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Parents: How to Say NO to Saying NO

Did you know that the average toddler hears the word "no" an astonishing 400 times a day? That's amazing. But this could mean bad news for your kid. According to studies, kids who hear no too much have poorer language skills than children whose parents offer more positive feedback. So how do you say "No" only in a better way? Here are some tips we found online:

  • Say yes, sort of - Your kid asks you for candy while you're shopping. You say, "No candy before dinner." He stomps his feet. You say no again, more sharply this time. Before you know it, he's having a five-alarm tantrum in aisle four. Sound familiar? Next time, try reframing your no as a yes. For example, you could say to your child, "Yes, you can have candy after dinner. Let's go look for an apple for now."
  • Explain yourself and your feelings - Consider explaining to your child why her behavior -- such as banging on the table over and over again -- is so bothersome to you. You might tell her, "You're hurting the table when you bang on it, and that makes me sad. Please stop." Although it may feel futile to reason with a toddler, you're actually teaching her something: You're showing your child that what she does affects other people around her -- and you're giving her a crash course in empathy.
  • Give him a choice - Your preschooler is throwing his ball in the living room, and you're bracing yourself for the sound of something crashing. Instead of saying, "No! No balls indoors," try saying, "You can roll the ball indoors or take it outside and throw it -- your choice." Why? By offering him an option, you help your child feel like he has some power over the situation.
  • Show and tell - Two-year-old Henry keeps poking his baby sister; his dad keeps telling him, "No, stop." Why won't he? Some children can't stop what they're doing, even when you tell them to, because they don't know what to do instead. You may have to help them figure it out. Henry, for example, needs his dad to say, "Give Sarah a kiss," or some similar suggestion; then he'll have an image in his mind of something to do instead of poking.
  • Sound like you mean it - Kids initially learn the meaning of the word no largely from the tone of your voice when you say it, so you can communicate what you need to say by using the same firm tone without the negative word. Reserve this strict tone for those times when your child needs to know not to mess with you. Likewise, you can also develop a "look" -- or a penetrating glare -- that immediately signifies to your child, "I don't like what you're doing, and you'd better stop.

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