. For instance, if the kid wants to have a piece of candy, you may say no at first, but then reconsider and say the candy could be had under terms that you define, such as after dinner or after some healthy exercise, for example. Remember to stay in control and stay calm.

Whining or crying: This is another instance in which parents may feel bad for saying no. Parents don't like to see their kids unhappy. It's tempting to banish the tears by caving in, but backing down sends the message that you can be manipulated. You lose control of the relationship, and the child learns that crying and whining will get her what she wants. Treat this situation exactly as you would the anger situation. The child needs to be alone so he can calm himself down. When he is ready to talk like a big boy or feels calm again, he can come back.

Avoiding Saying no
It is possible to cut down the number of times you must say no to your kids. That doesn't make you weak, and it doesn't mean you should ignore what you feel is right.

When faced with a no, try to see if there is a compromise or adjustment that could be made to the child's request. For example, your child wants to play outside, but her room is a mess. Offer the chance to play outside when the room is clean. The child wants a toy he sees at the store and you don't want to buy it. Offer him a chance to earn the money to buy it for himself by doing chores or being helpful around the house. Keep a chart to show progress. This kind of compromising keeps the parent in control and teaches the child about appropriate give and take. It won't be long before your child is offering to do chores in exchange for getting what she wants.

When you do say no, explain the reason why to your child in terms she can understand. If the child wants to see an R-rated movie, explain why it's inappropriate. If something your child wants seems dangerous to you, explain your concerns and give your child a chance to respond to them. If you can't afford something your child wants, be honest about it and consider finding a way to make it possible.

In life, we seldom get everything we want whenever we want it. As a parent, saying no helps to teach your child responsibility, boundaries and delayed gratification. Explaining why you say no will help you build a strong and trusting relationship, even if you have to wait until the tantrum or crying is over.

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