9 Tips on Saying “No” to Your Child

9 Tips on Saying “No” to Your Child

To discipline a child is very hard which can even be heartbreaking. You want to see a sunny smile on your child’s face, not a sad frown, tears, or the dreaded tantrum. Saying “no” the wrong way can cause long-term damage, but doing it the right way can make your child happy and give you long-term relief. Here are some effective tips on saying “no.”

Once is Enough

Delivering your first “no” in a firm tone, so there is no need to reiterate. You can use a serious facial expression and communicate the reasons why your child is not getting what they want. If the first “no” does not work, try a different approach, such as finding ways to say “yes.”

To relent is the major mistake. If your child learns that they can harass you into a “yes”, they will manipulate you incessantly.


It is not enough to say “no.” Children do not understand and are likely to repeat misbehavior unless you give an explanation. The most effective way to say “no” is to give valid reasons your child can understand.

“Yes” Can Mean “No”

Children hear “no” too many times, harming their language development and potentially causing resentment. It is entirely possible to say “yes” while meaning “no.” For example, if your child asks for a cookie, you can reply: “Yes, you can have a cookie after dinner.” If they ask for a new toy while shopping, say: “Yes, if this is what you want for Christmas.” In this way, your child has the opportunity to get what they want on a special day and learns to compromise.

Do Not Shout

Child Development Journal writes, “Yelling at your kids can be just as bad as corporal punishment, and it could cause behavior problems and emotional development issues.” The consequences of yelling at children outweigh any possible benefit of temporarily silencing them. The Journal of Marriage and Family found that yelling can cause depression and self-esteem issues. Thus, it is vital to learn to communicate in a calm and friendly manner.

Persistent requests are often a form of boredom. Paying attention to your child by engaging in conversation or playing with them can quickly change the object of their attention and refocus it onto something more positive.

Respect Their Privacy

Do not embarrass your child in front of other people. Get their attention, go to a private place and clearly communicate your reasons for saying “no.” Your child may resent you if you disrespect them in public, especially if other people make fun of them. Remember, if you embarrass your child in public, they will learn to do the same to you!

Say No with an Alternative

Giving alternatives can convince your child that you are not declining their request. For example: “No, darling, you cannot have candy; you can have an apple instead” offers an alternative and opens the door to an explanation about the health benefits of apples over candy.

Do not Give False Hopes

Parents often say: “Not now, darling.” If not now, when? If you fail to fulfill your implied promise, your child may start having trust issues. Give a concrete period that your child can expect to have their wish granted. For example: “Not now, darling. We will buy that for your birthday.”

Let the Child Choose

Choosing empowers children and makes them feel that their opinions are worth something. They will not feel ignored if they get to decide. For example, you can decline a request for candy and ask if there is a piece of fruit that they would like instead, reminding them of your explanation about the health benefits.

When choosing items like breakfast cereal, pick a few viable options and allow your child the final decision rather than allowing them to pick from the whole range. Giving permission to choose anything can result in bad selections you will have to deny, undermining the importance of their opinion.

Do Not Contradict Your Partner

Sometimes one parent will say “no”, only to see the child go to the other parent for a “yes.” This can cause conflict between parents and create a manipulative habit in your child. You and your partner must communicate: it’s easy to ask whether a decision has already been made.

Saying “no” is difficult. You want to make your children happy. It’s a lot easier, at least in the moment, to cave in to their wants. It’s easier to shout. However, given the long-term negative effects, it is imperative that you spend time learning to communicate calmly and effectively.