Alternatives To “No”

July 8, 2013, Parenting Success Network

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Leonne Bannister.  Enjoy the post and look forward to future posts from Leonne.

One of my favorite parent educators is Barbara Coloroso I relate to her parenting philosophy and down-to-earth style. One of her parenting strategies that is well received in the parenting classes I teach is three alternatives to “no.” Coloroso states that if parents are constantly saying “no” to kids, they begin to tune out those “no’s.” Then, in a moment when a “no” really means “no” (running into the street, going out with a questionable group of kids, etc.), the child doesn’t listen and the consequences may be costly.

Her three alternatives are easy to remember and very effective. Instead of saying “no,” try:

  1. “Yes, later.” Rather than answering with a “no,” state a “yes,” but with the condition that it needs to happen later. For example, when your child asks for a cookie or treat. “Can I have a cookie?” they ask. You respond with “Yes, later.” You may then go on to explain when the child may have a cookie (most reasonable would be after the next most nutritious meal). Therefore, the interaction would conclude sounding something like this. “You may have a cookie after lunch.” This allows the child to get what it is they requested, yet at a time that is best for him and you.
  2.  “Give me a minute.” This is an important alternative at my house. About a year ago, I got into the habit of responding with a quick “no” to my kids’ requests for things that, quite honestly, are unimportant. It was a bad habit that was easily and simply addressed with giving myself a minute to think about their request. I use a little bit different language than Coloroso suggests, but the end result is the same. Rather than “give me a minute,” I respond with “let me think about it.” I explain to my kids that I need a minute to think about it and I’ll respond once I’ve had a moment to think. This alternative is an excellent example of modeling thoughtful decision-making with our children. It sends a message that decisions can sometimes take time to make and putting thought into what we decide is normal.
  3. “Convince me.” This is a great strategy for older children. Instead of immediately rejecting a child’s request, ask the child to convince you. This alternative, like the second alternative, allows you time to think about it and, most importantly, gives the child an opportunity to practice articulating a convincing argument. Coloroso gives the example of a teenager asking his mom to use the car. Many parents are reluctant to loan their car out to their child, but what if that child presented a convincing and reasonable argument.

For more information on Barbara Coloroso visit her website

Leonne is a wife and a mother of 2.  She has been a member of the LBCC Cooperative Preschool at the Benton Center for 3 years. She is a part time Parenting Education Instructor with LBCC and a CASA Advocate. She is also on the Board of Directors of CASA-Voices for Children. Leonne enjoys spending time with her family and volunteering in the community. In her “free” time she enjoys exercising and reading.