Therapeutic Tool – Saying “No”

Different ways of saying “no”.
Sometimes the trigger that creates dysregulation is a word, and often that word is “no”.  Parents and carers still need to say “no” as giving into threats and violence is not ever going to stop it, but how you say it can really make a difference.
An example? Your child wants a sweet, instead of saying “no, you can’t have it” you say “What a good idea, those do taste nice don’t they? we aren’t having that right now, but you can have an apple or a banana”. As you see I did say “no” but in my own way, a nicer way and I offered an option that I was happy with. Of course the child may still demand a sweet, but you do not give in and stay calm. This is one reason that in our home we plan our treats.
How would it look if I planned a treat? Your child again wants a sweet and instead of saying “no” you say “Those do look yummy, what if we have them for your pudding on Thursday? I can pick some up so we have them ready for you after your tea that day.” This works because if you have a day that they are guaranteed a treat, and you always make sure they get one on the day, it lets them learn to trust you and they will then find it easier to wait without getting upset.
Another option instead of “no” is to use redirection. If you change their focus to something else they may just forget all about it. The need for a sweet or anything else they are asking for could be a sensory need, an issue that if you redirect to another activity that you may just fill. What do they like to do? Redirect to a craft or a time outside doing something you know they like.
You can also redirect to a better time. Perhaps a sweet is not the right choice at 6am, but you could say “that sounds like a good idea but this early is before you have anything healthy in your tummy, I will keep it for you until after lunch/school/other time you choose. Just make sure you keep your word and do give it when you say.
One other thing to consider is whether or not you need to say “no”. I think sometimes we get in the habit of saying “no” and forget that sometimes children just want something and there is no harm in saying “yes”. I know we can’t always say yes and we need to build strong boundaries, but we also do not need to always say “no”. If you keep treats on hand that are sugar free and a healthier version, then you may feel comfortable saying yes.
I gave an example of not needing to say “no”. I hope it helps you to think of other ways to say “no” without using that particular word. This works with many things, not just a sweet! Look at how you can say something in a different way or redirect the way a conversation is going. Sometimes staying away from a trigger word is really one of the best tools in your tool box!

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