You know those moments when you tell your kids they can’t jump on the couch + they keep jumping anyway? That’s because telling your kids ‘no’ doesn’t work. If there is a ‘no’ or a ‘but’ attached to it, you can count on it not working. But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? There really is an effective approach that gains you the cooperation you are looking for in your kids.
Let’s break down the difference between compliance + cooperation, how to start shifting your mindset, + explore some strategies. Your effectiveness is going to increase + everyone in your family will no longer feel like you’re always nagging.
Let’s stop + think for a minute about what you are doing right when you say No. You are setting limits for your kids + holding them accountable to them. You also are confident in this expectation. These are great objectives.
The problem with saying no comes down to your messaging. If we can tap into better messaging you move into effective cooperation.
When we tell our kids ‘no’ we are telling them they cannot have or do something that they want. In turn, their response is to fight for what they want. So they dig in, ignore, or snap back at you. You haven’t given them a reason that has them convinced that they should do what you say.
If what you want your kids to go along with your plan instead of theirs, your success lies in the strategy. You have to be strategic in order to gain your child’s cooperation. In those moments, I really want you to dig deep + put yourself in their shoes.
Before throwing a ‘no’ out there, give yourself a moment to consider some of these questions:
When you consider what it is that they want + what you can offer that still honors that desire, you begin to empathize. When you can do that, you are putting yourself in the position of collaborating rather than polarizing.
This is what I call a ‘yes’. When we can move away from the ‘no’, we are closer to a ‘yes’. This isn’t about being passive as a parent, but about being collaborative, supportive, + sincere with our kids. The more we can send a message like this with our kids, the more likely we are to get cooperation from our kids when we really do have to say no. And when you do have to say no, you will feel less guilty because you will be confident in your decision.
Beware: saying yes is not the same as negotiating. The last thing you want is to step into a tug of war with your child. If you find yourself in that situation, take a moment to learn from the reality that you missed the mark + use this opportunity to course-correct your conversation.
Once you have a handle on what it is your child wants + how you can try to meet them halfway (or even all the way in some cases), you’re in a better position as the parent. You have been able to take away some of your own frustration, sidestep the power struggle, + arrive at an agreement through a peaceful + meaningful conversation. When you do this, you’re telling your child that you see them as an individual with their own wants + desires that you value too–that’s really important to our little ones.
So there are a few ways you can come to an agreement with your kids. I would tend to break them down into three categories:
Sometimes we just say ‘no’ to our kids because it’s easier to. I can’t tell you how many times I have caught myself saying no to my kids because whatever they wanted to do was an inconvenience or uninteresting to me at the moment. If you realize that’s your only reason to say no, consider changing your position and making it a full yes. Most often, I have found that my kids were able to enjoy new experiences or have a meaningful way to connect with me because I decided to say yes. Very rarely do I regret it!
This is when you can’t give a full yes because you have legitimate concerns that are holding you back. When you want to see a change in behavior or redirect a child’s plan or request, consider offering choices. This furthers the cooperation because you are setting a limit while also asking your child how they would prefer to proceed. They won’t always like their choices but when they are not being confronted with an outright no, I find they generally figure out that cooperating is the best option for them.
Sometimes we don’t have the time to say yes because of other family priorities. Time + prioritization are both really tricky concepts for kids to understand, let alone manage. If you can find ways to say yes for a specific timeframe or to schedule their plans for a future time (+ follow through on that promise), your child will generally cooperate.
I have found that having a visual timer is a very effective tool for kids to understand how much time they have left to do something. Writing down future plans is also very validating when we are asking our kids to wait before they can have or do what they want. This one takes more adjustment but you will find if you are consistent in your follow-through, time-bound yes’s can be incredibly effective!
There is a time + a place for saying no. The good news is that the more often you say yes, the easier it is to have cooperation from your kids on those rare occasions you must say no.
If you’ve run through your mental list of questions + you really can’t make a yes out of it, you’re going to find that you are more confident in your answer. You won’t be saying, “Because I said so,” + your kids will have a new-found appreciation for you because of it.
Try saying yes, say no when you must. Remember that you do this to set limits while also telling your child that you love + value them. You will have less stress, a happier family, + the confidence that you are building a trusting relationship with your children.
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