A Better Way of Saying No to Children
  • Nov 08, 2017

A Better Way of Saying No to Children

In raising children, we often have cause to say no to them several times a day. While saying no is not bad in and of itself, hearing no as often as we adults say it to children can have an adverse effect on their creativity, self-esteem, curiosity, and love for exploring and learning.

I want to propose a better way of saying no to children that goes beyond just saying the two-letter word most times as an order that must be obeyed without question. While the order may be effective in the moment, it will not serve the purpose of deterring the child from doing what they want as soon as you look the other way.

A better way of saying no is telling the child in as simple terms as possible the reason you want them not to follow through on a particular line of action. For a baby or toddler this can be as simple as one word that points out the danger or negative effect of their action. The details you offer can be more elaborate depending on the age of the child.

For example, you can say “electricity” to a baby playing with an electric socket or power cables. While they may not understand what you mean, they get to hear and learn a word other than the usual no, and may even start to say the word themselves whenever they see sockets and cables. As they grow up they will associate sockets and cables with electricity and can stop themselves from the danger of playing with such items even when you are not there. For an older child, you can say. “You could get an electric shock playing with that socket.” What this does is that it helps the child to understand the reason behind your saying no such that they can learn to self-guide even when you are not there, and they feel better knowing the reason behind being stopped. They would appreciate it better than just being told to stop doing something they enjoy for no obvious cause. The child does not feel as inhibited when given the reason behind a no.

You would agree that grooming a child to know why they should not do certain things whether you are there or not is much better than just pelting out a NO every time they try to do certain things. I'm sure you know that if you offer no further explanation, curious as children are, they will get back to the very same thing you stopped them from doing as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

But beyond negative consequences, there are several other reasons we say no. The point I’m making here is that it is better to let children know the reason behind every no so that they can understand why you are saying no to them, learn to see things from your perspective, self-guide whether you are present or not, and grow with a healthier self-esteem than if they are just bossed around without reason.

So, a child may be doing the right thing but at the wrong time; let them know that your reason for saying no is the timing. A child may be too loud, let them know the issue is the volume. Whatever the issue, let them know. You may seem not to be getting through to them at first, but doing this offers more long-term benefits that must not be overlooked.

A child who is trained in this way will retain their capacity to explore, learn, be curious, and be creative without feeling stifled. They will retain their ability to think for themselves, an ability that is especially needed in our world today where, for instance, the proliferation of fake news demands that we all learn to read, sieve, question, and think through everything we see, read, or hear to ensure that we are not being impelled on purpose to think and act based on wrong information. They will retain a healthy self-esteem, self-image, and self-worth which are priceless for growing into a well-rounded adult capable of pursuing a full and productive life.

Do you have creative ways of saying no to your children? Kindly share with me in the comments section below. Thank you.

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