How to Say No to Your Children


Sharon Duchesneau: Many of us parents have experienced trying to tell our children “no”, only to be met with arguing, giving us a hard time or refusing to accept our decision. How do you teach children that “no” means “no”?

Consistency is Important

The most important thing is being consistent and sticking to what you said. When parents are inconsistent, children learn not to take them seriously and sometimes even become confused. When parents are consistent, it is easy to teach children that “no” means “no”.

Three Reasons Why Being Consistent is Hard

There are three main reasons why parents find it hard to be consistent. First, they may be busy and not paying attention to what their children are doing. For example, suppose the rule is the TV must be off at 8 pm every night. If the parents are busy, they may not realize until 8:30 pm that the children are still watching TV and need to be sent to get ready for bed. Then if the next time, it is 9 pm by the time they notice, the children learn that the 8 pm TV-off rule means nothing. If the parents are consistent and pay attention to the time, their children will learn that the rule does mean something.

Second, sometimes parents are not in the mood to deal with the consequences of saying “no”. Suppose they have gone out to a basketball game, having warned the children beforehand that they would not be buying candy tonight. The children may have agreed, but once they arrived, started asking for money for candy. When their parents reminded them of the agreement, the children’s arguing back causes the parents to become self-conscious in public. Because they are embarrassed, they end up giving the children money. The children learn that it is worth arguing with their parents in public and that their parents’ “no” does not really mean “no”. It is important that parents stick to their word, even if they are out in public and people are watching.

Third, sometimes…suppose the children are running around at the movies and won’t sit quietly. The parents might tell them that they will go home if they are not quiet, but in reality, not really mean it. When nothing happens after the second, third, fourth or fifth warning to sit down, the children learn that the parents’ threats are meaningless and there is no consequence for their behavior.

3 F’s

As those three examples show, being consistent is essential. It is easy to do this by remembering the three “F’s”: “F” for fair, “F” for “firm”, and “F” for friendly. “Fair” means making sure your reason for saying “no” or for setting up a rule is fair. “No TV for one year” as a consequence is not really fair since watching TV is common practice, A one-week suspension of watching TV is fair though, if it is explained clearly. “Firm” means being consistent. You don’t need to waste time discussing, negotiating, explaining or defending yourself. Just be firm and say “no”. “Friendly” means that when you say “no”, you don’t need to be angry or lose your temper. When you are angry, you end up teaching your children through fear. Be friendly.

I know there are many different situations and it is not always easy to be consistent with saying “no”, especially when children have different needs. If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss ideas for how to deal with saying “no”, feel free to contact us here at Deaf Counseling Center.



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