The Power of ‘No’

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Healthy Kids from Teeth to Feet: Positive Parenting

The Power of ‘No’

By Aviva Patz for Healthy Kids from Teeth to Feet

’Tis the season for kids to plead, beg and whine for Barbies, Xboxes and iPods. But you don’t have to grant every wish — and more importantly, you shouldn’t. “Hearing ‘no’ helps kids learn to cope with the disappointment and frustrations that are part of everyday life,” says educational psychologist Michele Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.

It also makes your job as a parent easier.

“When kids understand that your ‘no’ means ‘no,’ they’re less likely to keep pushing your buttons. It will actually improve your relationship,” says Borba. Here’s how to say no to your kids while sending positive messages.

Set Parameters
Some gift ideas will be automatically off-limits if they’re unsafe, over your holiday budget or not in line with your family values (toy guns, for example). To avoid an unnecessary power struggle, write your family rules — and explain them — before your kids create their wish lists.

Stay Firm

“The average kid whines to a parent nine times, and the ninth time, the parent gives in,” says Borba. “But if you always keep your word, you’ll ultimately say no less because your kids will know that you mean business.”

Give Guidelines

After your kids circle 36 toys in the holiday catalog, ask them to narrow it down. For younger kids, you might give a number limit; for older ones, a price ceiling. “When you prompt kids to think things through, they begin to prioritize and realize what they truly want,” says Borba. “You’re teaching life skills here — decision-making, prioritizing, respecting boundaries and, for older kids, money management.”

Offer Choices
Children like to feel they have power and autonomy. Use this to your advantage to soften a “no” answer. Choose two acceptable alternative toys and let him choose. For example, “I’m not a fan of the shoot-’em-up video games, but if you want, you could get the racing game or the discovery game. Which would you prefer?”

Nix the ‘No’ Word
Prevent “no” fatigue by coming up with different phrases — especially if they tickle your child’s funny bone. You might say “ix-nay,” “that’s just cuckoo” or “survey says: ehhhh!” Try using a silly accent to turn potential pouts into smiles and giggles.

When you start thinking of “no” as positive rather than negative, you’ll realize the power that it — and you — have over your kids’ whining and wheedling. Consider it a present to yourself.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/stray_cat

has written for many national publications, such as Parents, Parenting, Health, Self, Redbook and Marie Claire. She is a frequent contributor to Healthy Kids.

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The Power of ‘No’
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One Response

  1. mamun mizi November 9, 2012

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