7 Alternatives to Saying “No”

Looking for one word that almost guaranteed to cause a toddler tantrum? That’s right – the word “no” is a sure toddler trigger. While there are times that you have to say no, smart parents have a variety of other responses in their pocket that they can use to give over the message of “no” without actually saying the dangerous word itself. Here are a few you can try.

1. Yes, Later. When your child wants a cookie ten minutes before dinner is going to start, how can you respond? Try, “Sure, let’s each have a cookie for dessert, after dinner is over.” This alternative can work well for activities that will happen eventually anyway, such as going to the park (“Sure, it’s almost bedtime now, but let’s plan to go to the park tomorrow afternoon!”) or playing a game (“Yes, I’d love to play dolls with you – right after I finish washing these dishes.”)

2. Let’s Try Something Different. When your child asks you for something and you have to say no, consider whether there are any alternatives that might satisfy the same need. For example, instead of saying “No, you can’t touch my makeup,” try “Sure, you’d like some makeup? I can put one dot of lipstick on the back of your hand.”

3. I Understand You. Sometimes a bit of empathy can go a long way. If your child wants to stay at his friend’s house for longer, but it’s time to go home, let him know that you understand how he feels: “You love playing with Kaylie so much, don’t you? You’re sad that we need to go. We do need to start heading home now, but let’s come back and play with Kaylie again soon. I know you miss her.”

4. Split the Job. Sometimes you have to say “no” when your child wants you to help, especially if you want her to do things herself. But instead of a straight-out no, try taking on part of the job and leaving the rest to her. For example, you might say “You want me to read this book, but I’m eating right now. I can read you one page now, and you can read the rest while I finish eating.”

5. Rule of Thumb. Instead of saying no, consider reminding your child about the rule: “You want another piece of cake. The rule is that each person gets one piece. We’ll save the rest for tomorrow night.”

6. Let Me Think About It. There’s no law that says you have to answer every request on the spot. If you’re not sure whether you really need to say “no,” ask for some time to think about it. If you have a child who is especially persistent, warn him that any nagging from him will turn your answer into a sure “no.”

7. Yes. There are times when it’s just not worth the fight, and it’s fine to pick your battles and give your child what he wants, even if it’s not ideal. Just make sure that you’re not changing a “no” into a “yes” because of your child’s tears or whining. For example, if your child asks for a toy while you’re walking through the store, you have every right to say “yes” if the toy is within your budget and a reasonable request. But if your child asks you for a toy and you say “no,” you’ve already picked that battle; don’t decide you’d rather not deal with the fight and give in a few minutes later.

By Keren Perles
BabyChatter Contributor