134                                                                                      The Parent’s Toolshop










If there’s not a choice if something happens, give
choices for when and how it can happen.


DON’T SAY “DON’T” ☆☆☆☆

Describe what they can do.


NO NO’S ☆☆☆☆

Give a conditional “yes.”
Offer an alternative. State a reason.
Give information.
Recognize feelings. Use wishes and fantasy.
Save “no” for dangerous issues or emergencies.









Use general, simple, positive terms that state your
bottom line.



Permission for reader to reprint this page for personal use only granted by author, Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, The Parent’s Toolshop, © 2000.


Chapter 5: Cooperation Toolset                                                           135


(Possible answers are at the end of the chapter.)

A.  Choices. Find a way to offer choices within limits in these situations.

    1. Your toddler wants to play in the sand box in his good clothes.
    2. Your preschooler resists having her hair washed.
    3. Your elementary school-aged child needs to work on a book report.
    4. Your preteen wants to plan a party.
    5. Your teenager is trying to decide where to apply for jobs.

B.  Don’t Say “Don’t.” Flip these negative orders into positive requests.

    1. “Quit pulling the dog’s tail.”
    2. “Don’t run away from me in the store!”
    3. “Quit being so bossy!”
    4. “Stop teasing and calling people names! It’s not nice.”
    5. “Don’t be late!”
C.  Personal Application. List three things your children do that you tell them to “stop” or say“ don’t.” Now say each with positive words. 
D.  No “No’s.” Write an alternative to saying “no” in the following practice situations. Your choices are:
      a. Give a conditional “yes”               d. Recognize feelings
      b. Give a reason               e. Offer a positive alternative
      c.  Give information                  
    1. “Can we go out to eat tonight?” (You don’t have the time or money.)
    2. “Can I borrow the car?” (The last time the car was returned with an empty gas tank.)
    3. “Can I go to the park with Tom and John?” (You are concerned about three 10-year-old boys walking through the woods to the park.)
    4. “Can you take me to the library to do research for my book report? It’s due tomorrow.” (You don’t have time tonight, but would have, had you known sooner.)
    5. “Can I have this toy?” (You are in the toy store shopping for someone else.)

E.  Personal Application. List three things your child might ask for and to which you would say “no.” Now, word your refusal with positive words instead.


Activity for the Week

Practice using these tools at home for one week. Then list a situation (or more, if applicable) where you are having difficulty in getting your child to cooperate. Now review the summary page to see if there are any tools you could use in that situation.


Possible Answers

The following answers are just one possible response. Different answers are not wrong answers. See if your answers also fit the guidelines for using the Cooperation Toolset.

A.  Choices

  1.   “Clothes get dirty in the sand box. You can either change into play clothes for the sand box or keep your nice clothes on and play inside. You decide.”
  2.   “I know you don’t like getting your hair washed. Would you like a wash cloth to cover your eyes or would you rather tip your head way back?”
  3.   “Will you work on your book report before dinner or after?”


136                                                                                       The Parent’s Toolshop


  4.   I only have three rules for having a party here: (1) There are no drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes.(2) You know that the people attending are responsible. (3) There is an adult at home during the party. If you agree to those rules, I’d love to hear your ideas for the party.”
  5.   (Pause between each question.) “What are you interested in doing? What kind of jobs appeal to you? What is your class schedule? How will you balance school and work?”


B. Don’t Say “Don’t”

  1.   “Be gentle and kind to the dog. Pet him like this.” (Guide child’s hand.)
  2.   “Stay where you can see me.” Or “Stay with me.” (If you say, “Stay where I can see you,” children don’t realize when you have lost sight of  them!)
  3.   “When people are ordered around, they might not want to play anymore. Can you give your friends some choices or ask what they want to do?”
  4.   “Teasing hurts people’s feelings. Treat others with respect.”
  5.   “You need to be home by five o’clock,” or “Be home on time,” or “Keep track of the time.”
D.  No “No’s”
  1.   “Maybe we could go out to dinner Friday night. We don’t have any plans and I get my paycheck.”
  2.   “You can borrow the car, if you put gas in it before you return it.
  3.   “I know how much fun you have together at the park, but I worry about you walking through the woods without an adult.” If you can’t go with them, ask if an older sibling could go with them.
  4.   “I am always willing to take you to the library to do your research, if I have a couple days notice. I have a meeting tonight, so you’ll need to find another way to get there.”
  5.   “It’s fun looking at toys, isn’t it? Today we are buying a toy for Suzy. Can you find a toy she will like?“


Use the Cooperation Toolset everyday to prevent the struggles most parents face. We will refer to them often when we get to the Parent Problem Toolbox and learn how to redirect children’s intentional misbehavior and reveal discipline.

In Chapter 6, “Independence Toolset,“ we talk more about balancing parental limits—as it relates to children’s independence. We discuss ways to develop responsibility, teach skills (such as tasks, behaviors, and values), and dozens of other ideas to prepare your child for self-sufficient adulthood.



  1.   Two resources that offer strong arguments that behavior charts cannot be used “appropriately” because incentives are counterproductive are Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes, by Alfie Kohn (Houghton Mifflin, 1993) and Kids Are Worth It! by Barbara Coloroso (Avon Books, 1994).
  2.   How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, And Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (Avon Books,   1982) pp. 17, 44.