Should I use ‘NO’ with my child?

Should I use ‘NO’ with my child?


As a parent, there are many times I would like to stop my child by saying ‘NO’. However, after several years of self-reflection and dealing with several such situations – I have learned to stop myself many times.

Many parents would agree that overuse of the word ‘No’, tends to make it lose its significance. Therefore, it is important to make smart and informed choices about its use. Learn to understand situations where you can use alternatives to ‘No’ but allow the child to explore an environment and learn skills through it. However, there would always be situations where a firm no is warranted. At those times, shying away from its use is not prudent.

Let’s discuss some questions I like to ask myself before I even venture towards using the word ‘no’.

Some questions to ask yourself before using the strong two letter word NO:

  1. Is the child testing his own limits? (such as standing on a chair)
  2. Is the child exploring a new skill? (such as swinging his arms in the air whilst standing on the chair)
  3. Is the child within a safe environment? (such as, has a cushioned mat under him and an alert adult nearby)
  4. Is the child being playful? (such as,  singing a song of an airplane whilst swinging arms and standing on the chair)
  5. Can the mess be cleaned up with the child shortly? (such as messy aata on the floor)
  6. Would it harm my child? (such as, sharp object in the child’s hand)
  7. Would it harm the surroundings or someone in it? (such as, a sharp pencil being thrown at another child)

For situations 1 to 5, I personally would prefer to be more patient and use subtle warnings and words to allow the child to be aware of possible danger and of the behavior expected of him/her. However, situations 6 and 7 need to be dealt with firmly and quickly.


Now, the important question comes into play. What do I say to my child – if I do not want to use ‘No’ but want his actions regulated?

Here are a few ways to deal with the child instead of using the word ‘NO’ all the times:

1. Use alternate words

The word ‘no’ can be easily replaced by other words such as ‘stop’, ‘later’

For example, ‘Please stop jumping.’


2. EXPLAIN (be short and crisp)

A child needs an explanation of ‘why’ s/he is being stopped. This is crucial for the child to learn better behavors in the long run.

For instance, ‘Let’s sit – You can Fall’


Be short and crisp in explanation. Avoid long drawn ones.


3. REPEAT REQUEST (after a while)

Repeating your request is important. However, it should not be bombarded to the child. It is important to wait for a child’s reaction and then request once again. Use a count of two between requests.

If that does not help, physically assist the child.



Use words of courtesy during your requests. A child learns alot from listening to how s/he is spoken to.

Use – ‘Please sit, (you can hurt yourself).‘ instead of just ‘Sit’



Face the situation as calmly as possible. This will definitely be a beginning to calm down the situation at hand. Several times a child’s reaction and playfulness is a consequence of an adult’s reaction. For example, a child may repeat actions that are unwanted since he likes how the parents is yelling at him to stop it.


6. BE FIRM (not loud)

Being firm is important, however, that does not mean one has to be loud. It is best to talk to the child when you are close to him / her and say the words clearly. Calmness and firmness need to go hand in hand.


7. INTERVENE (quickly) when it is a harmful situation

Do not shy away from using ‘No’ firmly, when the child or his /her surroundings are likely to be harmed.



After you have refrained the child from a task s/he wants to do – it is likely the child may not like it and have an outburst. Be with the child through this time, but refrain from further use of stop or no. The child needs the support of an adult.


Note: This article is based on the writers’ experience and beliefs on how to better a child’s behavior and deal with it using appropriate language.

Tanushree Chandhok
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