Alternatives to Saying “No”

child at our preschool

Kids are tough to handle: Sometimes they are sweet little angels who seem like they could never harm a soul, and other times they kick and scratch and try to fight their way out of things. As parents, it can be easy to slip into using negative language in order to get a child to stop doing something. However, this can be harsh on the child’s developing mind. Here is a list of alternative phrases you can use instead of “no” to get your child to think differently about their actions.

No thank you. This is a phrase used a lot by our own teachers here at BLH. While it does still have the word “no” in it, this phrase feels more polite and suggests to the child that the actions they are exhibiting are making someone else hurt or uncomfortable. This works on both fronts of getting the child to stop whatever it is they are doing and to illicit empathy and responsibility for their actions.

Say this instead. If a child has come across a naughty or inappropriate word or phrase, the instinct as a parent is to say, “Don’t say that.” By using this negative verbiage, children are more likely to want to say what they’re not supposed to. Instead, give the child another option for a phrase or word in place of the naughty one. For example, if your child says “hate” a lot (“I hate peas, I hate school, etc.) you can give them the option to say something more along the lines of “I would rather eat green beans than peas” or “School makes me feel really tired.”

Please keep hands to ourselves. Children often get physical if they do not get their way, including hitting and kicking other kids. “Stop that” is a phrase that only makes kids want to keep doing what they are doing. By using a positive verbiage and direct action word, kids are more likely to respond to your request that they cease their inappropriate action.

It’s okay to feel that way. Kids can get upset over the silliest of things it seems, so when a child is upset for seemingly no reason it is important to understand as a parent that whatever is making your child upset is a big deal to them, even if it doesn’t feel like a big deal to you. Instead of saying “Don’t get upset,” you can say “What you’re feeling is real and it is okay to feel that way. Why do you think you feel this way?” By creating an open-ended question, you can allow your child a little more freedom to express why they are upset rather than to disregard what they’re feeling. It will also help calm them down if they can name why they are upset in the first place.

By using more positive verbiage in our daily language, we can allow kids to begin to understand their own actions and create a safe and expressive place for them to develop good and appropriate habits.

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