The Art of Saying No to Your Child

Not long ago I shared a post about the difficulty of seeing our children experience disappointments.  This was a huge eye opener for me.  Even though it is difficult and quite heart wrenching for us as parents to watch our child experience disappointment, it is quite necessary for their future as a healthy adult member of our society.  That particular post titled Re-experiencing Life’s Disappointments the Second Time Around I focused on disappointments that are out of our control.  For example, not making a team they tried out for, not becoming first chair in the band, not getting the part they wanted in the school play, etc.

Today, I want to focus more on the disappointments our children face we as parents DO have control over.

I was reminded of a time when I was in elementary school.  I’ve always been social.  My friends and I enjoyed having sleep overs at each others house.  One day I asked my Mom if I could spend the night with a friend of mine and she said, “no.”  I think my friend and I had already talked about all the fun stuff we were going to do together that night, so I was very disappointed my Mom said I could not go.  In my mind I was sure I was going to miss out on what would be a life altering time with my friend.  I felt I was going to die.  I remember pleading with her over and over to please let me go to my friends house.

My Mom finally said to me, “You can ask me until the moon comes home and the answer will still be no.”

Has anyone ever heard this phrase before?  Where in the world did that come from?  The moon will not be coming home, which I’m sure is the exact point, but still…funny thing is…I found myself saying the exact thing to my Daughter when she would not take no for an answer.  Has something similar happened to you?

Over 17 years of parenting I figured out there are other ways to say No besides using the actual word No.  The word No usually solicited a horrible response from my kids, especially when they were younger.  More importantly, it was good to use these tactics while in public.  I’m not the kind of Mom who can tune out their kids whines and tantrums, nor do I want to be inconsiderate of others and make them witness my child’s fit.  Who wants to go shopping only to hear a child screaming in their ear?  I certainly don’t.

Shan’s tactics on saying No

  • “If it’s under $___, yes.”

For example, recently my youngest asked if I could buy her a book she found while we were at the store to buy groceries.  I knew how much the book was.  I think it was about $10.  So I told her, “If it’s under $5 I’ll buy it for you.”  She looked at the price and put the book back on the shelf.

I’m a firm believer in NOT buying your child something every time you go to the store {even if you have the money.}  If you do, you are potentially breeding entitlement.  If you begin the habit of purchasing something for your child every time you go to the store they will expect it.  What does this teach your child?

  • “I’ll think about it.”

Even if in my mind I know the answer is no, I’ll say “I’ll think about it” so as not to illicit a meltdown.  Since my kids do read this blog from time to time, I have to say that not every time I say “I’ll think about it” means I’m thinking no.  For the sake of this post, when I do know the answer is no, saying this phrase gives the child time to ponder the possible answer will be no and it alleviates an immediate tantrum or argument.  I find the kids are more likely to take the no answer after using this tactic…basically time.

  •   “Not today.”

This says, we aren’t going to get ice cream today after school but we will in the future.  Pretty simple, but not having to use the word No.

  • “Maybe”

This one is very similar to “I’ll think about it” and gives the child time to contemplate the reality of a possible no answer.

  • “Absolutely NOT.”

This is used in severe cases like when my Son asked me for an iPhone.

  • “Let’s do that next week.”

I use this when we are having a busy week and we really can’t fit the activity they are requesting into the schedule.  This could also be “let’s do that tomorrow” or “let’s do that next month.”

  • “I don’t have enough money.”

Early in our marriage and family we didn’t know if we could pay all the bills.  We had a budget and we tried diligently to stick to that budget.  When kids are young they don’t understand what a budget is.  As they get older I believe it is important to explain what a budget is, explain what a checking account is, explain what a credit card & debit card is.  The younger they are the more likely this answer will not be a fit preventive.  But as they get older and understand what this means, what more can they say to that?  It is completely okay to share with your children if you don’t have the money to pay for frivolous things they want.  I heard this phrase as I was growing up and I appreciate they saw fit to teach me about money.  Do not ever let your pride of not making enough money put you into debt because you don’t want to disappoint your kids.  One day they most likely will be where you are and they need to realize it’s okay; that you can make it through the tough time of making ends meet.

  • “You don’t have to like it.”

This is used when the kids say, “I don’t want to do _________.”  There are SO MANY things we have to do in this life that we don’t like to do.  It doesn’t matter if we like it or not, we have to do them to survive.

  • “Let’s do _________ (this) instead.”

This is a good one because the child doesn’t feel like they are losing anything.  And really it’s the art of compromise which is essential in relationships.

For example, it’s Friday and your child asks, “Can we go bowling tonight?”  Maybe you are tired from a long day at work and you don’t feel you have the energy to throw the bowling ball down the lane, so instead you say, “let’s go to the movies instead.”  Another example: “Mom, can we go to the mall and get me some new jeans?  The ones I have don’t fit anymore.”  You know you can’t afford mall jeans or you don’t want to go to the crowded mall on your day off.  Your reply could be: “Why don’t we check out the consignment store downtown instead?”  OR “Why don’t we go to T.J. Maxx {love that store} instead?”  OR “Why don’t we check out the garage sales tomorrow instead.  There are supposed to be some good ones in the neighborhood.”

  • “Sure, you can use your money to pay for that.”

Nothing like teaching your child the value of money then by allowing them to make purchases with money they’ve earned or have been given for a birthday gift.  I can’t tell you how many times I have said that to a child and they reply, “no, I don’t want to spend my money on that.”  They learn quickly how they can live without something if they have to buy it using their own money.

  • “No, no, no, no, no, no!”

This was my reply to a recent Son’s text about getting an iPhone.  Sometimes you do just have to say NO. 😉

Hopefully these No tactics can help you when you need them.

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  1. I think learning to say ‘no’ is a very important parenting tactic. In fact, I’m not sure many parents say it enough these days.
    Neena recently posted..Gun Safety and Kids

  2. I don’t remember that phrase at all. I might have said …until the cows come home. Funny what our memory does to us. Love Mom

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