How to say no to your kids without hurting their feelings!

As parents, sometimes we get so caught up in raising our kids right that we forget that they’re just a bunch of tiny humans, who deserve to be treated right as well. We forget that they have their own highs and lows on a daily basis, and probably get just as much exasperated and irritated as us adults. And, sometimes we end up talking to them in ways that wouldn’t be acceptable to us.

As refined parents in the making, we should be uncovering nicer ways to say ‘No’ to our kids, shouldn’t we?

So, here are some tried-and-tested ways of saying ‘No’ to your little monsters without hurting their feelings and avoiding a tear fest thereafter!

Mother and daughter having a conversation on the bed

I will use a very simple, albeit common, household scenario as an example where my daughter asks for chocolate before dinner and I need to tell her ‘NO’.

  1. Agree with them. ‘Sure, honey! Just as soon as you’ve finished your dinner’. Here, you’re not saying no to chocolate before dinner, you’re essentially packaging it in a different way. However, this technique does not always work, so you might need to explore other options if you get a super-whiny ‘NOOOO, I want it NOOWWWW!’
  2. Give them a choice. ‘Sure, but since chocolate will most definitely ruin your appetite, do you want one piece now or several more post-dinner’? If I hadn’t tried this hack, I swear I would have disregarded it completely after hearing about it! It works like a spell on my daughter. Sometimes, I just tell her ‘Okay, 1 small piece now, or 3 pieces later’, and she always (ALWAYS) chooses the latter! How great is that?
  3. Give them something else to snack on (an alternative). ‘Since you’ve had chocolate already, how about you try some vegetable noodles instead’? Remember, in their opinion, your alternative better be proportional to the option you’re so subtly denying. My daughter usually takes the bait and settles for a plate of vegetable noodles (your alternative), lest she be denied chocolate forever.
  4. Play with them. ‘The chocolate-eating monster is here and is eating up all of our chocolates!’ I usually get playful with Shayla when she gets moody and throws around tantrums. It’s a little difficult, because getting her all playful right before dinner may prevent her from sitting down altogether, but it does work to a certain measure and definitely with other scenarios.
  5. Enlist help. ‘I do not think eating chocolate before dinner is a good idea. But hey, tell you what, next time we visit Dr.A, let’s us ask him. All right?’ There’s just something about being told something by another authority figure (not immediate family members) that makes kids super compliant. I have enlisted help from my daughter’s dentist, her teachers, and my elder sister a lot of times and it has worked like magic!
  6. Join her in her quest to eat chocolate before dinner (or not!). ‘Sigh! I love chocolates, how I wish I could break the rule and eat some!’ Shayla and I both get really sad and console each other about the harsh rules of life and move on to something else. Yes, sometimes all it takes is just that much effort!
  7. Put the fear of Santa Claus in her. ‘You know you could eat chocolate before dinner, it’s just that Santa watches everything and this might put you in his bad books!’ Works on Shayla. Every single time!
  8. Let your creative juices flow. ‘Hmmm, even though I cannot give you chocolate right now, how about I give you 30 pretend ones? You want a 100? Here you go!’ For some reason, babies tend to think pretending to do something is as cool as doing the real thing. The concept of pretend is so fascinating for them!

The 2-Minute Action Guide for Parents

Father and son walking down an old city street, looking sharp.
Someday, I’ll be as tall as you are!

Take the following 2 minutes to do a small exercise. Recall today’s events, I’m specifically talking about the time you’ve spent with your child today (example, seeing them off to school, talking to them after they wake up etc.)

  • How many times did you deny her something and said ‘No’ during that period of time?
  • Take any one of those incidents and think about the ways in which you could have avoided saying ‘No’ and said something else instead.

Would love to hear your answers in the comments below!


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