Parenting Tips from the Professionals: Saying 'No'

Parenting Tips from the Professionals: Saying 'No'

Do you feel frustrated by endlessly saying ‘No’ to your toddler and then coping with their inevitable tantrums?  Kathryn Mewes, the 3 Day Nanny, explains how to use positive language instead of saying ‘No’ 

"There is a word that I describe as being ‘like a red rag to a bull’ when speaking to children ….the word ‘No’.

Let’s face it, nobody likes to hear the word ‘No’. Children are no different. In fact quite the opposite: when they are told ‘No’ they feel as if their world is over!

I have been working with families for over 20 years and I have come across many styles of family and characters of children.  During my time with families I learnt very quickly that to avoid the word ‘No’ saves a lot of time and tantrums.  So how do we avoid the word ‘No’? ‘Surely that is impossible’ I hear you cry!

When children ask us for something or are doing something they shouldn’t we tend to feel that we have to respond immediately – not true.  Unless a child is steering towards danger I always tend to PAUSE in my mind before addressing a situation.  I observe for a moment what is taking place.  It is only when I feel a sense of control that I approach.

I am sure that there have been many situations in your working career where you have had to face difficult situations with colleagues. This needs thought and planning before the approach. I suggest you approach parenting in the same way.

So, why should we avoid the word ‘No’?

The moment a child hears ‘No’ they are likely to become cross and upset.  This can lead to shouting and screaming and even throwing themselves to the ground.  Once a child is in a tantrum it is impossible to ‘get them out of it’.  You need to give them the time and space to vent their anger and then calm down.  This can be a long process so why not aim to avoid it from time to time?

How do we avoid saying ‘No’?

It doesn’t come naturally to many parents to avoid the word ‘No’ so I tend to give them several phrases to place around the house to keep them focused on ‘Positive language’.  Here are a few phrases to replace the word ‘No’.  They need to be said with a firm clear voice and eye contact. This means bending down to their level and finding your ‘teacher tone’ of voice.

  • “Let’s not do that now.”
  • “Come away and I will find something fun for us to do.”
  • “Jump down from there so I don’t get cross.”
  • “I DON’T want you doing that thank you.”
  • “Enough of that Thank you.”

When your child asks for something and you are thinking ‘No’ in your head, simply tell them when they CAN have that item.  

For example: Child asks to watch television.  As a parent, you can respond by saying: “You can watch television as soon as we have had our dinner. Now why don’t you help me with the cooking?”

So the next time the word ‘No’ enters your head, try your best to find an alternative and you might just escape a tantrum moment!"

Kathryn Mewes ( is star of the Channel 4 TV programme “The 3 Day Nanny” and author of “The 3 Day Nanny” books. 


Released On 11th Apr 2016

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