Kids hear the word “no” a million times a day.
Children are still learning how to interact with the world, and as such, there are some things that they can’t or shouldn’t do. Naturally, we tell them “no,” but now, some child psychologists and behaviorists warn that kids who hear the word too often can develop a negative outlook.
1. Use positive terms to respond to questions.
Phrase responses so that you’re telling children what they can do instead of what they can’t do. Say that they can play later or have one cookie instead of giving them an outright “no.”
2. Talk about what you’re feeling.
Instead of just saying “stop” or “no,” explain why you don’t like something in age-appropriate terms. Tell them that it hurts when they hit you or that the noise they’re making affects your concentration. This kind of dialogue helps develop kids’ empathy for others.
3. Give kids a choice between two things that they can do.
Instead of saying, “No bouncing the ball in the house,” provide a choice between two other locations. “You can bounce the ball in the backyard or in the driveway. Which would you like?” This often stops kids from responding in a rebellious way.
4. Provide replacement behaviors.
If you don’t like the sound your child makes when she taps her foot, you can ask her to make shapes with her foot instead. If you suggest another activity, your kid won’t feel shut down or like they’re a nuisance.
5. Use your tone of voice to communicate.
Use positive tones when providing replacement behaviors to encourage them. Use more stern tones to communicate “no” without needing to say the word.
6. Replace “no” with “ta.”
Some say that because we use the word “no” in so many contexts in the English language, it can be confusing for youngsters. Replacing “no” with “ta” can be helpful if you commit to it. However, be aware that this may present its own kind of confusion, since “ta” means everything from “yes” to “thank you” in other languages.