Saying YES when we mean NO

Parentree-editors 2008-10-16 11:10:29

Often, as parents, we are faced with situations where a difference of opinion is about to arise between young children and us.

When necessary, a firm NO, can and should be the appropriate response.

But in a number of cases, parents use a negative response, when a positive response may have a better effect. And that negative response may end up escalating the conversation to a confrontation.

We offer some examples of how parents can structure their responses to be positive, especially with young children.


Example -  Child requests more and more water while nibbling at dinner

  • Negative response - "No, you have had too much water already. No more water for you"
  • Positive alternative - "Yes, I will give you more water as soon as you finish your dinner"


Example - Child has just played outside and goes to eat

  • Negative response - "Don't eat your food till you wash your handsf"
  • Positive alternative - "Wash your hands so we can get rid of those germs before we eat. Then we can be sure our body is healthy"


Example - Crying and complaining

  • Negative response - "Stop crying. No more crying from you. I am tired of it"
  • Positive alternative - "I am having trouble understanding you. Since you are crying your words are not clear. Can you tell me clearly what you want?"


Example - Clean up their toys

  • Negative response - "No icecream if you do not clean up"
  • Positive response - "All those who clean up their toys can come to icecream with me"


Example - Repeatedly asks for something

  • Negative response - "I am getting tired of you asking for the same thing again and again"
  • Positive alternative - "I heard you the first time. Let me finish what I am doing now and I will get to it. In fact, you can help me finish this task faster...."


Example - Watching TV continuously

  • Negative response - "You have watched too much TV. Turn it off"
  • Positive response - "You can watch five more minutes of TV and then I want you to ride your cycle for the next hour"


Example - Wants junk food

  • Negative response - "No, you have had too many chips already. Eat this banana"
  • Positive response - "Remember, we talked about "some time" foods and "anytime" foods. Chips are "some time" foods and you had them a few times. If you are hungry now, have "anytime" foods like a banana.

This type of response requires parents to think carefully about what is the positive in the situation. NO is an easier response because we are programmed automatically for it. However, a constant stream of NOs, if heard by a child will only result in less weight being given to a NO. If we can moderate our response, when possible, Indian parents will find it easier to educate our children about rules, limits and good behaviour.


discipline, rules, limits, emotion, behaviour, 0-1 year, 1-2 years, 2-4 years, 4-6 years, 6-8 years, 8-12 years


2011-04-01 02:37:46


i also try to talk in positive words with my child, today before going to bed my daughter wanted something and was crying, so i calmly asked her first to wipe her tears and then told her that she should not cry as i am not able to understand her. so, this worked, she stopped crying, i could understand that she wanted me to unscrew her bottle lid as she did not want to sip with the lid on. whenever she spills anything or drops things, i explain to her that spilling water or dropping things might mean she can slip and hurt herself, which she has started to understand albeit from real experince also as she slipped on water which she had spilled.


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