Want Your Child To Listen To You Every Single Time? Learn How To Say 'No' That Works!
@ Pritika Nair · Tuesday, Mar 23, 2021 · 9 minute read · Update at Mar 23, 2021

Couple scolding their kids

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Saying ‘No’ to your child is like giving them medicine. An overdose may prove detrimental while an inadequate dose fails to treat the problem.

Today’s parents are caught up between old-school parenting and new-age approaches. One part of them wants to follow the conventional stern “No” approach, while the other part is apprehensive of the child becoming distant.

Here I share why some new-age parents are scared of saying “No”, why using the “No” word is actually healthy for your child, helping them become emotionally strong, mature, well-mannered, and obedient, and a few tips on making the “No” approach produce actual positive results.

So let’s begin. For centuries, parents have generously used the word “No”, without a thought. After all, it’s the most spontaneous human reaction from a parent caught up in a conflicting situation with their child.

It’s only now that new-age parenting has brought forth the possible “harmful” effects of overusing the word as also the word itself losing power due to frequent usage.

I, however, am a fan of following the median approach - the one that stays somewhere in the middle of neither overusing it nor not using it at all. That’s the secret to balanced and healthy parenting.

So, Are You One of Those Who Refrain From Saying the ‘No’ Word?

You’re not alone if you feel slightly confused in this area. You’re one of the several new-age parents who’re making a desperate attempt to befriend and stay friendly with their kids.

However, in that endeavor, they might often end up either “spoiling” the kid or “weakening” them emotionally because these kids fail to learn the ways of the real world - the one that sadly doesn’t always pamper.

Here are some top reasons based on popular public opinion as to why some modern-day parents might actually be a little apprehensive of saying a stern “No” to their child -

  1. They’re not ready to face the child’s reaction - one that’s often unpleasant - either resulting in anger, sometimes even violent aggression, tears, howling, or just upset mood for unusually longer period of time.

  2. They feel guilty of having put themselves (and the child) in a similar situation in the past (which again hadn’t been too pleasant) and don’t wish to relive those feelings/experiences.

  3. They don’t want to deny their children of any comfort/luxury known to them - living under the assumption that their kids must have everything that probably they (the parents) didn’t in their childhood.

  4. They so want their kids to be their friends and are scared of losing that trust or affinity at any cost.

Kids are great listeners. They only need a calm, soothing and loving voice to talk to them.

The ‘No’ Word is Actually Good for Your Child

There may be a number of reasons why it is but the one that tops the list is that getting into the habit of hearing a ‘No’ from the parent once in a while helps the child to become mentally and emotionally strong. Let’s see how.

1. It helps the child become more self-confident.

This one’s my favorite because I’ve dealt with this with my elder one. She’d depend on me for literally everything - small or big - even as she was getting older. Bowing down to her demands, I was not only making things difficult for myself but also hampering her emotional growth.

When I stopped and started saying ‘No’, she eventually had to give in. She started doing all her chores by herself, to realize soon enough that it’s actually helping her become more confident of taking charge of her own life - making mistakes, learning, and repeating the process. A win-win for us both!

2. It helps the child learn the harsh realities of the outside world much sooner

Today we can pamper our kids and assist them with everything, even if they’re old enough to do stuff on their own (‘coz it’s hard to refuse that cute face, right?) Today we can give them everything their heart desires because we love them so much.

But we know that the world out there ain’t as cute or pampering. Our kids would have to support themselves, look out for themselves when they set their foot in the outside world. It’s our duty as parents to train them for this harsh reality from the very beginning.

This does not mean training them hard or not doing what they like (we don’t have to be paranoid about this either) but striking a balance, my friend, is the key here.

3. It helps the child understand the difference between “needs” and “wants”

Kids ask for everything they see around them - either in the hands of another child or at a fancy store outside. When you say a stern “No” and you mean it, slowly but surely, your child would begin to understand that there’s a difference between what they want and what they actually need.

Here, a gentle push from you can help them become more aware of the underlying fact that they can always get something when they “need” it instead of just collecting stuff that they simply “want”, even if they don’t really need one. This awareness goes a long way in helping them become well-mannered, responsible, and mature adults.

Mom explaining to child lovingly

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4. It helps the child learn sensitivity towards your needs and feelings

When they’re making an unreasonable demand and you say “No”, along with an explanation why you can’t accept that demand, the child would start understanding your needs, priorities, and constraints.

This is a very important step towards training your kids to becoming understanding, sensitive, and emotionally mature beings. In the absence of doing this, the parents often keep giving in to all the demands of the child, overly tiring and stressing themselves out in the process.

5. It helps instill valuable life skills in children

You can start teaching the importance of budgeting, managing monthly expenses, spending judiciously, limiting wants to essential needs, etc., from a very early age by learning to use “No” at the right place and time.

Of course, this can only be done when you explain things to your children, rather than just authoritatively say a “No” and leaving it at that. Read below on how to use ‘No’ effectively so that it leaves an impact.

How to Say “No” So that Your Child Listens

1. Focus on the dos more than the don’ts

Negative words or phrases often fail to work, even with adults. How do you feel about “Let’s do this”, as against, “You can’t or shouldn’t do this.”

Kids feel the same way. Let’s not forget that we’re dealing with people here and kids come under that category too. So it’d be best to interact with our kids just as we like being spoken to.

Tip: If you need to use a “No” the next time, try replacing “You can’t buy this” with “Let’s think about this toy/game when you’re done playing with all the other ones you already have.” If the child argues that he already has played with them all, then try “But you haven’t played them with me. Let’s together find out a new way of playing this and make it more interesting!”

2. Rephrasing really works

It’s pretty natural and spontaneous to shut out the child with a stern “No” when you disapprove of your child’s behavior or actions. But have you noticed that after a while, the child stops listening to anything that you say at all? Or worse, continues saying/doing exactly what you don’t want them to! Perhaps it’s time to replace the “No” with a better something.

Tip: If your child’s making a lot of noise when you’re working on an important project and despite repeated instructions to not do so, he/she simply continues the act without paying any attention to what you’re saying. This could be partly because the child doesn’t like it anymore when you yell at them. So let’s try something different?

Take a quick break from what you’re doing, make the child sit close to you, and explain as lovingly as you can on why it’s important for you that the child keeps it low for a while. Trust me, kids are great listeners. They only need a calm, soothing and loving voice to talk to them. And it works. They’d understand and oblige too!

Does your child stop listening to anything that you say at all? Or worse, continues saying/doing exactly what you don’t want them to? Perhaps it’s time to replace the “No” with a better something.

3. Offer a better option

It usually works in this order - talk to the child, explain to them the reason for saying “No,” and end the discussion with a better (well, at least seemingly better to the child) alternative to what you’re stopping them from doing.

The child would listen only when they’re explained the exact reason for not accepting their demand at the moment. And to pacify them or soothe them for longer, offering an incentive in the form of a better substitute is necessary too.

4. Say “Yes” too sometimes

This should not be misinterpreted to mean that we’re giving in to the child’s demand (especially if it sounds unreasonable to you). It only means that instead of getting on to them with a “No” all the time, it’d be helpful to say “Yes”; however, with a slight paraphrasing of what you actually want to convey.

Tip: Your child wants to have their favorite snack. Instead of rejecting the demand outright, try saying “Yes, my dear, you can have it but it’s your mealtime now. If you have it now, it’d fill you up. So how about we have the meal now and enjoy the snack after?”

Also Read: Do You Have A Clingy Child? Know Why it Happens and What to Do About It

Final Words

It’s not difficult to raise obedient, well-mannered and responsible kids. I can say this for sure because I’m raising two! It just needs a bit of self-awareness and the right usage of the right words/phrases at the right time and place. Well, what can you say; be aware at all times because your kids are watching and listening always. They give us back the behavior we give them, often unconsciously.

What’s your idea on the post? How often should the ‘No’ word be used and in what way? I’d love to know your take. If you did find the post helpful though, please do another parent a favor by passing this on to them. And to receive more such posts by email, please subscribe to the blog.


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Hi! I’m Pritika, the mom behind Stay At Home Mummy. I was inspired to choose this name for the blog because I’m a proud stay-at-home-mom to two lovely kids. Graduate In Journalism and professional writer for 16 years, I have experienced the bitter-sweet reality of placing kids over work commitments and pushing back your own dreams to realise theirs.

Yet, I didn’t let the passion for writing in me die out. Stay at Home Mummy is an attempt to make all those beautiful SAHMs out there feel proud of being one because motherhood isn’t an excuse to let your passion take a back seat.

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