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Saying No to Your Child: 4 Ways to Keep Your Cool

June 30, 2017

 Sharon Peters, parenting expert and founder of Parents Helping Parents, helps us learn that saying no while keeping it together is possible. Martini not included. 


Saying no to your child isn’t always easy.  Here are a few things to keep in mind that often help.  (Fair warning: just because these ideas can work doesn’t make them easy to pull off.)

1.Stay calm.  As a tense tone usually breeds a tense reaction, do whatever you can to keep your wits about you when telling your child no.  As every parent is human, of course this isn’t always possible.  However, things will go better for you and your child, if and when you can manage to take a deep breath, remember that things are not be as bad as they seem and utter a calm but clear “no” or “sorry we’re not going to do that” before moving on.

2. Explain, briefly. Sometimes a simple no doesn’t offer enough information for a child to clearly understand what you are saying.  When this is the case use as few words as possible to make your point.  As children often tune out long adult explanations, the more you explain the more likely you are to get an equally long-winded negative response.

3. Don’t let your child’s upset “get the best of you.”  I agree this is often the hardest thing of all to pull off, BUT it may be the most important.  When a child is told no to something they want they are usually at least mildly disappointed.  Reactions such as these are perfectly understandable. Of course disappointment can easily turn into frustration or anger.  Even if a child is raging out of control it usually helps if a parent can keep their cool and “let the fire burn itself out” before suggesting a new activity or sorting through possible solutions to the problem at hand. Simple steps like counting to 10 (or even 100) can help parents be more in charge of their response.

4. Move On. Having an array of “fun things to do” at your disposal can often increase the likelihood of a successful recovery from an upsetting no from mom or dad.  Doing something that puts a smile on everyone’s face can give parent and child the opportunity to “forget about” the limit that had to be set.


sharon peters

Sharon C. Peters is the founder and director of Parents Helping Parents in Park Slope. Parents Helping Parents offers practical solutions to parents and parents and children through individual appointments arranged on an as needed basis.  Topical workshops and ongoing groups also provide participants with opportunities to share their personal experiences and hear helpful perspectives.  Sharon’s work is also published regularly in Brooklyn Family Magazine, blogs and at www.phponline.org. She has an MA in Educational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University and since 1995 has met with hundreds of individual families and led workshops for many schools and community organizations. As a step, birth, adoptive, married and single mother, Sharon has parented five children, several coping with special needs.