Alternatives to No

Posted on Jul 2nd 2018


Alternatives to No

It’s the classic scenario of preparing for parenthood by scouring articles on positive parenting, reading books, and having a planned approach for dealing with tantrums and sibling fights. Pre-kid, you may have had parenting all figured out and had opinions while watching a mom respond to her child in the checkout line at the grocery store. Now, it’s you and and your child is trying to flip off of the sofa like Spiderman, and it happens….you scream, "NO!" You didn't see it coming, but find yourself using "NO" 50 million times a day, with no response from your children.

We have all been there, done that. At the end of a long day, when you are exhausted, it’s so easy to use that short, simple word. If you find that “N-O” isn’t doing the trick for your kiddo, try out these alternate tips for redirecting the undesired behavior.

mom comforting son

Provide Choices: "Do you want to stay and play for 5 more minutes or leave now?"

  • "Do you want 2 more minutes or 4 more minutes before bed?" Giving options gives them some control over the situation. The parenting trick behind the choices is that you get to choose the options you provide, which should both be ideal for the scenario.

Provide an alternative to the behavior. “It seems like you want to jump right now. How about we jump on the floor. Use the pillows to make hot lava instead!”

  • Saying no and then giving no other alternative is an open window for repetition of the behavior you aren’t a fan of. Provide a few alternatives and let them choose.

Explain why the behavior is undesired, instead of just saying no. “Mommy does not want you to get hurt. When you get hurt, it makes mommy sad.”

  • Having a clear understanding of why the action is not okay makes it clear for your child. If you just say no, and provide no other clarification, children are often confused.

If your little one is upset, get down on their level and speak in a calming voice. “I get upset when I cannot do something too. Let’s take a deep breath and count to 3.”

  • As the parent, you should be using the tone of voice and style of communication in which you want your child to emulate. If you both are yelling, it’s likely that neither party is listening.

Set clear household rules.

  • If jumping off of the sofa is a definite no, make sure your child understands that. Don’t allow it some days and not others. It sends mixed signals.

Review expectations before you go somewhere.

  • Before we head into the store, I remind my boys what I expect inside. Keep it simple with directives like: Stay in the cart (or beside mommy for my oldest), use inside voices, no running. I always clarify what we need to get at the store. If we are not buying a toy that day, I reiterate multiple times that we are not buying a toy for you today, we are shopping for applesauce, cereal, and strawberries. They repeat the simple rules and help with the list at the store. Preparation and expectations are key.

Oh and mama, saying “no” isn’t the end of the world. We are all doing the best we can – and it’s an exhausting job raising little humans! So, in case no one has told you today – YOU ROCK!

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