I was reading an article in the April issue of Parents magazine called Saying ‘No’ to No, in which the author challenged herself to remove the word “no” from her interactions with her children. According to the experts she quoted, the overuse of the word can lead to a lessened impact. Basically, the more you say it, the less the kids hear it.

Because I often feel that I should have the word NO tattooed onto my forehead, I decided to follow in the author’s footsteps. So this week, I’m challenging myself to stop saying no to my children.

The experts recommended several tips to avoid that nasty word. For instance, instead of saying, “No, you can’t play a computer game,” turn it into the more positive statement, “Yes, you can play a computer game after you clean up your room.” Instead of screaming No as your child dashes into the street, use a more specific command like Freeze. And give an alternative so that you’re declining their request by offering a yes to something else. Instead of saying, “No, you can’t stay at your friend’s house another hour,” say, “We have to go now, but your friend can come over to our house next weekend.”

So all I have to do is switch some words around and my kids will never hear (and ignore) the word no again? Sounds easy enough.

After making a commissary run this morning with both kids, I can already tell you that this challenge will NOT be easy. (Those experts clearly have never gone grocery shopping with a 2- and a 6-year-old.) I think I dropped a dozen no’s in the cereal aisle alone. I have my work cut out for me this week.

(Because I had not yet written this post at the time of the cereal aisle no-bombs, I consider my failure this morning to be null and void.  My challenge officially begins right no. I mean now.)

12 Comments on Operation: “No” Elimination

  1. Great post! I've not read the article you mention but I often despair at how much I use the word no. I hate feeling as if I am always declining requests (or should I say ultimatums?!?). I have started using a tactic several people recommended to me which is instead of saying no to something your child wants or asks to do, you offer two options to get them to do instead what you prefer, knowing that one option they will not go for and so by giving them a supposed choice they make a decision which you like without you saying no. As an example, if my daughter says she does not want to get ready to go out and wants to stay home and not put her shoes on instead of saying no, we are not staying home I say "you can either put your shoes on and come with me now to the store after which we can go to the park, or you get to stay home a while longer but then we will not have time to go to the park later". It doesn't always work and you have to think quickly sometimes of how to get where you want but it is definitely helping!

  2. I was a nanny for 5 years before having my own son and one of the families I worked for was very strict about not saying 'no.' I can see the validity of redirection and giving chirldren choices. Children are often told 'no' far more often than is really necessay and if you put yourself in their shoes, it can be really frustrating. How many adults would be ok with having to raise their hand every time they want to use the restroom? Adults NEED to see things from a child's perspective before disciplining or even just correcting BUT I've seen this go too far.

    To never say 'no' to a child can leave them without any boundries. If they're never given a boundry line and told 'no' they don't know how to draw their own…they don't know how to say 'no' themselves. And in fact, a couple years after leaving the family I mentioned earlier, I learned that their girls had been victimized. They didn't know how to say 'no' and were forever changed. An extreme case for sure, but please consider using 'no' less but not eliminating it entirely. Sorry if this was preachy, I'm kind of passionate about this one.

  3. haha good luck with that. It's so interesting that your commands must seem so much more tolerable than just "no" from a kid's perspective, and all you did was change the wording.

  4. I love it! And when my kids ask for 'junk' cereal, my answer is always "not today" (that's not really a NO, is it? ha ha ha)
    As they've gotten older, if they ask for something like junk cereal, I can now reply, "what do YOU think?" (not as in, what do you think we SHOULD do, but as in, what do you think I WILL do")

  5. I've tried the redirection, but my kids are pretty darn persistent, and usually will continue until not only do I say no, but I say NO!!!!! (e.g. "Mommy, can I have a popsicle?" (at 9 a.m.). "You can have a popsicle at afternoon snack time. Right now, let's have some cereal." "Mommy, can I have a popsicle now?" "It's breakfast time, we'l have a popsicle later, okay? Let's pour our cereal." "Mommy, I want a popsicle NOW." "Later sweetie. What's your favorite kind of cereal? And what should we play after breakfast?" "Mommy give me a popsicle RIGHT NOW!!!!" And that's where "No" comes back. But maybe others are more talented at redirection than I am!

  6. I was a nanny two summers ago and the parents were trying to lessen the usage of the word "no." So that meant the same for me. I tell ya, it's hard not to use that word. Good luck!!

  7. LOL. Oh, I really should try this with my little one since he thinks it fun to yell at us with his chubby little finger and say NO. But, since he's home with Daddy for the next 2 weeks, I doubt my hubby will stick to it. 🙁

  8. Grocery shopping with my kids is a nightmare. I have to stop saying no also..I'm surprised she doesn't think no is her name lol..I'm going to try and do your challenge as well and i will let you know how it goes.

  9. I've worked in a variety of childcare and education settings, including two CDCs (onbase child development centers). The most adamant "anti-'no'" programs by far were the CDCs. As staff we were required to use "positive guidance" at all times and to rarely if ever use the word "no." I can understand and applaud the desire to improve adult/child interactions through positive guidance, and kids really benefit from being told what they CAN do (giving choices can be very powerful and empowering). However, there is definitely a time and place for "No!" Safety issues are non-negotiable and often warrant a "no" in my experience, regardless of age. What I found interesting though was that "no" seems be be particularly effective (and necessary) when kids are 1-2 years old. The children I was caring for would push the boundaries until they hit "no" just to see what the boundaries were. If the boundary wasn't clear (i.e. redirection instead), they tried again and pushed further. Frustrating and dangerous. When the kids were older, they were able to understand and make choices more effectively. Anyway, this is what I've experienced and I know this comment has gone on forever! Congrats on your desire to improve your relationship with your kids, and don't be afraid to do what you know is best in each situation!

  10. Thank you for the great comments everyone! I've already responded to a couple of you on your blogs, but since there's no way to me to respond personally to "Fellow MilWife," I thought I'd just comment back.

    As my week goes on, I think you're absolutely right that sometimes there just isn't anything else to say but no. I'll be writing more about this when I do my week in review this weekend, but I wanted to let you know that my goal has changed a bit. As Brianna suggested above, I am using the word less, not eliminating it altogether.

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