Here’s where we are in the Universal Blueprint® Problem-Solving System / PASRR Formula:

Prevent Problems from starting or worsening … with the

       Prevention Toolbox: Cooperation Toolset


First, are you ready for a pop quiz? (Don’t worry—there are no right and wrong answers or the answer is right below the question!)

  1.   When you have to deny a request, how do you usually do it?
    1. “No, because I said so.”
    2. “No, and that’s final!”
    3. Give a lecture, listing your reasons
    4. Try to negotiate an answer they will accept.

       Answer: If you are honest and like most parents, you’ve probably tried all of these at one time or another.


  1. When you say “No, you can’t have that, which of these reactions does your child usually have?
    1. Asks, “Why?”
    2. Throws a tantrum.
    3. Tries to negotiate or talk you into saying “yes.”
    4. Gives a drama performance.
    5. Argues.
    6. Stomps away and pouts.
    7. Says, “Okay.”

       Answer: These are the most common reactions children have to the word “No.” So chances are your child has probably reacted all of these ways at one time or another.

  1. True or False? All toddlers will go through a “no” stage and all teens will rebel; it is an inevitable developmental stage.

      Answer: False. Children do not have to go through either stage. It is almost totally dependent on how parents handle their own power/control issues and communicate their limits.

As soon as you say “no” or deny a request, children usually stop listening to your reasons, start defending themselves, or convincing you how much they want something. Every parent must deny requests now and then. The way parents word this can determine whether you get a negative reaction from children or teach them the Rolling Stones are right: “You can’t always get what you want!”

Children learn how to get what they want by using methods they have seen others use successfully. They are very impressed with the way parents can get what they want by using the word “no.” So they try using it — but parents don’t like hearing “no!” To prevent or stop this problem, change how and/or when you say (or mean) “no” by denying requests using positive words. There are several ways to do this:

Give a conditional “yes.” This has nothing to do with permitting something you don’t want or “tricking” the child. It simply tells the child under what circumstances it can be a “yes.” For example, instead of, “No, you can’t have candy now.” say, “Sure, after you eat your dinner you can have candy.” It’s important to give the condition immediately after the “yes” or children will stop listening and start heading for the candy jar or whatever they are wanting. Also incorporate the value, such as “Yes, after you eat healthy food you can have sweets.”If there is never a time when the answer could be “yes,” then chose a different tool.

Offer an acceptable alternative. When parents take something dangerous away from a baby, they usually trade it for an acceptable toy. When you want to redirect children without saying “no,” you can say, “You can do ___,” or “Well, you can ___ instead,” or “I’d prefer you …”

Give information. Children can’t read your mind. If you have a good reason for denying a request, you can give a brief explanation, without getting long-winded or repeating yourself.

Take time to think. Children are great at pressuring parents for a quick response—and parents can get themselves into agreements they wish you hadn’t made. Tell children you will answer them, after you have a moment to think over their request. Respond in a timely manner, so children trust your word and know they don’t have to nag you.

Acknowledge feelings before setting limits. When you acknowledge feelings first, children know you understand how they feel and are still listening when you deny the request. For example, instead of, “No, we can’t stay at the playground. We need to go home now,” say, “It’s hard to leave someplace when you are having so much fun isn’t it,” as you proceed to leave.

Use wishes and fantasy. If what you are denying isn’t a heavy emotional issue (“Can I visit grandma in heaven?”) lighten things up with some humor and levity. Say, “I bet you wish you could stay at the playground forever! Wouldn’t it be fun?” Or “Wouldn’t it be great if cookies were good for us and we could eat them for dinner! I’d have a giant chocolate chip cookie. What would you have?” You may be surprised at your child’s ability to separate fantasy from reality.

Save “no’s” for dangerous issues. There will be times when “no” is the first thing that comes out of your mouth, such as, “No! Don’t touch the iron!” There will also be times when a request, such as “Can I stay out all night?” is just too dangerous to grant. When our children’s moral or physical well-being is at stake, we must take a firm stand. When we use “no” sparingly, our children really take notice and usually respond appropriately.

I often group this tool with the previous one, “Don’t Say ‘Don’t’,” because they both involve flipping negative responses to positive ones. One of the most dramatic stories a parent ever shared was about using this tool.

Every week in the T.I.P.S. class, I have the parents practice the four-star tools they learned the previous week and then we do check-ins at the beginning of the next session.

During check-ins, just about every parent said, “I can’t believe how much I say “Don’t, No, Stop and Quit! I just can’t seem to stop! But when I did the results were amazing…” and then they’d tell their story. Each time it was a dramatic story of change they couldn’t believe could happen so easily.

When it was Bonnie’s turn, she said, “This tool saved my child’s life this week.” I kind of laughed it off thinking she was being melodramatic!” She said more firmly, “No, I’m serious. This tool saved my kid’s life this week.” So I asked her to explain.

She said, “We live on a busy street corner. Day in and day out I’m yelling at my toddler, “Don’t go in the street,” or “Stop! Get back here!” and he almost never listens. I am constantly running after him.

This week, I used the “Don’t Say Don’t” and told him “play in the grass” or “stay back from the street,” and he minded me! I couldn’t believe it. It was a great week!

Then, last night, as we were putting the bikes away, he started to head into the street. I barely saw him out of the corner of my eye and didn’t have time to think. I yelled, “No! Stop!”  For the first time in as long as I can remember, he actually stopped. Probably because I hadn’t said it all week and he took notice of it.

At that very moment, within seconds of him stopping near the curb, a big truck came barreling around the corner. Jody, I swear that truck would have hit and killed him if he hadn’t listened and stopped. I’m still amazed that he did.

She then looked at me and apologized! She said, “I’m sorry, I said ‘no’.” I said, “it sounds like it was an emergency.” Then to the class, “if you save your “no’s” for emergencies, children pay attention to them better.

Whether a “no” accidentally escapes your lips or is quite deliberate, always try to use one of the other skills before or with the “No.” Wording requests or denying them in positive words increases the child’s self-esteem, reduces the parent’s frustration, decreases the need for discipline or punishment, improves communication skills, increases cooperation, and teaches children self-control and how to practice power in positive ways.

It can also prevent the “no” phase. I’ve lost count of how many parents have bumped into me years after taking the class and said, “I kept waiting for my toddlers to go through the ‘terrible twos’ or ‘no phase,’ but it never came. I’m convinced it’s because I learned how to use ‘Don’t Say Don’t’ and ‘No No’s’.”

Since old habits can sometimes die hard, get more information on this topic and the previous one by watching the “Don’t Say Don’t” video mentioned in yesterday’s lesson.


  1. Below, write 3 questions your child might ask to which you would probably answer “no.” Then, using one of the skills above, find a way to still deny the request or set limits, without the word “no.”

a. My child might ask:
I could respond by saying:

b.  My child might ask:
I could respond by saying:

c.  My child might ask:
I could respond by saying:

  1. When you’ve finished, feel free to to share your results in the comments section of this post!