Discipline Techniques for Young Children

Alternatives to Saying "No"

Mother trying to calm crying child
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How many times a day do you say "no?" If you're the parent of a young child, it's probably quite often. The thing about "no" is, though, because it is used so often, its meaning can become diluted, the word quickly losing its effectiveness. Good thing saying no isn't the only discipline technique out there. Here's what you can do when your preschooler isn't on her best behavior.

Option to Say "Yes."

That's not to say you should agree to your preschooler jumping on the bed or acquiesce to her request for another ice pop. But you can change the game a little bit by offering her something else that is similar to her original request. "I don't know if jumping on the bed is such a great idea. Can you show me how high you can jump here on the floor?" "You've already had an ice pop today. You can have another one tomorrow. Why don't you have some other snack instead?" The important thing to remember is to offer your little one choices that are acceptable to you no matter what she decides on.

Say "No" Differently.

Sometimes you have to say no. It's not an option. But if you are tired of saying that little word over and over again, there are other words you can use in its place. "Stop!" "Hot!" "Danger!" are all acceptable substitutes, depending on the scenario your little one finds himself in.

Buy Yourself Some Time.

A distraction can be your greatest ally. If your child asks to go outside and play but you aren't ready for her to do so yet, redirect her to something else. Say, "We'll try to go outside in a few minutes. While you wait for me to finish up the laundry, why don't you play with your trucks?" If what your child is asking for isn't an option for you in the near future, then say so. "We can't go outside today, but play with your dollhouse for now and we'll see if we can do something fun after lunch."

Choose Your Battles.

It's a well-known expression for a reason. In this case, think about what you are saying no to. Is it something that you can let go? Would it be the worst thing in the world if your child wore her princess costume to the grocery store? Is it really so bad if your son plays with the pots and pans while you cook dinner? If you want to reduce the number of times a day you say no to your child, think about what it is you are rejecting and see if there is a way to change your behavior.

Make Sure You Are Consistent.

If you threaten to take something away from your child or say you aren't going to do something if they continue a certain behavior, make sure you follow through. Otherwise, you are just making an empty threat that won't mean anything to your little one. If your child consistently turns on the faucet in the bathroom sink and you've told her that if she does that again she can't watch television, carry out the punishment. If you don't, she'll learn that your threats are just that and she'll continue to behave the way she wants to.

Challenge Your Child to Get You to Say Yes.

Justine Miller, a mom to twins who lives in New York, says she used to keep a daily chart of how many times she would say yes and how many times she would say no. "I found when my kids were accountable for their behavior and saw how many times they would get in trouble for something, they became more aware of how they would act during the day. Soon I wouldn't have to say, 'No jumping on the couch!' because they would remember." Miller said that soon enough there were more days where she was saying yes than no and everyone was much happier. Miller said she implemented a reward system -- on days where "yes" was heard more frequently, she would bring her boys to the dollar store for a treat.

Know That "No" Isn't the Worst Thing to Say.

Saying "no" sometimes isn't open for another option. Sometimes it's the right word at the right time and you just have to say it. When you do, be firm and don't waffle. The reality is, kids don't do everything right all of the time and when they make a mistake or a poor choice, they need to be corrected.

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