8 Ways To Tell Your Toddler “No” Without Actually Saying It


Life as Mama – September 3, 2015

Parenting a toddler certainly has it’s ups and downs. It can be absolutely wonderful and amazing at times, and then downright exhausting and frustrating at other times. Once a child becomes a toddler they develop a mind of their own and want to figure out the world they’re living in, test boundaries, and essentially do what they want most of the time. All of the parenting and disciplining can get exhausting and you may start to feel like all you’re ever saying to your toddler is, “No.” Luckily, there are some other ways to say “no” to your child without actually saying the word. Not only is it better for both you and your child not to hear that word all the time, but these ways help your child feel more understood, validated, and will make them feel like they have other options than just being shot down with a “No!”

1. Affirm With A Yes

Instead of automatically saying no to your child, trying affirming their frustration with something like “I know you don’t want to go to bed. I wish you could stay up, too, since we’re having so much fun. I get it.” Saying things like this will help your child to understand that you get where they are coming from. People, even children, want others to understand them even when they’re mad. Help your child to feel that you know they are mad and that they may even have good reason to be.

2. Make A Compromise

When they really want something and you don’t want them to have it at that moment because the have to go to bed or because they need to eat their dinner, tell them something along the lines like they can have it, but it has to wait for another day and time. For example, if your child really wants to eat a cookie right before dinner, say something like, “Okay, you really want this cookie? You can eat it after you eat all of your dinner. I will save it in a special spot and make sure you get it as soon as you’re done eating.” If you compromise with them and still let them get what they want, but at a more appropriate time, it helps them calm down a little bit and realize that they can still have their way, but they just can’t right now because of some important reason.

3. Help Them Feel Understood

Just like any person, children want to feel understood, especially when they are young and can’t express themselves perfectly just yet. Help them feel more understood by repeating back to them how they feel. For example, if they still really want that cookie, say something like, “I know you really want that cookie and you’re mad you can’t eat it right now.” Just simply saying that you know why they are mad and upset will help them feel better because they know that they are getting their point across and that all their crying is not in vain.

4. Be Nice Instead Of Mean With What You Say

First off, let me say that I am no expert when it comes to parenting and especially discipline. However, with that being said I have noticed a few ways that help discipline my son better than others. One of those ways is to be nicer about things instead of being mean and overbearing. I noticed that when I would yell at him or be really dominant over him about something that he would almost become more defiant. It’s like he wanted to fight me even more. I tried changing my approach to being nicer. I think since I am more calm in my approach it helps him to calm down as well. For example, instead of saying, “Get down off of the table right now,” in a strong, dominant, and almost yelling voice, I would say something like, “Hey buddy, can you please sit down on a chair instead of on the table?” I try to approach him in a nice, friendly manner. I have noticed he responds much better when I do this.

5. Explain Why They Can’t Do Something

A lot of times we tell our children they can’t do something without ever explaining to them why. That is a big part of their frustration right there. When they want something so bad and you tell them no without telling them why, they get upset because it doesn’t make sense to them. There’s a lot about this world that children need to learn and understand, so help them do that. For example, instead of saying, “No, you can’t have anymore ice cream,” say something like, “I know you really want more ice cream, but eating too much ice cream is bad for us. It makes us sick, and I don’t want your tummy to hurt later because you ate too much ice cream.” Helping them to understand the reason behind why you don’t want them to do something will help them to know that you’re saying no for a reason, not just because you’re a parent and can say no whenever you want.

6. Switch With A Distraction

One of the greatest tricks in changing your child’s focus from a situation where they really want something is to offer them a distraction. If your child really wants to stay up past their bedtime you can say something like, “But, I have a new bedtime book for you to read. It’s a really fun story and I’m excited to read it. You want to go read it with me?” Offer them something else to get excited about so that their energy changes from frustration about not getting what they want to excitement about a doing something else.

7. Offer Other Options

Sometimes when a child wants something, it may not be that one thing they really want in particular, it just may be that they’re bored, tired, or hungry. Instead of saying “No, you can’t have candy,” say, “Yes, you can have candy after we eat dinner tonight. Right now, lets find a better snack. I have apples, bananas, and yogurt. Which one would you like?” Instead of completely shutting down the idea of eating something, you offer them other options so they can 1) still have candy later and 2) eat something now if they’re hungry but it has to be something healthy.

8. Give Them A Choice

A great way to make a child feel like they are the ones in charge of their decisions and emotions is to give them a choice where it becomes THEIR decision on what they do, and not yours. For example, instead of saying, “No, we can’t throw the ball inside the house,” say, “You can roll the ball nicely in the house OR you can take it outside and throw it around. Which one do you want to do?” This helps your child not to feel completely shut down when you say no. That way they feel like they’re the ones making a decision on how they will react. They can either roll the ball inside or throw it outside. Either way it’s THEIR choice, not yours.

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