How to effectively say No to a child

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Saying no to a child is often essential but as often, not easy. A simple ‘no’ can evoke myriad emotions from a toddler—crying and yelling, sulking, or just defiance. The experience can be exhausting for the parents, and equally confusing for the child who is unable to understand, why something which seems perfectly okay to him, is being denied to him! Here, we gather 10 effective tips that will help you say no to your child.

1) Do not overuse the word: Though this may sound paradoxical to the theme of the write-up, this is perhaps the first most important point to consider. Do not overuse the word ‘no’. Save it for life-threatening situations or where the child will obviously harm himself or someone around. Over using the word can de-sensitize a child to its meaning.

2) Explain the ‘no’ to them: You will be surprised how eager children can be, sometimes, to hear logical reasoning. Don’t just say no and finish it off there. This will leave the child feeling deprived and resentful. Instead give him a reason. ‘If you will continue watching TV, you will sleep late and might have to miss that fun swimming class at school tomorrow. What would you want to do?’

3) Level the tone: Remember, children pick up cues from the parents—if we get all worked up and lose our cool, be prepared for a backlash of equal velocity wherein the toddler will obviously not be able to hear your voice over all the crying he is doing. Instead, use every ounce of patience you have and communicate with the child in a level, normal tone. Chances of him hearing you out will be higher.

4) Come down to their level while talking: Try an experiment: Say ‘no’ to your child from a distance and observe his reaction. The next time around, go up to the child, kneel down so that you are at his level, place your hand on his shoulder and looking into his eyes say the same thing, gently but firmly. The results will surprise you. Children want to be treated as equals and not looked down upon. While the language is important, the body language you use is equally important.

5) Steer them towards the desired behaviour: While saying ‘no’ can stop the child from any undesired behaviour he is exhibiting, he can be left confused, feeling isolated, or simply angry at you for stopping him from something he loved doing. Explain the no with the desired behaviour, steering him towards what he should do instead.

6) Show them the consequences: Sometime children are actually unaware of the consequences of their action and unwittingly get into situations where you have to say a no to them. Here it may help to show the consequences of their actions: how doing something can hurt you and sadden you.

7) Let them live the consequences: When things are beyond reasoning, it might help to let the child do whatever he wants to, and live the consequences. If a child is not eating a meal, let him go hungry, and do not serve till the next meal time. A bit of hunger will not cause permanent damage, but may make him listen to you. If he has spilled water on the floor, get him to clean it by himself. Assist if required, but let him clear his own mess. Lessons learnt through actions, last a lifetime.

8) Take charge of the situation: If you want him to know who is the boss, show him! Instead of crumbling into a shouting, screaming mess yourself and making it a battle of equals, take control. Tell the child that you are unable to understand what he is saying because of all the crying or whining; or if instead of crying so much, he explains to you in a normal tone what he wants, you may be able to help him out.

9) Build empathy: This is something that will need effort and practice over long time. Build empathy in your child towards things and people. Aggression, destructive behaviour, indiscipline is never built overnight—these are things children are continuously imbibing from the environment and, we need to be guiding them throughout.

10) Be consistent: When it comes to drawing lines between desirable behaviour and undesirable behaviours, be consistent. If climbing on the table at a restaurant is a no, it should be a no at home also, at grandparents and at friends etc. A no to some activity of the child, should mean a no in all possible situations. Also, ensure that everyone in the family is in sync on this one. Your ‘no’ will lose impact if the child understands that he can get away with the same thing in the presence of another adult who will support him.
Parenting, though one of the most satisfying journeys of our lives, is not without its set of challenges. But, all it wants is some amount of patience, mutual understanding, and a huge amount of love.

Happy parenting!!!


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