December 12, 2018


You’re definitely not a bad parent for saying ‘no’ to your children!

As the Christmas holidays begin, parents across the country will be dealing with a mix of excited children, endless requests and the burden of having to say no; whether it is a toy, play date, treats at the supermarket, one more game or staying up late. While it may be tempting to give in to their demands to keep the peace, it is not possible to say yes every single time your child asks for something – you would go mad!

While all parents strive to be the ‘fun’ parent, the reality is that sometimes you have to be the one in control. There is more to saying no than just avoiding your child becoming spoilt.

Parents typically talk about how their children always want their own way, are not able to accept the word ‘no’, are naughty, have tantrums, don’t seem to get on with other children, can’t seem to share, don’t follow simple instructions, do the opposite of what they are asked and generally won’t cooperate. By teaching them they cannot always do what they want, overall builds character as it helps develop their resilience and self-control as well as resourcefulness.

Entertaining your child over the course of the holidays may seem challenging particularly when they are expecting an all-inclusive six-week holiday filled with activities, play dates, and different, exciting events each day. Remember that while it may seem easier just to say yes to what they want, it can make the holidays very un-holiday like for parents, and instead make parents feel unvalued and more like a personal assistant/driver.

Dr Anna Cohen, Sydney’s leading Clinical Child Psychologist gives tips to parents that will help them say no to their children over the holidays while ensuring they go back to school with no complaints!

• Be prepared. Not every day can be a jam-packed activity day so be prepared for when you have to say no. Children are naturally resourceful, so if you stock up on items that will keep them entertained at home including craft supplies, library books, puzzles, and healthy snacks, they will likely be able to find something to keep themselves busy. Have a section of the house where all of this is easily accessed and visible. This will give them the opportunity to think creatively, use their imagination and invent something they can

• Establish expectations. All children need limits and to know what is expected of them; and this doesn’t change just because it’s the holidays. At the start of the holidays it can be useful to discuss some expectations that include both the parents and children. Help them understand that while you will be doing fun things with them and making time, not every hour of every day will be exciting. At the same time it can be good to get an idea of what your kids may be excited to do over the time. Agree on a couple of activities that you will fit during the holidays, as this will give them something to look forward to, and also the chance to say no to other things that won’t
realistically be able to be done.

Be careful about making promises. As you will likely already know, children take a promise from a parent very seriously, and they are very rarely forgotten. If you promise your child that you will be doing something over the break, ensure that it is something you can do. While sometimes you will need to change your decision on certain things as circumstances change, make sure that you clearly explain the reasons for the change to your child and try and negotiate something else for example, ‘I know we said we would go for a bike ride but your Aunty is here now, so can we go tomorrow morning or afternoon?’.

• Set limits. As children grow up, they will start testing their power and how far they can go. When parents remain in charge by speaking in a calm and assertive way, they are able to avoid power struggles with their child. Set limits to your child’s behaviour and say no where necessary. Children find comfort in having limits, ensuring that overall they feel cared for and safe. It will be important to avoid accidently giving in, just because it’s the easy thing to `do, as you will be encouraging your child’s inconsiderate behaviour.

Children that have boundaries and don’t get everything they ask for will build the foundations to becoming resilient and responsible adults; but it all starts with parents being able to say no, and dealing with the consequences at the time.

For more information or professional advice contact Sydney’s leading Child Clinical Psychologist, Dr Anna Cohen at Kids & Co. – www.kidsandco.com.au

Share your comments below

  • I am the Queen of saying no and my son does not like it. However, I’m generally saying no for very good reason and most often, he gets it after the tantrum!!


  • And also important to teach our kids to say no !


  • Some good ideas here.


  • Some good tips in this article.
    I feel like I say NO too much sometimes.
    I think offer alternatives is another good tip if what they are asking for isnt reasonable.


  • I think I said No 5 times more than Yes. I even bought my grandchild a t-shirt with the slogan “I think my Name is NO”


  • Saying no should be a requirement of being a parent.


  • Totally agree, children need to learn that they cant just have everything they want,


  • I honestly am dreading when I am going to get there


  • Important to have boundaries in place.
    The article states that sometimes you have to be the one in control. To be honest I think as parents we need to be in control and lead, teach and guide our children, not sometimes but all the time. This can happen in a playful and non-restrictive way with as much as possible space for the kids to take decisions and develop their identities. Saying no is part of life.


  • Children need to learn what is right and wrong, show respect for others, know that not all things are given continuously. Perhaps use as rewards if you feel inclined to compromise later.


  • Saying no helps your kids to understand that not everything in life will go their way. They have to hear the word no. If you never said no, then they will become so spoilt and no one likes a spoilt brat

    • Exactly! That is life – sometimes yes and sometimes no. :)


  • I say no to my kids all the time! It makes the yes more special.


  • With three kds, I sometimes say no more than yes.


  • My daughter took off to her bedroom when i said no a few days ago then the thunderstorm hit and she figured out why, too grumpy to listen before that, too bad kid, I am the mum and I said no


  • Surely saying no is a normal part of parenting? Everyone needs boundaries.


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