When No Stops Working- Tips From An Expert Family Therapist

When No Stops Working- Tips From An Expert Family Therapist

IMG_4858For having only two letters, the little word “no” can make a big impact in day-to-day parenting. But parents are generally split when it comes to whether and how “no” should be used.

There are the parents who believe children need to learn and understand the word as a means to understand right from wrong. These parents argue that children need to learn that the world does not revolve around them and that they can’t have everything they want, when they want it. And being able to accept a “no” response is an important lesson in developing coping skills and preparing children for life, where people do not always tip-toe around their feelings as their parents might.

Then there are the parents who believe that “no” creates a lot of negativity in the household and that it is more important to teach children the “why” behind behaviors and expectations and help them learn problem solving and reasoning skills. Being positive, these parents believe, promotes self-esteem and a positive parent-child relationship.

th-23So, which is the best way to go? Well, as usual, the middle ground can be most effective. It’s true that saying “no” as oftenas most parents need to, especially during those toddler years, can create a lot of negativity. Even more worrisome, is that young children (and older ones two!) start to really dislike hearing the word so much that they start ignoring you, arguing with you, or show an increase in aggressive or defiant behavior just by overusing the word “no.” And this is why many children learn to say “no” right back to their parents! Children hate to hear it and parents hate to say it! Plus, when “no” is overused, children have a hard time knowing when “no” means “not now” or “stop because you’re upsetting your sister” versus when “no” means “danger, stop right now!” No” should be reserved for those really important, stop right now behaviors that are dangerous and create safety issues. For example, going near the stove, running toward the street, and the like. For behaviors that you want stop but are not dangerous, (e. g., dumping out a bucket of toys) or to turn down children’s requests (e. g., “Can I have ice cream?”), try using one of the below alternates to the word “no.”


Instead of… Try saying…
No kicking! Feet are for walking and running, not kicking.
No, you can’t have a cookie. I know you love cookies. But it’s almost dinner time, so you can have one for dessert.
No touching! Hands down!
No, I will not buy you that toy. That sure is a cool toy! Let’s put it on your birthday list!
No crying! I see that you are really upset right now. It’s ok to be upset, but I need you to use your big boy/girl voice to tell me what happened.
No more, it’s time to go. Right now it’s time to go. Let’s play this again when we get home later.

Keep in mind that avoiding or limiting your use of the word “no” does not mean that you are saying “yes” instead.

These alternates still convey to children that they can’t get what they want or that a behavior is not acceptable, but they do so in a more positive and productive way. And children are more likely to accept a parent’s denial or discipline if it comes wrapped in a positive package!

Make sure to contact Dr. Lauren Goldstein, Family and Child Behavior Specialist!
Dr. Lauren is a Florida licensed psychologist who works with children, parents, and families. Her specialties include anxiety, depression, selective mutism, parenting, adoption issues, children’s behavioral problems, toddler and preschool issues, new baby education, ADD/ADHD, academic issues, stress and coping, social skills development, and family issues. Dr. Lauren provides individual and family psychotherapy, as well as developmental, psychological, and educational evaluations, including gifted testing, testing for ADD/ADHD and learning disabilities, and evaluations for general psychological functioning. For more information, go to www.drlaurengoldstein.com.