Many Crème de la Crème parents like you are searching for nurturing ways to redirect your children’s unwanted behavior. Thankfully, there are many positive ways to tell your child “NO.” Use our guide to explore a few expert-recommended alternatives to this two-letter word.

Set Them Up for Success

A child plays with her sister as part of a positive parenting exercise

Amelia and Riese Terrorizing the Village” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by donnierayjones

While we all agree that kids need limits, most children start tuning us out after a constant barrage of nos. They rely on us to protect them from their curious and impulsive natures, so we need something to keep blissfully unaware youngsters safe and secure — within our set boundaries.

Start by minimizing the need to pull out this frightful word. Look around your house. Is it genuinely toddler-friendly, or should you put Grandma’s tea set a shelf or two higher? Keep forbidden temptations and dangers far away from little fingers. Then, place age-appropriate toy boxes, books, and stuffed animals within easy reach. These tempting items offer interesting and safe opportunities for your kiddos to explore their surroundings freely.

Use Redirection

Just like David Copperfield, moms and dads can use this technique to manage an unruly child’s behavior. Take advantage of this alternative in a store when your child becomes fixated on a toy or other must-have. Redirecting their attention to something they can have, such as a bright yellow banana, is often the difference between heading to the car with a screamer or making it successfully through the line.

Another occasion to use redirection happens to every parent. Instead of saying, “NO! Don’t color on the wall!” Remind your little ones that crayons draw on paper. Ask them where the sheets are and make a game of finding them.

Words Have Meaning

The way you speak to your child matters. Using action words with children, such as “walk,” when they’re running in the house, or “stop,” when they’re pulling the cat’s tail, are terrific alternatives to saying no. Giving your preschoolers more information than a single word does an excellent job conveying the message that they’re doing something that isn’t allowed. Phrases like “Don’t kick the dog.” are more effective than merely shouting “No!” at this age.

Give your children a verbal warning when you see them heading toward disaster. A noise like “ah, ah, ah,” followed by a statement like “Come away from the stove. It’s hot.” may be enough to sidestep a dreaded no. Teach them to say “excuse me,” instead of “no pushing,” when you notice them bump into other children on the playground.

Ask About the Rules

Children quickly learn about rules, especially once they get into kindergarten. When the kids break a household rule, ask them to tell you what they’ve done wrong. This habit helps your kids become accountable for their actions, and it gives them a chance to correct themselves. Standing proud and reciting your family’s cherished customs is a positive trait they’ll carry into adulthood. You might ask them:

  • Where do we throw the football?
  • How does the dog like to be petted?
  • What’s the rule about playing near the stove?

Motivate Them To Do the Right Thing

As parents, we want to guide and shape our children in the most positive ways possible. So to eliminate frustration — for both parents and kids — try eliminating the word no altogether. Instead, incorporate a few positive phrases to encourage your kids to do their best. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Be specific: Instead of saying no to playing outside until they finish chores, consider adding a specific measure to this seemingly insurmountable task, such as picking up 10 toys.
  • Voice your appreciation: Let your child know that you and the dog would appreciate it if they petted softly, as opposed to “No, don’t pinch the dog!”
  • Explain the big picture: Often, children don’t understand the motivation behind the no. Use age-appropriate words to explain why jumping on the furniture is disrespectful to the household.
  • Explain what their behavior says: Ditch no for a feeling statement, like “Throwing your toys must mean you don’t like them anymore.”
  • Make them earn it: If a yes in the future is possible, show your child how they can achieve it. Ask their reasoning. You may be surprised by their efforts to earn what they want.

Show Empathy

If your child keeps asking the same question and you keep saying “no,” now is the time to show some empathy. It may seem like your response just isn’t getting through, so directly address their desires and tell them, “I wish you could.” This sentiment goes a long way in recognizing your little one. Saying, “I understand you want to go to the after-school party. However, that evening we have family plans.”

Transitions are especially hard when you tell children something they don’t want to hear, like “It’s time to take a bath.” Avoid responding to resistance and set concrete closure by dictating, “Once the next commercial comes on, it’s time to turn off the TV.”

Consider Saying Yes

This suggestion might seem a bit contradictory. However, consider saying yes now and then. This doesn’t mean giving the kids free rein in the house. Spend an afternoon saying yes and see if your home becomes calmer and your children happier. When you can’t let them do as they please, use delayed gratification, and try these suggestions:

  • If they are begging for ice cream, reply with: “Yes, let’s have some after dinner.”
  • When they want to stay longer, say: “Yes. I understand it’s hard to leave when we’re having so much fun. One more trip down the slide.”
  • Suppose they want to remove their training wheels prematurely, explain: “Yes, we can try that. Are you ready to possibly scrape a knee?”

So, there you have it. Crème de la Crème just gave you multiple ways to say “no” without actually saying the word. Did you find our ideas helpful? How does your family say no without upsetting the kiddos? Tell us! Drop us a line; we’ll be sure to add it to our list.