Help Your Child Cope When the Answer is No

Help Your Child Cope When the Answer is No

7 Proven Strategies You can Try at Home to Help your Child Cope when the Answer is No

Picture this: you say a simply ‘No‘ to your child and suddenly,

it feels like you’ve unleashed a storm of emotions!  

If you have ever found yourself in this situation of negative ‘no’ reactions, rest assured, you are not alone!

This universal scenario is experienced in households around the world, where a simple ‘NO’ can trigger an array of behaviours!

As a play therapist, this is one of the most common scenarios I support families with. So, let’s explore how you can help your child cope when the answer is ‘no‘.

The Reason

First, it’s important to know that your child may react negatively to the answer ‘no’ for various reasons, and these reactions are often a natural part of their development.

Here are some common explanations for why your child may respond negatively:


  • Young children are naturally curious and explorative. When denied something, their inquisitive nature may fuel a negative reaction as they try to understand and test boundaries.
  • Toddlers and preschoolers may struggle with accepting limits as they are discovering their autonomy and desire for independence. The word ‘no’ can be perceived as a limit to their newfound freedom, leading to frustration or resistance.
  • In addition, younger children may not have fully developed language skills to express their emotions verbally. Negative reactions could be their way of communicating frustration, disappointment, or confusion.
  • They are also still learning to regulate their emotions. When faced with a ‘no,’ they might experience a flood of emotions that they are not yet equipped to manage effectively.


  • As your child gets older, they naturally seek a sense of control over their environment. When the answer is ‘no,’ it can challenge their need for control, leading to a negative response.
  • Peer influence also becomes more significant. The desire to fit in or imitate the behaviour of peers can contribute to negative reactions, especially if they see peers getting positive responses.


  • Sometimes, negative reactions may stem from unmet needs, such as hunger, fatigue, or a need for attention. In such cases, the ‘no’ may amplify underlying feelings.
  • For some children, sensory sensitivities may play a role. The word ‘no’ can trigger discomfort or overstimulation, leading to a negative response.
  • Children also learn from observing the behaviour of adults and caregivers. If they witness negative reactions to ‘no’ within their environment, they may mimic these responses.

7 Strategies

Now that you have a better understanding of the underlying factors that may contribute to your child’s response, let’s look at the 7 proven strategies you can try at home to help your child cope when the answer is ‘No’


If you know that your child repeatedly asks for things that you can’t deliver, e.g. buying new toys at the shop, set clear boundaries before you even engage in that activity.

For example, you could say: “Alex, we are going to the shops now. We are not going to buy any toys when we get there, okay?”


Establish a safe space where your child can express themselves without fear or punishment.

For example, if you are at the shops and your child asks for a new toy, stop what you are doing and give them your full attention. Get down to their level and engage with them in a calm manner.


Acknowledge what your child is asking and let them know you understand how they feel. Speak in a neutral and calm tone that communicates confidence.

For example, “Alex, I can see that you really want this toy.”

Wait a couple of seconds for your child to process what you said and for them to express their feelings.


Without using the word ‘no’, explain your reasons in simple language that your child will understand.

For example, “Alex, I understand why you want this toy, but I am not going to buy it because …”  


Once you have explained your reasons, offer your child an alternative, e.g. “I can buy you this toy when it’s your birthday” or, “How about we save money first? Then, when we have enough money, we can come back to buy it”.

If your child is developmentally able, encourage them to think of a solution.

This will help your child to develop problem-solving skills and may distract them from their initial disappointment.


If your child responds negatively to your explanation and alternatives, maintain your composure, and stay calm.

Take deep breaths if necessary.

Responding with patience and confidence helps create a positive experience for both you and your child.


Finally, be consistent.

Consistency is key to parenting.

Stick to your decisions and consequences. This will help your child understand that your response is fair and predictable.

Coping Skills

Remember that each child is unique. You may need additional insights and strategies from other professionals to help your child cope with ‘no’.

Even though it can be challenging, know that the journey through the complexities of ‘no’ reactions is an opportunity for you to foster communication, build trust, and navigate the delicate balance between setting boundaries and nurturing your child’s emotional needs and growing independence.

Here at Sage Affect, we specialise in offering expert guidance and support for children and families navigating the complexities of emotional well-being. Our services are grounded in evidence-based practices and delivered with a compassionate touch. We use play therapy to empower children in managing anxiety and cultivating resilience for a successful journey through life.

Explore how we can work with you to nurture your child’s emotional growth. 

Laurinda Jones Blog

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