How to Say "No" to Your Child — And Mean It

Avoid a power struggle. Reinforce your stance by explaining it in simple terms your child can understand.
By Laura Amann




No one wins when you get into an argument with a preschooler or young child. Sometimes, parents have to say "no." When you do, it can help to explain why an action is unacceptable or a request is being denied. Here are some common scenarios and examples of what to say to your child: 

Scenario: Your toddler is pulling her shoes off in the grocery store.
Explain: When people go to the store, they have to wear shoes to keep their feet safe. Then point out different types of shoes you see other people wearing as you shop, like an I Spy game.

Scenario: Your 6-year-old wants another cupcake.
Explain: Cupcakes are a food that we eat a little of because they don't make us healthier or stronger, like other foods do. They are a special treat. Be sure to establish a limit before the cupcakes appear at the table.

Scenario: Your preschooler insists on using the public restroom alone.
Explain: It's faster if I come with you, and the faster we use the bathroom, the faster we can get to (the park, the library, etc.). Everyone needs help sometimes. Remind him that only parents should offer help in the bathroom.

Scenario: Your 7-year-old needs to see a PG-13 movie because her friends can.
Explain: Every family has different rules, and parents have to make tough decisions to keep their children safe. This is our rule. You might consider setting up a system where you screen movies in advance and allow her to watch those you deem appropriate as long as she agrees not to make a fuss, regardless of your decision.

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