The art of saying “No” nicely

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I’m sure you can relate to this scenario…

Imagine a scene at a supermarket, Mr T and I are approaching the counter and as always, there is an array of sweet treats at eye height for Mr T. Despite having explained before we came into the Supermarket that we are there to get only what is on our list today, Mr T can’t contain his urge to have a sweet “Mummy, can I have a Freddo please?”

Me: “Good manners Mr, but that’s not on our list Mr T”

Mr T: “Pleeeeease?”

Me: “Not today, maybe next time.”

Mr T: “But Muuuuum, It’s just one, pleeeeeeeeease?”

Me (sternly): “I said No! Now let’s go!”

ALTERNATIVE: Me: “Ok, just this once.”

It doesn’t matter how much I prepare Mr T before we go into a supermarket – the temptations are just too great – no thanks to savvy marketers and merchandisers, the shop layouts are designed to play on those little hands and minds, especially in the sweet treats aisle, which of course can be avoided, but the dreaded checkouts can’t be.

It doesn’t matter where the scenario plays out, saying No is a great skill to master. One I wish I learned a little earlier in my parenting experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no pushover, but if I’m brutally honest, I do have a history of winging it when it comes to saying No.

Let’s face it, Little Peeps learn very quickly various ways to get what they want. They can be expert negotiators, emotional manipulation experts, and persistent beyond parental limits.

If ill-prepared, it’s too easy to give in and fold. Even when I’ve laid the ground rules prior and communicated clearly, my previous inconsistency comes back to bite me because Mr T knows he’s won a few times in the past. So he persists until I either get mad or give in.

My solution today is to get groceries delivered. But, really I need to learn to say No nicely and be consistent. So here are some ideas I found that are worth trying.

Why we feel bad saying No

The main reason we feel bad saying No, is because deep down inside it triggers our own stuff. Hidden in the subconscious are the experiences you had being the receiver of ‘No’ from your parents, siblings, friends, colleagues and other important figures in your life.

You don’t want to let your Little Peep down, so you find ways to avoid or delay the response to the request.

The positive side to saying No

Saying No is easier when you have a good reason to do it. No is not always a negative word. It is our role as parents to teach our Little Peeps how to say No nicely themselves to prepare them for the big wide world. to do this, we need to model nice ways to say No.

Here are a few examples of the positive reasons to say No:

  • By saying No to things that Little Peeps can do on their own, we are helping them to become competent people.
  • Say No to protect them from harm or harming someone/something else.
  • Teaching your children values. You are the model for your little peeps, if you don’t value your values, how can you expect them to? This could be a real challenge as they become tweens and teens for both them and you.
  • Saying No to wants not needs teaches Little Peeps to be grateful and respect things.
  • Teaching flexibility when things don’t quite work out how you expected or there is a timetable clash requires you to say No.
  • When No is better for the greater good as opposed to an individuals benefit, which helps to teach fairness and consideration for others.
  • Learning how to be in a world that requires flexibility and a bit of give and take.

In a nutshell, to function well in life, we need to teach our little peeps that No is good tool for them and us when used appropriately and respectfully.

Nice ways to say No

Just to be clear, saying No nicely still requires you to communicate that you mean No. It’s not about avoiding or giving in. Sometimes it helps to give a reason so they understand why you are saying no.

The key to future success is to be consistent. Little Peeps like to know they can rely on their parents, and consistency shows that otherwise, they feel confused which causes anxiety. So do yourself and them a favour and decide your boundaries, and be consistent.

Here are a few quick examples of how to say No nicely.

“No sweetie, that’s not on our shopping list, we don’t need that today.”

“Sorry Mr T, that doesn’t fit with our Family Agreement – respect for things. You need to stop.”

“It’s time to pack up and get ready for dinner.”

“You don’t need to spend your money on that. You’ve got your favourite doll at home.”

“No running inside. You know the rules.”

“Sorry Miss D, we can’t get a dog because we’re not home enough to give it the attention it deserves.”

Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash

Other resources:

Check out some of these resources to help educate your Little Peeps to choose positive ‘Tudes and build strong life habits.

The BUU ‘Tude Cards, stickers and game sets are a great resource to help develop an emotional vocabulary.

For those who need quick access to the ‘Tude Choosing tool!

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