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Parents: Rediscover The Power of "No"

Don't say no to everything. Learn to say no when it really needs to be said.

Key points

  • Many of today's parents don't realize that they can say no.
  • Digital experts estimate that we are bombarded by 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements a day.
  • Three-year-olds recognize 100 brand logos and by age 10 they know between 300 and 400 brands.
  • Parents shouldn't say no to everything a child asks for, but they should say no when it really needs to be said. Here's 36 different ways.

Do you ever say no to your children?

As a child, I heard no often. When I was three, a man asked me what my name was and I said: "Davey NO NO". He laughed! Back then it wasn't difficult for parents to say no.

One of the most frequent and surprising things I hear from today's parents is, "You mean I can say no?" Parents seem to be too tired, too busy, too over-involved in their work. They just do not have the energy to say no when they really should!

Source: Monstera/Pexels

Parents shouldn't say no to everything a child asks for, but they should say no when it really needs to be said!

Marketers are Bombarding Kids With "Buy" messages

Remember, children are bombarded with “buy” messages, both directly and subtly, every day. In addition to the constant barrage of brand names and symbols on their clothing, and on signs everywhere, in 2004 the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that the average American child sees more than 40,000 commercials a year. 40,000 "buy" messages means that parents will have to say no more often than they would like to. Three-year-olds can recognize an average of 100 brand logos and by age 10 the number goes up to between 300 to 400 brands.

Fast forward - digital advertisements specifically tailored to each individual. In the digital world of 2021 experts estimate that the average American is exposed to anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements a day.

Think of how many advertisements you've been shown that were specifically tailored to you while reading this article?

It's no wonder that children ask for the sun, moon, and stars!

Parents shouldn't say no to everything a child asks for, but they should say no when it really needs to be said!


Anybody can get tired of saying “No” over and over so what do you say instead? A feature story in Newsweek listed 17 items from Jean Illsley Clarke's “Ways to Say No” list. Jean shared her whole list with me. You can add more. Be sure your face, voice, and body reinforce the messages otherwise children won’t believe you.

  • No.
  • Just no.
  • No, and that’s final.
  • No, absolutely not, no way.
  • No! Do not ask me again.
  • Did you hear me say no?
  • I have thought about it and the answer is no.
  • We don’t have money for that right now.
  • You already have enough of those.
  • That is too old for you.
  • We need that money for something else.
  • I don’t approve of it.
  • Nice try.
  • I already know you know how to nag.
  • Go find something else to do. I’m starting to get really angry with you.
  • Your whining makes me think you may already have too many toys.
  • I’m considering taking back the last five things I have bought for you.
  • I remember saying no.
  • Perhaps you didn’t hear me say we are not going to do that?
  • Who is the grown-up here?
  • I’m not going to be changing my mind about this.
  • You know the rule and it hasn’t changed.
  • You may notice I’m not saying yes.
  • This conversation is over. I’m walking away now.
  • This is not fun. Think of something else to do.
  • It’s your money, but I’m in charge.
  • You are marching around the edge of my patience.
  • I am the parent. Parents make these decisions.
  • You can be content with what you have.
  • It’s okay to want something.
  • Want never killed anybody.

Now is the time to reclaim the power of no.

Practice Aloha. Do all things with love, grace, and gratitude.

© 2021 David J. Bredehoft


Simpson, J. (2017, August 25). Finding brand success in the digital world. Forbes.

Wilcox, B. L., et al. (2004). Report of the APA task force on advertising and children. American Psychological Association.