10 Positive Ways To Say NO to Your Child

parenting Aug 29, 2023
10 Positive Ways To Say NO to Your Child

We all know that parenting can be a pretty wild rollercoaster ride — and one of the toughest loops we need to pass through is the dreaded “No.”

After all, we love our children and would dote on them all the time if we could. However, as responsible parents, we also need to set boundaries and teach them right from wrong. More often than we would like, this means saying no to something they want. 

It’s moments like these that you may wish you had the superpower to say “no” without actually saying the dreaded word or sounding harsh. Well, I’ve got some good news for you dads; you can actually do that! 

Below are our top 10 effective ways to say no to your child — without getting a tantrum on your hands.

1. Offer Options

First, offer options. You can use this tactic if your child is asking, requesting, or demanding something. The key is to give them options that they’d like, too. Try to offer something on an equal level to what they’re asking.

If they’re asking for something like ice cream for breakfast, gently tell them that ice cream isn’t on the menu, but they can choose between French toast or cereal with fruits. That way, they still get a sweet treat for breakfast!

2. Use Distractions

Distractions can be a dad’s best friend — especially if you want to avoid conflicts and prevent tantrums. Kids’ attention spans are much shorter than ours, so with the right distraction, you can effectively take their minds off something they want that you can’t give.

Use all the distraction tools in your arsenal, including dad jokes, kids’ shows on TV, or even a cute dog outside.

3. Give Positive Alternatives

Instead of telling your child not to do something, tell them what they can do instead. Compared to our first tip, you’re not giving them a choice — just a new option. It’s all about reframing it in a positive manner.

This is great for teaching and encouraging positive behavior. Just be sure to word it gently and as a request. If your kid is running in the parking lot, you can call out and ask them, “Please walk by my side.”

4. Encourage Cooperation

Basically, you’re still telling them to try something else instead, but this time, they’re doing it with you. With this tactic, you can also spend more time with your kid!

If they’re asking to watch TV longer, you can ask them to play a board game with you. You can also pose it as a problem-solving question. Something like, “We need to rest our eyes from looking at the screen. What do you suggest we do instead: board games or playing in the yard?”

5. Use Humor and Games

In short, be playful. Remember, they’re kids! Fun, games, and general playfulness can easily diffuse tense moments and keep your kids from temper tantrums.

If your kid is refusing to sleep or take a bath, you can suggest having a race to see who gets ready for bed the fastest or join them in going up the stairs like your favorite animals. You can also entice them with the promise of a fun make-believe story time in the bath or suggest choosing toys to take to the bath with their eyes blindfolded.

6. Delaying Tactics

You don’t always have to give your child an immediate and definite answer. One of the easiest ways to stall for time is by doing it outright. 

If they’re asking for a pet, you can tell them that such a big responsibility means you need time to think about it, and you can talk about it again after dinner or some other activity. If they’re asking to go somewhere, like the park or mall, you can tell them they need to finish their chores first.

7. Make Them Feel Valued

Getting your kid involved in something you need or are doing can help them feel good about themselves — enough to forget their requests!

For example, they have your phone in their hands and are asking to play with it. You can say you’ve been looking all over for your phone and thank them for finding it while deftly taking it from them.

8. Plan for the Future

This one’s a great tactic for big requests — ones you may be able to do or give them but just not at the moment.

If your child asks to go to the park, tell them you think it’s a great idea and suggest planning together for a weekend trip to the park. If they’re asking for a huge Lego set, tell them you love it, so you’ll put it on a wish list for their birthday.

9. Be Gentle and Empathetic

Sometimes, there’s no other strategy but to straight up say no. That doesn’t mean you have to be harsh about it, though! You can still be gentle while remaining firm about your decision. 

The secret is to use a soft, understanding tone of voice to explain why — no shouting or sharp words necessary. Sit them down with you and use eye contact and body language to your advantage. This helps show your child that you understand their desire or request and are taking their feelings into consideration.

10. Give Your Reasons

Speaking of explanations — whenever you have to say no, try to provide reasons for your decision as much as possible.

If they are asking for something you know you can’t afford yet, tell them why. Something like, “I would love to buy you a bike and teach you how to ride it, but right now, we need the money for our food and clothes. Maybe we can save up for it for Christmas.”

Using this tactic shows that you’re not fundamentally opposed to the idea; it’s just the timing.

Final Words

Saying “no” to a child is never easy — especially when they pull out the sad puppy eyes and pouting faces. It’s basically a daily exercise in diplomacy. By using positive ways to say “no,” we can maintain a healthy father-child relationship while still setting boundaries and teaching them important life lessons.

Watch the "10 Positive Ways To Say NO to Your Child" video here:

Enjoy this article?
Get unlimited access to Dad University

The #1 educational platform for dads. Join our growing community of fathers from around the world!

Become a Member