5 Times Parents Should Never Say 'Yes' To Their Kids

How to tell your kids no.

Last updated on Mar 14, 2024

Mom and daughter  blueorangestudio | Canva 

We've all been there. You had a hard day and just want to rest. Or, perhaps you're out in public where a tantrum won't do. And suddenly, your little sweetie asks for something. You want to say "no." You know you should say "no." But you don't because your kids know how to play you, so they do! There are some pretty bad reasons to let our children do something. But the truth is — sometimes we just want the easiest and quickest way to deal with it. We end up caving and just saying, "Okay!" But just because it happens to the best of us doesn't mean we should make a habit of this (or accept even doing it, to begin with). Here are five wrong reasons we give in to our kids.


5 times you should never say 'yes' to your kids:

1. We're distracted, busy, or upset

We've got a million more important things on our minds. So when our kid asks to do something, our attention is split ... at best. More likely, it's completely somewhere else — nowhere near the radar. We're too busy with other things to want to get involved or deal with the details of whatever it is the kids want.   

RELATED: 18 Things Every Child Needs To Hear From Their Parents 

2. The kids are yelling, whining, or otherwise causing a scene

We just want them to stop ... NOW! To top it off, there's the chance we're in a public place and an audience is in our presence — only adding more pressure. We feel that hammer-hitting headache and stress taking hold, and feel the need to end this skirmish quickly to save face (what's left of it, anyway).   


3. We feel guilty

We want to make up for all the ways our parenting has been lacking. Maybe we haven't spent enough time with the kids, lately. Maybe we haven't been very helpful with a struggle they're wrestling with — like homework, bullying, or problems with their friends.   



4. We feel insecure about our parenting skills

We compare ourselves to other parents and feel like we come up short. Maybe we see other parents who have perfectly behaved children (unlike ours). Maybe we envy the parents who are best friends with their kids. We'd love to have that solid bond with our child.

RELATED: 5 Tiny Things Good Parents Do That Result In Happy Kids


5. We haven't established core family values and boundaries

As a result of this, we defer to whatever other parents are doing or allowing. It's so much easier to follow someone else's lead rather than figure out what we value and how we want to set healthy boundaries within our own family. Following what the "cool" parents do may even help us feel a little "cooler." The good news is, if you find yourself caving to your child's every whim, you can turn this around pretty easily and quickly. The key is to pause in the moment, so we can break our bad habits, and choose something better for us — and for our kids.

Whenever you're experiencing a moment of weakness, remember these 5 C's: 

1. Calm + comfort

The first step is to calm and comfort your child. You know what works best for them. For a very young child that might mean holding them tight so they feel secure and safe. For an older child, it may mean rubbing their back, or gently putting a hand on their back or shoulder. Have patience and wait until your kid calms down.



2. Curiosity

Kathy Taberner and Kirsten Taberner Siggins remind us that we're naturally curious as children. As parents, we just need to open ourselves back up to that world of curiosity. Here's how you can do so:

  • Be present in conversations! Focus on what's happening in the now, making yourself 100% present to your child.
  • Choose how you want to listen and respond — try doing so with empathy and understanding.
  • Ask curious, open questions — avoiding judgment, shame, and blame; also, using "what, where, who, and how" questions.

We have a real opportunity to learn and understand more about our children and what perspective they carry. We can have a better conversation because the emotions have deflated. Not to mention, our modeling teaches our kids to act empathetically, curiously, and without judgment.

RELATED: 19 Experts Share The #1 Thing Parents Should Never Say To Kids — And What To Say Instead

3. Connection

Renowned neuropsychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel teaches that it's critical to connect with our children, especially when they are out of control. That connection helps them feel safe. Siegel recommends calm, creative, and even playful conversation which could help our kids think about their actions, develop a better sense of awareness, and build stronger social skills. 


4. Conciliation

It's hard to change habits. Granted, sometimes we'll still get it wrong because NO parent is perfect. But that's okay. When you make a mistake, use that as another teaching moment to calmly connect with your kids. Try apologizing to your child. Calmly explain that you didn't handle things as well as you'd hoped to and will try to do better next time. Learn the art of transparency and let your kid know that you're in this together. Assure them that you'll always be there when they need you. You'll both learn from the experience and deepen your connection. After all … isn't that what parenting is about?    

RELATED: 12 Tiny Parenting Habits That Break Generational Codependency

Patty Stiles is a coach, mediator, peace circle practitioner, and collaboratively trained attorney who facilitates finding peace for her clients.