Saying no: why my wife is right

Sometimes I don’t even know why or how it happens, but the word just roles off the tongue like a delicious beer.

It’s a fakids-no-means-nomiliar cadence that goes a little something like this: a little voice asks for something, anything. I hear it and without even taking moment to properly assess, I respond.

It’s careless and I can do better.

With a 4ish and 2-ish year old, it’s very easy to find yourself constantly saying no. Just on repeat. No. No. No. No. You aren’t even creative. Just, NO. “Dada, can I…”. NO! It’s a word we all remember so well from your childhood; the one that made you rage and send you into fits hysteria. It seemed unreasonable, so unfair.

Yet, there you are playing the same role. Saying the same things as your parents.

So why we do we do it?

We’re tired. They misbehave. They grab stuff (so much stuff grabbing). So, it’s just common and part of the dialogue to effortlessly say no. My sense is that it almost becomes a game for the kids. They do something. Wait, I say no. Move on.

My wife pointed it out to me the other day, and while I resisted, you know what – she’s right.

She challenged me to think first. And, maybe try and steer the conversation a different way. As a former journalist and now PR professional, it’s a skill I have as I coach folks to do it all the time.


So, for example, dialogue can go a little something like this.

One night: “Dada, can I watch another show”.

Easy answer, no.

Instead, say: I really liked the show you just watched, what was your favourite part, maybe tomorrow night we can watch it again. ”


“Dada, can we have macaroni and cheese tonight?”

Easy answer, no.

Instead: “Tonight we’re going to make chicken, what kind of sauce do you want with it?”

Now, some may say it’s important to acknowledge their questions. That’s true, but my new strategy doesn’t devolve into getting into a debate with my four-year-old. It’s pointless. And, what I am noticing is that if I steer them away way more often than not they move on and drop it.

But, you’re saying to yourself, my kid is smart. He/she will come back to it, they won’t just move on. That’s fine, keep trying and then eventually you drop the hammer, acknowledge their q.

“I know this is what you want, but, I’m sorry, the answer is no”.

You save the no for strategic occasions, not just a repetitive loop.

Unlike this mom, I find it is still very important to say no. Kids need to learn this disappointment and that they can’t get everything they want. But, the no will have a deeper, more meaningful impact if it’s not played on loop constantly ringing in their little mushy brains.

No? Disagree? Maybe I’m wrong. Let me kNOw.

Helpful links:

Author: Adam Grachnik

I am a 30-something father and husband, proudly raising my two little maniacs (girl and boy) in a happy suburban home in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: