Updated: Feb 20
For many of us the word NO seems to be something we say a lot as parents and caregivers. Our children and young people push boundaries as part of their natural development. They also have their moments as human beings and sometimes they want they want, just as adults do. The difference being is that as a parent or caregiver often means that we are the individuals who they look to for permission.
This can be easier with a younger child as they can be distracted with something else but there does come a time where distraction no longer works.
We know that there are occasions we say or shout no immediately to keep them safe. Sometimes we say no because they don't really need another toy or packet of crisps, sometimes we say no for our own reasons e.g. cost, practicality etc.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes the word no can create a reaction in your child or young person that makes things difficult to deal with? (And while I'm writing this lets acknowledge that we, as fully grown adults, are also capable of reacting to the word no a manner that makes things difficult to deal with too!)
Are there times when you wish you had given them what they wanted because the aftermath of saying no causes more stress than it's worth?
Do you ever think that if you had given them what they wanted you could have been out the door quicker, dinner wouldn't have been delayed or you wouldn't be feeling as stressed?
These reactions to hearing the word no can happen because it goes against their immediate wants and needs. There are many reasons for this reaction.
Sometimes children are still learning to regulate their emotions, sometimes they think they know better, sometimes they do not know the risks associated with what they are asking for. Sometimes they just want what they want and while it may not make any sense to you, it makes perfect sense to them.
Often when children and young people hear the word no, they do not hear anything else that you have to say after that, be it reassurance, a request to stop crying or shouting or even the reason why you are saying no in the first place.
Sometimes an easier way of saying no is by not using the word at all. Sometimes we need to use more words to get the same message across. We can give reasons if we feel it helps and there are other times we do not have to.
Depending on the age of your child or young person, you could actually use the opportunity to have a chat and see things from their point of view, it doesn't mean you have to say yes but it may create an opportunity for connection, especially if you can remain calm and listen without judgement.
Some phrases to use that avoid the word no (and aren't just limited to children) include:
I don't think so, we are having dinner soon
I don't think that is a good idea (whether you a reason why with that is up to you)
Can we have a chat about that before a decision is made
I think it would be best to wait until.....
If we can make a conscious choice to respond to requests in a different way, we could potentially get a different response to the one we are used to.
Saying no without actually saying no means recognising the opportunities when we can say it differently. We won't always get it right and initially if you decide to try this, it may all feel a bit alien to you.
Probably the most difficult part of it all is putting it into practice, especially when daily life can often get in the way. But if you do it once and get a result that makes life that little bit easier for you and your child, would you be encouraged to try it again?
It can be done with practice. And while practice doesn't mean perfect, it can make a new habit such as this permanent. I wonder is it worth giving it a go?