As a parent it can be difficult to tell your children no, and set limits with them for behavior, and acceptable things. This is especially true because the meaning for “no” changes as your child gets older. When they are a baby and you say “No” it is usually in warning of danger or misbehavior. As they age, it becomes a response to them asking for things they can’t have. The following is a look at how to say no and set limits with your children.
Step one: Be consistent- If you tell a child no, and then after they bug you for 20 minutes about it that no turns to a yes, they will not learn that no means no. In fact, this is the worst thing you can do when setting limits. The more a child grows accustomed to pushing you until you turn a no into a yes, the less authority you will have, and the more likely your child is to never respect limits and boundaries placed by you or any other authority figure. No has to really mean no, or you should not say it.
Step two: Validate your child’s feelings, when telling them no- If you want your no to be respected, and thus have it help to set a limit, you can’t just say “no” and leave it at that. You have to validate the feelings of the child. For example, if your child asks for a bowl of ice cream right before dinner, it is okay to say no, but make sure you say something more along the lines of, “A bowl of ice cream sounds really good, and I can see why you would want one, but I am going to have to say no because we are about to eat dinner, and I don’t want you to spoil your appetite.” This is going to help a child feel less frustrated when they do not get their way because they will know that you understand their request.
Step four: Use reason- Help children understand the rational, logical reasons behind a no, so that you do not appear the tyrant. The days of, “I am your parent and I say no” may not be over, but they do not work as well as they once did for getting kids to respect you saying no. A better option is to explain the rational, logical, reasons behind the no. Validate the child, and then explain your reasons, even though you don’t have to, so that they can understand why.
Step five: Instead of no, give alternatives- Many kids feel like all they hear is no. So, instead of saying no outright, give them a better option. For example, if your child says, “Can I go to the club with my friends?” You could say, “You can go to the movies, or the mall with your friends.”
Make sure that when you say no, that you say no calmly- If you freak out, they know they have hit a button, and may exploit it. Say no once, firmly, and it will become increasingly effective over time.