9 ways to say no to your child – without actually saying no

Need to tell them no but sick of saying that pesky little word? We've got some handy hints here...


If you ever find yourself sounding like a stuck recording telling your child no – you’re definitely not alone. 


It’s really not that fun, is it, being so negative all the time? Snapping ‘no’ at our little ones what feels like endlessly can make us feel guilty for one – and in the long run does it really change their behaviour that much?

Thing is – when you little one has a strange request (“Can I paint the cat blue?” “Please let me wear your shoes to the shop”) – or, more seriously – when they’re about to run across a road on a red light with a lorry coming at them – sometimes you have to say no right??

The good news is there are ways to say no without actually saying that word.

Negativity be gone ✊

Take a look… 

1. What do you think the answer is?

A good one if what they ask to do really is beyond the bounds of sensible – like putting roller-skates on the dog.

They’ll probably have been pretty sure from the start it’s not the best idea, and if you probe them further and ask them why not – they’ll talk themselves out of it in no time (fingers crossed).

2. Let’s do this instead

Kids, like nature (well, they are little forces of nature, right?), abhor a vacuum – so there’s nothing like offering an alternative to make your little one realise painting their room bright green might not be the best activity today.

If you suggest something even more creative and fun than they had in mind (and yet infinitely more sensible than, say, drawing on dad, obvs) they’ll soon forget their mad plan. 


3. This isn’t yours – let’s find yours

This one comes in particularly handy when your little one has got their eye on something of yours they’d quite like to play with – be it phone, writing pad or – lord above – make-up kit.

As you spend time with them looking for theirs they’ll probably come across a toy they totally forgot they had and become immersed in playing with it.

Then – stash whatever they found of yours away safely so they won’t find it again (at least not that day anyway) ?

4. I wish we could but we can’t today

Now – be careful with this one, because children have memories like elephants – they NEVER forget.

So unless it’s something you think you’d be up for letting them do at some point (and for whatever reason you just don’t fancy it today) – use this one sparingly.

5. Say no to the activity but yes to the action

If they want to have a scooter race in the house – it’s a no – but they can race their scooters in the park, right?

Jumping on the bed? Nope. But jumping in the garden, fair dos. This is a great way to say no without saying no – a big tick, and you’ll probably get a pretty (happy) surprised look or two from your kids for this one, too.


6. Tell me more

Here’s your chance to get your little one to think a bit more about what they’re actually asking.

If they were hoping to go to the park and it’s raining, their train of thought might get the as far as realising that once you’re there they won’t be able to go on the slide/swings ‘cos everything’s too wet – and you may just find they’ve talked themselves out of it.

And – who knows? On the flip side – they might even convince you their idea is actually a good one.

7. That isn’t going to work

This is one that’s likely to crop up in activities like make and do where, for example, they’re trying to stick stuff that simply isn’t going to stick.

Sometimes you just need to be straight – it’s not going to work and they’ll only get more and more frustrated as time goes on. Be firm.

8. Is there another way to do that?

Rather than seeing this as a knock back, hopefully your little one might see this as a fun game.

If you open the convo up so they think of other ways to do things, chances are they’ll also think of other things to do in general, as well, and move on from whatever it is they want to do right now.


9. I can’t let you

This one usually applies when the issue is around safety.

Jumping from the 11th step IS going to break their ankles and they need to know it.

This is one is an every-time-applies rule. Not today. Not tomorrow. Just no. But without saying that word. Job done ?

What do you think?

Do you find yourself having to say no a lot? Have you got any handy tips on what to say instead? Tell us in the comments below or over on Facebook

Pics: Getty

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