Why I Don’t Say No to My Kid (and What I Say Instead)


communicating with kidsWould you believe me if I told you that I don’t say No to my kid? I don’t practice permissive parenting. I set limits, I’m consistent, and I don’t say No. Here’s why I don’t say No, and what I say instead.

Saying Yes is more specific

We need to be a whole lot clearer with our kids than you may think. When our directions are explicit and concrete, they will comply much more readily. When we say “no” or “don’t” to our child, we leave them wondering what TO do. Also, a funny thing happens when you use a “no” command: kids hear the language after the no. That’s why our children often infuriate us by doing just what we said no to. So, instead of telling a child not to run, which freezes them, say “Walk.” Instead of yelling, “Stop yelling!” try, “Speak in a low voice.” (And it’s best if you give this command in a low voice yourself).

Negative Language Positive, Concrete Language
Stop bothering your sister Take good care of your sister
No running around the grocery store Hold on to the shopping cart
Don’t make a mess Put away one game before you take out the next
No yelling Speak softly so only those right next to you can hear you
No running Walk

Saying Yes allows me to teach virtues, instead of punishing vices

Whenever you’re working on a behavior with your child, you really should be teaching the opposite virtue. If my kid lies, I get a chance to teach about why honesty and trustworthiness matter. If my child acts cruelly, it’s an opportunity to practice kindness and care. If we only punish vices, we just teach kids that there are certain things we don’t do, at least as long as we don’t get caught. If we focus instead on the opposite virtue, we raise children with fully developed consciences, who do right and understand why.

Instead of punishing: Teach:
Lying Honesty and Trustworthiness
Laziness Responsibility and Accountability
Cheating Fairness
Rude behavior Respect
Apathy Citizenship

Saying Yes empowers my child

While we are teaching our children, there exists a delicate balance between setting them up for success and pushing them to grow and improve. When I tell my daughter what TO do, she’s automatically set up for success because she knows exactly what I expect.

Saying Yes forces me to think about what I’m trying to achieve

When I have to conceptualize what I want my child TO do, it helps me stay aligned to my goals. It also guides me to consider the larger WHY behind the rules I set down. This reduces reflexive no’s and fear-based parenting.

Saying No drains you and your child

When it comes down to it, saying No brings you down. It’s just hard to say with a spring in your step. Too many Nos leave your child feeling like a failure and ultimately they tune you out. Then you’re not only negative and exhausted but you’re also ineffective.

So do I really never, ever say No?

No (see what I did there?). Just yesterday I hastily cried out, “Don’t flush the toilet when Mommy’s in the shower!” Sometimes, it makes sense to stop a behavior without giving an alternative directive. Mindfully choosing our words is what matters. My goal is always a zero No day, and a healthy diet of Yes keeps our relationship strong and joyful.



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