Saying NO to your child: How to do it

Kids don’t like taking ‘No’ for an answer but sometimes parents have to say it. Most parents find it difficult and end up yielding to their children’s demands. Here are some tips on how to say ‘No’.

By Arun Sharma

Saying NO to your child: How to do it

Like most children of his generation, two-year-old Hari wanted to play with his mother Anita’s smartphone. When Anita refused to give him the device, he started throwing up a tantrum, falling to the ground and rolling on the floor.

Distressed by his persistent tantrum, Anita caved in and handed him the smartphone. No sooner did Hari get the phone in his hands, than he was back to normal.

Five-year-old Sarvesh was sitting beside his father and eating an apple when his three-year-old sister Gomati walked into the room. Gomati also wanted to take a bite from the apple. When his father asked Sarvesh to let his sister take a bite, he refused. His father sighed and got another apple for Gomati.

Hari’s tantrum to get the phone or Sarvesh’s refusal to share the apple with his sister were perfect opportunities for their parents to say ‘No’ to their child’s inappropriate behaviour. Yet, they could not do so. If you are one such parent who finds it difficult to say ‘No’ to his child, here’s how you can do it.

1. Define needs and wants: Begin teaching your child early on the difference between what her needs and wants are. You can teach this to your child by telling her that whatever she requires to lead a healthy life is her need. The rest are all wants. To reinforce your teaching, give your child pictures of different things and ask her to sort them into needs and wants.

2. Give choices: Saying no to a child’s demand only makes him ask for it with a lot more stubbornness. Therefore, if your child implores you to give him something, don’t just brusquely brush aside his demand. Explain to him why you won’t give him what he is asking for, but, at the same time, give him a few alternatives to choose from.

3. Teach about finances: Teach your child about money and tell her that what you earn goes towards providing things needed by the family. Explain to her that there is only a limited amount of money; so, she should prioritise her demands according to her wants and needs. This way, she will consider well whether she actually needs something before she makes a request to you, and you may not have to say ‘no’ at all.

4. Explain in advance: Most children tend to make demands when you take them to the store or the market. The various items displayed on the shelves makes it impossible for them to resist the temptation to ask for what they take a fancy to. So, before you take your child out shopping, explain to him about things he can ask for and things he can’t. This way, he won’t make demands that will require you to say ‘no’.

5. Cultivate gratitude: Children grow up very quickly and most of their clothes and shoes don’t fit them anymore. They also tend to lose interest in toys that are old. Every few months, ask your child to sort her belongings according to those that can’t be used, those that can be given away, and those she wants to keep for herself. Help your child donate those items that she is ready to give away. Before donating, make her realise how happy she feels whenever she receives something. Tell her that by donating things, she can make other kids, especially the ones who are less-privileged to experience that happiness.

Parents are unable to say no to their children’s demands due to various reasons – being compelled to follow the examples of other parents who give in to their children’s demands, feeling guilty because of the disappointment they may be causing, wanting to give an impression of being a good parent, and so on. However, once you take your child into confidence and make him a partner in the decision-making process, it won’t be so difficult to make him understand that his demands can be declined.