Positive Parenting – Why do we always say ‘no’?

Do I say ‘no’ to my child too often? Does saying ‘no’ affect my child? Is there a positive way of saying ‘no’ to a child?

In this blog post I wanted to explore the conversation of saying ‘no’ to our kids. I’ve found that some people don’t like to use the word at all, others instinctively say it almost without thinking and then some seem to have been successful in finding a balance.

I want you to look at this picture below and see what your instinctive thoughts are…

Freda drawing all over her doll

If your child asked if it was okay to draw all over their dolls what would your immediate response be? Or, if you found them at the table like this and they had already committed the ‘crime’ how would you react?

Be honest…you’d probably say, ‘NO’! Am I right? Or, you’d grab the doll of them and say something like, ‘what do you think you’re doing!?’

Sometimes we get so used to saying ‘no’ that as soon as our kids ask to do something out of the ordinary or that we wouldn’t expect them to want to do, our immediate response is to shut them down. What if from now on you take a moment to think about what they’re asking and why you’re about to say no. Then think, what if I said yes instead? I usually find the look of absolute happy surprise on my daughters face when I say ‘yes’ to something she thought she wouldn’t be able to do; which is what happened in this picture above. Of course, I don’t want her thinking it’s okay to draw all over her toys (which she knows it’s not), I simply said while we were having a bit of creative fun with slime, play-dough and coloring that as a one-off it was okay. She used washable markers only, tested they came off with a wipe and then went to town when they did and she realizes she’d be able to give the doll a fun bath once she was finished. Let me tell you, the feeling of saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’ was great and heart warming because she was so excited and spent a good amount of time doing this AND couldn’t wait to tell dad about it when he got home that evening.


Don’t get me wrong, we still say ‘no’ to her like when she asks for chocolate for breakfast some mornings, when she asks to sleep in our bed almost every night and whenever she wants to do something that could result in an injury like jumping off the sofa or bed etc (you get what I mean). I want to challenge you to start thinking before you say ‘no’ from now on. Why are you saying ‘no’? What would be the worst that would happen if you said ‘yes’?


According to child psychologist Dr Laura Markham, (author of ‘Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids’ and founder of the life saving website ‘Aha! Parenting’) saying no to your child does help with setting boundaries and limits, which aid in their development – emotionally, physically and and mentally. Never saying it, Dr Markham says, can leave children ill-equipped to deal with the real world. However, it would seem that saying ‘no’ often also makes children think inside the box and feel like their initiatives are shut down.’ For her full article with ‘Independent’ please follow this link, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/say-no-child-parenting-kids-grow-up-successful-psychology-a8285281.html

To help you in the future with this I’ve come up with some ways of helping you to say ‘no’ maybe in a different way or in a way you haven’t tried before.

  • Distraction – If you can sense your child is going to ask for something or to do something that you want to say ‘no’ to, before they get to that point distract them by suggesting doing something else, another activity or ‘have you seen this?’…Sometimes it really doesn’t take a lot to move their minds on from what they were thinking about to what you want them to focus on instead.
  • Use ‘but’ – If you really have to say ‘no’, which of course sometimes you will! Instead of flat out saying ‘no’ and that’s it, say ‘no, but…’ and make an alternative suggestion. You’ve refused their request but have flipped it into a positive by encouraging them to do whatever you have in mind and got them thinking about what else they could do instead. Almost try to rephrase it as a statement about what your child can do rather than what they can’t. For example, instead of saying ‘No, don’t throw the ball in the living room,’ you could say, ‘Remember, we only throw balls outside,’ or ‘Why don’t you see if you can roll the ball all the way across the room?’
  • Explain – A lot of the time you might find yourself saying ‘no’ and that’s simply it or when they ask ‘why not?’ You respond with, ‘because I said so’. That’s not an explanation and you might be thinking ‘I’m the parent, I don’t owe them an explanation,’ but if you asked to do something at work, or around your family, or you needed a favor from someone and they said ‘no’ and left it at that, how would you feel? Children are the same, their brains are thinking ‘mum and dad said ‘no’ but why not’. Sometimes a little more of an explanation like, ‘no we can’t play with that at Nan’s house because it’s delicate and Nan would be really said if it broke because we touched or played with it’. Their response might surprise you; kids value reasoning just as much as adults do.
  • Use different words that still mean ‘no’ – For example, if you can use the words ‘stop’ or ‘freeze’ instead then that’s a complete differentiation from ‘no’. If you can’t then try using sentences such as ‘not right now,’ ‘you can’t’ or ‘you mustn’t’. Often, children get so used to hearing ‘no’, they know exactly what it means and that it’s going against what they want, therefore they react negatively with attitude or a tantrum etc. If you start using new terms they are more likely to take time to think about what you’ve said because in this instance you’ve not actually said ‘no’.

The Importance of ‘No’

However, with all that being said it is important for your child to hear the word ‘no’, not just from teachers or relatives but from you too.

Sometimes it can be really hard to say ‘no’, you get so sick of being the bad guy that you just start saying ‘yes’. Look at it this way, although your toddler or child might not know it now, you’re actually helping them. Learning how to deal with not getting what you want and when you want it is an essential life skill that needs to be learnt and developed, easier to do this early on than to suddenly start saying no later.

The resilience your teaching your child will last a lifetime, whereas the anger and upset they direct at you for saying ‘no’ is only temporary…remember that.

(I would just like to add that no harm came to the doll used in the making of this blog post and all unwanted marker was removed from every crevice of the doll)

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