One of the hardest things to do is to say no to your child and watch them dissolve in tears in front of you; whether it’s at home right before bed or in the middle of a restaurant, tantrums due to use of the negative are never fun. As a preschool teacher though, I find it’s one word that is not used enough and teaching a child that crying is a good way to get what they want is definitely not a life lesson you want to teach. Here are a few ways to say no that may work for your child to avoid those embarrassing crying jays at home or in public.
The most effective way is usually to “redirect.” Let them know calmly that they are not able to do/buy/go somewhere right now, but there are other options available to them. “No Johnny, we are not going out to play in the pitch dark yard right now, but we can go take a fun bath instead.”
Change the subject. If your child has a strong urge to play in a mud puddle and absolutely refuses to give up their mission, try just completely changing the subject. “Wow, look at that dog playing with a Frisbee over there.” The idea is to get the child’s attention on something different and then getting them to walk away from the puddle without a second thought.
Make it funny. Try to diffuse the situation a little bit. If you are about to have a standoff with your child say something funny, “What are you crazy? We’re not painting on the walls right now!” Throw in an impromptu game of chase around the house and a few tickles and hopefully your son/daughter will forget they were getting riled up in the first place.
Say “No” when you need to. Saying no firmly is the clearest way to get something across. This is best when your child is doing something dangerous; i.e., climbing on kitchen cabinets or hitting, punching, biting a friend or sibling. This is also a last ditch effort when all else fails. Be prepared for the hysterics though. “No” employs a sense of finality when used properly. Don’t say no then buy your child the very toy you said no to in the first place. When you follow-through with what you’ve said in the first place your child will eventually begin to realize you mean business.