As parents, we are constantly being put in the position to say “no” to our children –and for good reason! “Can I have cake for dinner?”, “can I paint on the wall?”, “can I have (another) toy car?”. Those requests call for an automatic and definitive “No!”. Or do they? There can be more options than simply saying no to your child, options that are just as clear, but also show that you hear what she’s saying, and understand why she wants what she wants.

How to use positive communication? 

First of all, consider if your “no” could actually be a “yes”. Many parents find that saying yes more often to their children, helps the kids be more tolerant of the times when they receive a no for an answer. For example, if your daughter wants to spend more time playing before dinner, you could say “Okay, let’s play for five more minutes, and then we’ll go have dinner”. These five more minutes will show her that you hear what she’s saying and will probably help make a smoother transition to dinnertime. Once those five minutes are up, it’s time for dinner, and be clear about it. Children need loving and firm limits.

You can also consider a different approach. In his book YES Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child, Dr. Daniel Seigel and co-author Tina Payne Bryson talk about the acronym “PART”.

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  • P: being Present for the request
  • A: being Attuned to the feelings behind the request
  • R: Resonating with those feelings
  • T: develop Trust

For example, you’re getting ready for bed and after the third and final storybook you’ve read together, your little girl says “I want another story!”. You could say “No way. That’s enough, we’ve already read three and it’s time for bed”. Or, you could use positive communication and say “I know. I want to read another story with you too, it’s so much fun and I love being cuddled up with you! But you know what, I’m super tired. You must be too, we had a really cool day. Why don’t you choose a book and then we’ll save it for tomorrow? We can start with that one. Right now, it’s time for bed”.

This shows your child that you hear what she is saying, you understand why she wants what she wants (you want it too!). By putting this into practice, you create an environment in which your child will know that she can voice her desires, be heard and understood, but she will not always get what she wants. Sometimes, with just being heard, children are more willing to listen to you as well.

Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2018). The YES brain: How to cultivate courage, curiosity, and resilience in your child. New York: Bantam.

Veritas, Dr. (2017, November 10). The Power of Saying “Yes” to Your Child. Retrieved from