Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Teaching Kids How to Say No…and Really Mean It

Do you remember your child’s first word? Chances are, it was something close to “Mama,” “Dada,” or “Milk.” Chances are even better that shortly after uttering those first precious syllables, he learned the word “no.” “No” is one of those words that is easy to pronounce, but often gets more difficult to say, the older a person gets.

Does your child ever have difficulty saying “no” and refusing the requests of pressuring peers? Does his giving nature mean that he is often taken advantage of? How can you foster his kind, generous spirit while helping him to develop healthy boundaries? Teaching your child multiple ways of saying “no” is a key for their development of positive relationships.

Saying “Yes” to “No”
  • Teach your child that is it okay to say “no” at certain times. While “no” might not be an acceptable response to a request to clear the dinner table, it is well within their rights to refuse an unreasonable or untenable request from a peer. Use role-play to practice challenging peer situations and clarify for your child when “no” is the best answer.
Saying “No” with Their Body
  • Sometimes a spoken “no” is undermined by a shoulder shrug or nervous laughter. Demonstrate for kids how to use body language to reinforce their words.
  • For starters, teach your child to maintain eye contact when speaking and to use a neutral tone of voice when turning down a request.
Saying “No” Repeatedly
  • Prepare your kids for the fact that saying “no” once will not always be enough to convince a peer to stop applying pressure. Kids who are equipped with multiple ways of saying “no” demonstrate self-confidence and send the message that they will stand firm in their decisions. Teach your child to say no as if they were a broken record (though you’ll have to explain to them what a “record” even is), to walk away from a pestering peer, to change the subject, and or suggest better alternatives.
Saying “No” is Different than Rejection
  • Sometimes, kids become confused over the difference between turning down a request and rejecting a person. Reassure your child that differences of opinion and conflicting desires are a part of all human relationships and that saying “no” is a part of a friendship—not the end of it.
When children learn to make friends with “no,” their friendships with peers have the chance to flourish. Your child can project a self-confidence and maintain a healthy boundary system that good friends will want to emulate and negative peers won’t want to mess with.

Signe Whitson, LSW teaches children on how to deal with bullying. You can find her advice at and also at My Baby Clothes dot com. Stop by and check out the baby clothes, tutus and baby headbands.



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