How to Say No to Children

“I can’t say no to my children and I need to learn how to say no to my kids without feeling like a bad guy all the time. Saying no to my kids is very hard for me and they usually get whatever they want because I give in. Can you help?” says Megan, mother of 3 young children. Sorry Megan, but parents have to say no to toddlers and older children, teens and grown adult children, and not saying no is a big “no-no” when raising kids.

I’m a firm believer in “let your yes mean yes and no mean no”. Yes always means yes and no always means no. By no means should children be raised with mixed messages where kids learn that no means maybe or no means yes. When parents say no, it means no and it always means no.

Saying No to Children

Parents have to set reasonable, age-appropriate boundaries for their children and teenagers, as well as providing needed discipline and consequences for inappropriate attitudes and behaviors, rather than parenting with empty threats where kids quickly learn the word “no” means nothing at all.

Many parents today find themselves in a situation of “the tail wagging the dog”, whereby children and teens are controlling the parents, cussing and disrespecting parents and other authority figures, because parents want to be “friends with their children” rather than parents being parents.

Kids need to learn what no means, and it’s the parents responsibility to teach their children the meaning of no. Parents must learn how to say no to children without feeling like “the bad guy” for saying no and then caving in to demands, but must also balance saying no with saying yes when appropriate to do so, providing options, choices and explanations that are reasonable and age-appropriate for the child to understand.

Not saying no to your children because you don’t want to be seen as “the bad guy” is no excuse for lax parenting. Parents must say no to their children, and all the whining, crying, complaining and tantrums kids may try in order to get their own way should never cause parents to relinquish their parental responsibility to parent and discipline their children. Each and every time a parent caves or gives in after saying no, the parent is teaching and training their child how to manipulate and control their parent.

Parents must determine when to say yes and when to say no to children or teens and firmly stick to the decision without wavering. In this modern, mollycoddled society we’re living in, commonly referred to as an Entitlement Epidemic, kids are controlling the parents rather than parents teaching, training, setting reasonable boundaries and limits, controlling their child’s negative behavior with effective discipline and by telling children no.

How to Say No to Children

How to Say No to ChildrenPhysically getting down to the child’s level, giving great eye contact, sitting closely to your child while carefully listening to the child or teenager’s requests without interruption are all things parents can and need to do when considering whether to say yes or no. Talking with teenagers can be very challenging at times, but your relationship with your teen will be greatly improved if you spend more time listening than you do talking, even if you decide on saying no to their request.

Once you have made your decision, explain to your child the reason you are saying no (or why you are saying yes), so they can better understand you aren’t trying to be a mean ol’ mom or dad, but that you are their parent and must make the final decision you feel is best. Cynthia Whitham, author of The Answer is No: Saying it and Sticking to it says the most important thing is to say no and stick to it. When parents give in, the child assumes power, which can be abused in the future.

If your children whine or nag to get you to buy the latest fads, toys or gadgets (often because of peer pressure and strong desire to “fit in”), Jody Johnston Pawel, author of The Parent’s Toolshop: The Universal Blueprint for Building a Healthy Family has some excellent advice on saying no to children including: acknowledge the child’s feelings but remain firm; suggest an acceptable alternative; encourage the child to save money for the purchase; leave the store altogether and other invaluable suggestions for parents trying to learn how to say no.

Saying no really isn’t that hard, but when you say no you must remember to let your yes mean yes and no mean no. Is it hard for you to say no to your children? Do you have a question on how to say no to children? What would you suggest for parents like Megan?

Related Articles:

10 Ways to Raise Children to USE Drugs
Are You An Enabler? Early Warning Signs of Enabling Behaviors
A Sense of Entitlement
A Child’s Ten Commandments For Parents
12 Rules for Raising Delinquent Children
Staying Connected to Your Teenager: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really Saying
Zero Tolerance for Disrespectful, Cussing Kids
Surviving The Teen Years-A Parent’s Guide
How to Build Self-Confidence in Children and Teens


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29 Responses to “How to Say No to Children”

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  1. This is a real issue for many parents. It’s so hard to say no to your children when you know it will make them upset. Discipline is definitely one of the most important things when raising a child and as you say, Lin, consistency is key. We should never send them mixed messages. But it is still extremely difficult sometimes because you feel like you’re really hurting your child’s feelings when you say no, and of course you don’t want to hurt them.

  2. I’ve got pessimistic view on that. I think children (especially in the 21st century) will always whine and cry and complain. The parent’s task is to smooth it up and make it less of a problem.
    Sometimes saying No to your own child is very-very difficult some parents told me. Even more difficult it is for the child’s grandparents. So let’s say No but sometimes still say Yes.

    • Lin says:

      Hi George,

      No parent wants to disappoint their children, but if parents don’t start saying no to their kids, the Entitlement Epidemic in our society is only going to get worse. Saying no (and yes when appropriate) must begin when a child is very young and continue throughout their teen years, and in many cases after they’ve become full grown adults. Are we growing a nation of wimps because of parents who can’t or won’t say no to their kids?

  3. Lin,
    I’m not saying we need to allow the kids do what the hell they want to do because that would lead to anarchy. What I am saying is that the television culture, the focus on material things, the “don’t touch a child” attitude have made their way through the society to the family and it is now simply impossible to raise a child with the strict “No” bringing-up. Something somewhere will crack. I’m not saying that you’re wrong but the old ways are not working now and the parents simply need to adjust to the society and to the environment that surrounds a child.

    • Lin says:

      Hi George, I completely understand where you’re coming from. I can’t help but remember the time when well-known author and ‘parenting expert’ Dr. Spock said spanking children was the right and proper thing to do, then Spock changed his tune to say spanking a child in any form or fashion was nothing but abuse. Then he changed his mind once again. One expert tells us one thing and the next expert tells us something completely different, and parents fall for it hook, line and sinker every time there’s a change in viewpoint by the “experts”. To spank or not to spank? I don’t believe in the concept of “don’t touch a child”, as if a swat on the behind to get a child’s attention or show you mean what you say as being abusive at all. Unfortunately, there are extremes to each discipline method, and we’ve got a society where we’re throwing the baby out with the bath water, rather than focusing primarily on Teaching and Training children vs discipline/punishment etc, IMO.

  4. Lin,
    I completely agree with you. This is why I ment the parents need to adjust to the times if they’re “not in them yet” so to speak. because otherwise NSPCC may come and take the children away from them. And in the UK it’s unfortunately very feasible scenario.

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