8 Ways Not to Say No


"NO" is a show stopper. Most of the time, nothing creative, productive, or worthwhile happens after "NO". Of course there are times when "NO" is appropriate, perhaps even essential, but often parents and teachers do not stop to evaluate the situation to see if it is really one of those times. Automatically, many of us say "NO," without really thinking about it.

When you do stop to think about it, the answer may still be "NO," and if it is a firm "NO," than by all means, go with it. But often times, there is some wiggle room. Here are some responses that might work for you when you don't absolutely have to say, "NO."
  1. That's an interesting idea, can you tell me more? This is a good one to use when the request is a big one with parts that are not very clear. While clarifying the idea, the child may identify some of the problematic issues on her own, which is much better than an adult pointing them out.
  2. I'm wondering about.... this is a good way to point out a concern without directly stomping on the idea.
  3. Why do you think this is a good idea? Requires the child to analyze the idea and make a case.
  4. Can you give me three reasons why this is a good idea? Similar to the last one, this one is especially good for older children. Finding worthwhile reasons to support the idea means that they have to really think it through, and possibly look at it from your point of view.
  5. I can say yes, if you...Gives the child a chance to make the idea work. Could be the child isn't willing to work with your requirement, but it puts the responsibility back on the child, rather than on you.
  6. Can you see a problem with this idea? Encourages the child to find and solve the problem himself. If it turns out to be an nonviable idea, he will figure it out on his own.
  7. Not now, but you can ask again later and the answer might be different. Sometimes, this is really true. The idea is fine, but the timing is wrong. Ideally, give a specific time the child can ask again.
  8. I'll think about it. This gives you some time to really think it through. Just remember that this answer can't be given forever. At some point, a choice must be made.
The idea for this post was inspired by the Improv Class I am taking with my CGBF (and a bunch of other really neat people). The first thing they taught us is to always say, "YES!" whenever an idea is offered.

Teaching Resources

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