Stop Telling Your Kids No

If you just read the title of this blog, you probably think I’m crazy. But I’m not. I’m not telling you not to correct your children, but I’m going to make a suggestion about how you do it.

Imagine that your child is jumping on the bed and you don’t want him to. Which command is going to work better? “No. Stop jumping on the bed.” or “We relax in beds. Please sit.” Both commands hopefully get your child to stop acting like a monkey who’s about to fall off and bump his head, but with the latter command, your child learns what is appropriate. If you tell your child what not to do, there are a lot of misbehaviors left for him to try. He might start rolling around on the bed or gathering up toys to play with in the bed. With the second command, you’ve communicated what you would like to see your child do.

Try telling your child what to do rather than what not to do. Not only will this help your child learn what behaviors are appropriate and lead to further discussion about why, but it won’t tear down your child’s self esteem as much. Hearing “no” or “stop it” all the time is no fun! We, as adults, wouldn’t want to hear that all day long. Your child will have the opportunity to make the right choice after being told what to do, then he can feel confident about what he has chosen to do. Your child might not feel like he is really getting in trouble or being yelled at. Which is great for you, because kids tend to rebel when they feel like mommy or daddy is being mean. Praising your child after he does what he was asked is going to help too, of course.

Unfortunately, you can’t turn every correction into a positive one. If your child is doing something very specific, there may not be a way to reword it, and that’s alright. For example, when your child is picking up a cord and trying to put it in his mouth, you’re probably not going to say “honey, cords are for electricity to run through so please take it out of your mouth and come play.” You could try it, but your child will have no idea what you’re talking about.

You’re also not going to reword your commands with safety issues. If your child is running toward the road, yelling “NO!” is probably a good idea. You need him to stop what he is doing now so that no one gets hurt. “We never ever run in the road. Don’t ever do that again” is not very positive, but probably necessary in that situation. But when you use words like “no” and “don’t” less often, your child is hopefully going to be more responsive to hearing them. So he will stop when he hears “no” because he knows that you don’t use it all that often.

It might take some getting used to, but give it a try! You might find that you already do this a lot of the time. If not, after trying for a while, you’ll do it without thinking!
Featured photo edited from


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