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As parents we have to say no to our kids often. Numerous times a day. For big things and little things. And so often our little people get very frustrated with that answer.
I would too, in all honesty, if the majority of decisions about my life were made by someone else. Because sometimes I am saying no to something they can quite reasonably understand. Like the 50th request for an otter pop before 10am.
But all too often, they don’t seem to agree with my answer. They believe with all their little hearts that the answer should be an enthusiastic yes! Due to this deeply held belief on their part, my children have been known to throw a temper tantrum, flail around in protest or cop a severe attitude.
Sound familiar? Of course it depends on the age of the child, but sometimes the response is very unpleasant and definitely something I’d like to avoid. So, I decided to try a new way of saying no when possible.
A side note here: I do think it is completely and totally ok for our kids to hear the answer, no. I don’t think we need to coddle them to the point of never being told no. Or falling into the habit of saying yes all too often simply to avoid the negative response we get. However, there are different no’s.
The Easy No’s
“Can I use a rope to hang a plastic chair over the railing of the deck and swing my brother in it?” NO
“Can I have thirteen friends over while you are gone?” NO
“Can I pack my sister’s diaper full of dirt?” NO
These are the easy no’s. They can be followed up by a quick explanation of why the idea is not their best to date. But in these cases we don’t have to think too hard about our answer to such requests.
Nicely Wrapped No’s
On the other hand, there are questions that, while the answer is no, really can be met with a slight variation.
“Can I get this talking pet dog toy that Sarah has at her house that I played with and it’s so fun?!” My response that is a nicely wrapped no: “That toy does look like a lot of fun. I’ll have to keep that in mind for your birthday that is coming up.”
“Can I go next door and see if McKenzie can come play?” My response that is a nicely wrapped no: “Actually, I’m going to be making dinner in a few minutes. So, let’s invite her over when we will have more time to play. I think we could make that happen sometime soon.”
“I’m not tired. Can I stay up and go to bed later?” My response that is a nicely wrapped no: “I understand it is hard to go to bed when you aren’t tired. We are done for the day around here. But if you’d like to lay in your bed with a few books and enjoy them until you feel tired, you are more than welcome.”
“Can we go swim in the deep pool while you stay over here with the baby in the kiddie pool?” My response that is a nicely wrapped no: “The deep pool is so much fun. I totally agree! How about next time we invite Daddy or Nana to come with us? Then we can have an adult stay with the baby and I can take you over there, ok?”
“Can we have ice cream for breakfast?” My response that is a nicely wrapped no: “Oh my word! That is a super fun and crazy idea! I think that would be fun to do someday. I’ll have to think about when we could do that.”
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It Makes A Difference
There really are endless opportunities to give our children a slight variation of no without it seeming like we are ending the conversation very abruptly or without acknowledging that some part of their request is valid. Honestly, so often my kids appreciate when I acknowledge that their idea is fun or good or pull out any piece of it that is reasonable. Obviously this doesn’t work every time and isn’t necessarily to do with every request. However, it really has made a difference in our house.
Kids Think Differently
Also, kid’s have a very different mind set and way of thinking that usually doesn’t go beyond the very day they are in. So, when we say no to something, sometimes they believe it means no forever. They don’t understand that it may not be a good idea on that particular day or at that particular time.
The toy they want is a fun one that they would like and perhaps you’d even like to get it for them. But their birthday or Christmas or some other holiday may be just a few weeks away. So, buying them a toy right now wouldn’t make sense. So you aren’t actually saying no forever, but you are saying no for right now. And the ice cream for breakfast….well, that is obviously not a healthy choice but could be a very fun one to surprise them with at some point.
The answers given above lets your kids know you appreciate their fun idea but also gives you time to think about if you would really ever want to do that. It’s not a final no, but it’s a no for right now that is wrapped in a thoughtful response.
A Better Response
I have found that my kids respond so much better to this way of saying no. It simply means not right now but they see that their request something I will consider. And honestly, if the request is a rather wild one that toddlers and even four or five year olds bring up, I find that giving this kind of response works really well. Mostly because it puts their mind at ease and then it is rarely ever brought up by them again. My willingness to acknowledge their idea and consider their request often softens their response to my kind way of saying no, not right now.
On any given day and at any given time, I’ll take fewer tantrums and a little less ‘tude thrown my way. This little variation of saying no has sure done that around here. So, hopefully it’ll be another tool in your box of parenting tricks!