Stop saying no without giving in!

She’s back! The marvelous, wonderful (and should I say forgiving, since I was supposed to post this on Monday?) Deborah Gilboa of Ask Doctor G is back with more advice for the weary parents.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not built with parenting instincts, but other times I feel like I’m just falling into this deep pit of negativity and bad attitudes and need a little refresher to help me get my parenting game face on. That’s why I love Dr. G.

Today’s question (yes, another one of my own):


How to move away from saying no without giving in: I’ve read articles about how to stop saying no all the time, but sometimes I just don’t see how that works. I have days when that’s all I feel like I am saying — “No, don’t do that, don’t do this, don’t hit, don’t throw……” The list is endless, and those are the days when I feel like a terrible mom.



There are nights I have laid in bed and be sure I had said “No!” more often than every other word I uttered that day all added up. It can be so disheartening!


So what’s the problem? Well, Leigh Ann, you know as well as I do what the problem is. It’s that saying yes to preschoolers all day is dangerous! Your question is a great one. I have a few suggestions.


1. You can be silly. “Mommy can I have pudding for breakfast?” “On the moon you can! At our house though it’s cereal.” As long as you can put up with 15 minutes of “We live on the moon Mommy! Look at me I’m the girl in the moon!” this can be a fun way to avoid a “No.”


2. You can keep an “I wish” list in the kitchen. “I’m coloring on the floor Mommy?” Try “Oh! That goes on the ‘I wish I could’ list! Now go get some paper please.”


3. You can make a “Oooh I don’t think so” face. This can be cartoony and hilarious as long as the kids get it.


4. You can poll your other children, like this. “Mommy, can I play in the snow in just my beautiful tutu?” “Hey, you guys, what do you think I’m going to answer sister?” Don’t ask your other children their opinion or you’ll be explaining to the ER doctor how your daughter got frostbite within sight of your home.


5. You can use my husband’s favorite. “Yes, but not until you…” …take a bath, finish dinner, turn 18 and get a job.



But the best way to avoid saying no all the time is what you’re probably already doing. Look ahead for the trouble spots – those points of conflict that come up most days – and offer choices within limits. Does your precious daughter throw huge wardrobe fits when it is time to get dressed? Then lay out the outfit the night before – she has to choose from the two or three you offer before she gets a bedtime story.


You know how to do this.


But remember! Good parents say no a fair amount. Which is good, because the world says no a fair amount, and kids have to be able to cope when that happens. Otherwise, classroom rules and traffic laws and job contracts would all be shocking to our little boundary-pushers!


So what do you guys think? Do you sometimes find yourself swirling in a downward spiral of “No no no?” I can say from experience that giving choices is a HUGE help in avoiding a lot of battles. Especially because it’s so cute to watch Zoe put a thoughtful finger to her lips, examine each choice carefully, and say, “Ummmm…..ummmmmm….”

Thanks so much for stopping by again, Dr. G. Sometimes it just takes a third party to help us take a step back and see better ways to handle situations.

Go visit Dr. G at Ask Doctor G, and tell her I sent you! You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter at @AskDocG.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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Leigh Ann Torres
Writer, artist, wife, cook, maid, bookkeeper, mom to twins plus one...all around genie in a bottle, except you only get one wish, and it has to be reasonable.
  1. Thanks for having me here again Leigh Ann. Since I wrote this I’ve been pondering what an entire day of saying “yes” would look like. But then I realized that could only possibly work if you only have one child who speaks!

    • Always a pleasure to have you. And yes…a day of yesses would include lots of “ladypops” and just plain insanity!

  2. What a great topic Leigh Ann! Even though I only have the one little one, it seems I find myself saying “no” every time I turn around and I think to myself “am I hindering her exploration and discovery by always saying “No, don’t do that” as long as she’s not causing herself physical harm, because really, is it that bad to clean something up once she’s “learned or discovered” something? Actually, as I was typing this comment, Cheyenne spilled her cereal bowl in her lap. Rather than my first reaction, “Cheyenne! Look what you have done!” I think it scared her and she hates getting anything on her, I said “It’s okay baby. Let’s get those wet clothes off and clean up.” Believe it or not, it made me feel better and calmer to react to her in a positive way rather than yelling and casting blame. I’ve been trying lately to respond positively to her and rather than saying no and don’t do that, I will try to redirect her attention to something else. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but using that method, it seems to be making our days a lot smoother around here. I still say “no” sometimes, but not as often and since I don’t say it as often, she responds better to it and actually stops what she’s doing that gets the “no” from me….most of the time. It’s not perfect, but what is?? You are a great mom and you are raising 3 wonderful little girls!! :)

    • Lori, that is really lovely! When you react in a calm, positive way to a small calamity, you are teaching your daughter to be resilient!

    • That’s great to hear, Lori. I try to find ways around saying no as well….like “Let’s do this instead….” Instead of “No, don’t pull the knives out of the dishwasher!” I may say, “Hey, help me close this dishwasher so you’re not tempted to stab your sister.” Not that that’s ever happened. Ahem. ;)

  3. I’m pretty sure that with me being the only parent home this whole week (and all of next week too) Goose has been getting a LOT more “no!” lately – as I’m just exhausted and she’s cranky and whiny from missing Papa and currently he’s the one who’s been doing more of the “active playing” with her (cuz hello? I’m large, and 9mos pregnant and the whole getting up & down and sitting on hard floors, etc. just isn’t working out that well for me right now!) so we’re both frustrated, tired and cranky… it probably isn’t helping either that I’m giving in to letting her watch “one more show Momma?” (two, or THREE times before bed) just so I can relax and not move for a little longer, which means we go to bed later, and then neither of us want to get up in the morning… heck – she picked out her own clothes last night for today – then this morning she decided she wanted a completely new outfit… and I finally caved because we were running late… and then I was cranky at myself for giving in to the crying and whining… *sigh* I just keep reminding myself that Hubs will be home tomorrow, and trying to forget that he’ll be leaving again on Sunday… I like Doc G’s suggestions, I’m going to try them out, hopefully it helps Goose & I out tonight and next week!!

    • Single parenting can be so hard! It really makes me appreciate my husband more, that is for sure. And Rusti, give yourself a break! You are wow-pregnant (you know, that time when strangers see you and say “Wow!” and you feel like you should walk high school campuses with a warning label on your shirt) and this is not a time of energetic parenting. This is a time for keeping Goose safe and fed and loved and letting her explore the wide world of PBS.

  4. I love Dr. G SOOOO much! I’m so glad she’s back! Such GREAT advice! I love using the silly re-directors! Perfection!

  5. This is great advice for me. Even living with a 6 year old, I still find myself having “no” days and it’s good to remember the alternatives.

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