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How to Say No to Your Kids

Here’s what happens when I say “No!” to my children: one cries, sulks, and hides. Another negotiates. The other turns into the Incredible Hulk. Smash! Crash! Punch!

Saying “No!” in my house is exhausting! (And sometimes painful….) 

How to Say No to Your Kids | Des Moines Moms Blog

See what I mean?!

My dad told me once that being a parent is both a noun and a verb. It is not enough to just be a parent, you must do parenting, too. But isn’t that “doing” part the hardest?

One of my biggest struggles lately is with my boys and video games. They play too long, make dumb choices, and then I lose my cool and say, “NO VIDEO GAMES EVER AGAIN!” Then the next day, “Can I play video games?… Can I now?… Now? After all my “Nos,” they wait. Wait for the moment the baby is crying, their sister is poopy, and the smoke detector is going off because mommy doesn’t have enough hands to get dinner out of the oven. “Can I play video games?” “Just go downstairs, NOW!”

Boys-397. Mommy-0.

This is just one of the many examples of when “doing” parenting is hard and frustrating. I realize my “No” does not mean no. I’ve danced around it for too long. If I want my children to grow up and be respectful of their teachers, community leaders, and other adults in their lives, now is the time for me to pull up my big girl pants and mean what I say.

I did some reading, talked with some friends, channeled my former teacher self, and came up with this strategy for saying no.

How to Say No to Your Kids:

1. No Means No.

If your answer to, “Can I have ice cream, go to a friend’s house, have a sleepover, play video games?” is no, then there is no IF, WHEN, BUT, HOW ABOUT allowed. In this moment, “No” means no.

2. Cool Off and Think.

After you have said “No” to your child, do not allow them to negotiate, rebut, or make excuses. Do allow them time to cool off and think about the situation. Children, like in my household, handle situations differently. Allow them the space and time to safely work through their frustration of not getting what they want.

3. Listen.

Once your child is composed, allow them to ask you how they can earn a “Yes.” “After dinner could I have ice cream, once my homework is finished can I see if my friend can play, if I’m good all week can I have a sleepover, when the baby is taking a nap can I play video games?” This step empowers your child and gives him a sense of control, which is often times the source of the frustration in the first place.

4. Say Yes.

Lots of times “NO” is no because it’s actually a “Not right now.” If your child has respected you and your decision, has come up with a reasonable suggestion, and has followed through, then let them eat ice cream, play video games, or whatever it is they were wanting.

5. No Is a Parent’s Prerogative.

There are always exceptions! Before implementing this strategy with your children, make them aware of reasons your “No” will always be a no:

  • Safety. What your child is asking to do is something you feel would be unsafe, whether physically or emotionally. “Can I ride my bike by myself to my friend’s house? Can I hold the baby? Can I get an Instagram account?” I love my children too much to put them in a dangerous situation, NO.
  • Time. Sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day. Kids have to learn this. If they want to stay up later, read one more book, watch one more show, etc., the answer is no because there is just not enough time.
  • Parental discretion. As parents, we all use — and need to use — our best judgement. Sometimes, “Because we said so” is an acceptable answer. Maybe you don’t know a friend’s parents, maybe you’re unsure of a certain friend, maybe you don’t think sleepovers are a good idea, maybe you don’t want your kids drinking soda, maybe you think that TV show is inappropriate. We must be parents. We must be the adults. Use your discretion, and let your child know that it is your job to do so.

Here is a graphic you can use to teach your children this strategy.

When I hear No discipline parenting strategy

Click on the image for a printable PDF

I know I owe it to my kids to continually try to be better. I am certain that me being more consistent with saying “NO,” the crying, negotiating, and smashing, crashing, and punching will lessen in my house. Now I just need to do it!

How do you say NO to your kids?

*I found a lot of articles and suggestions on saying no, how to say no, and how to accept no as an answer through my searches on Google and Pinterest.

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4 Responses to How to Say No to Your Kids

  1. Kara Knaack
    Kara Knaack February 4, 2016 at 11:36 pm #

    Sometimes “no” means “mom needs a timeout.” I find that in order to make my no’s more effective, I have to say “no” and then there will be a consequence and then choose my consequence later. In the heat of the moment, my consequences can be quite preposterous so it’s better if I think it through.

  2. Erica February 5, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    LOL, so very true! Great point, Kara. Thanks

  3. Sarah Cabildo February 5, 2016 at 5:31 pm #

    Oh Erica, this is so good! Video games are going to be the death of me! I miss seeing you at preschool pickup/drop off 🙂

    • Erica Douglas February 5, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

      Thanks for reaching out! Yes, video games…I just can’t handle! Hope you’re well!

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