Teaching your child to say “No”

As a mother of 8 and 10 years old children in London, I am more and more thinking how to teach children to say “No”.

I am doing my best to teach my children to make the right choices in life but it is very hard to confront peer pressure.  I am not sure if my children will be strong enough to say “no” to watching a movie during a sleep-over that would give them nightmares, or “no” to watching a disturbing video on YouTube during a play-date, or “no” to drugs when they are older.  It will be even a harder challenge to tell “no” to adults, when things do not feel right (confronting an attempt of emotional, physical or sexual abuse).

I looked through some behavioural psychology articles and books (e.g. Stress, Appraisal and Coping by Richard Lazarus), and I wanted to share some useful tips we can teach our children to become stronger.

1)      Child has to know why he/she should be saying “no”.

There is no point to teach your child to say “no” if she/he does not understand why "no" is the right answer.  Help your child first to see the consequences of particular choices or risk of certain actions.

2)      Talk about when it is right to say “no” to adults/authority.  I love the expression “intelligent disobedience”. It is useful to discuss with your child situations when “no” is the right reply to an adult.

3)      Practice with your child to say “no”

It may sound funny, but actually rehearsing phrases of saying “no” in different situations would help your child to have the phrase and body language ready when he/she needs it.  After I discuss with my children why they should not be watching disturbing videos on Youtube, I ask them what they would say if a friend wants to show them something on a screen they do not want to watch. We do role-playing. 

Research shows that when we make a specific plan how to deal with the feared situation (in this case a fear of speaking out against a group of friends and being laughed at), when we are confronted with the request we are more likely to find it easier to act according to our original plan.

4)      Being brave helps other friends to become brave

Show your child that being brave is contagious and he/she may help other friends to stand up for themselves after they hear them saying “no”. Help your child to feel like a hero who is helping others.

I found Intelligent Disobedience for Children by Ira Chaleff to be a helpful guidebook how to practice saying “no”  with children. I liked the techniques of “blink, think, choice and voice”.

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Let me know if you find this approach helpful and if you have any other tips to share.


anya abdulakh3 house Club