Assertive Parenting and saying “NO” 

Many of  my clients ask me for help on “saying no” to kids. Some are afraid to say “no” thinking it will damage to the child’s psyche or confidence. Many of them are afraid their kid won’t love them if they say “No”. Others have heard the conversation on social media that the average toddler hears the word “No” an astonishing 400 times a day and that is damaging to the child. Now, while I agree that 400 is definitely excessive and we must try more positive ways to discipline, engage and raise our children, there are also times when we have to be the ones in charge. And that will involve saying “no” to our kids from time to time.

In this article, I will explore some of the ways in which we can be kind yet assertive parents and ones that are not afraid to say “No” when the situation demands.


Here are some obvious benefits of Assertive Parenting:


  • Assertive parenting balances the demands of the child along with the requirements of the family. Making explicit and direct requests even if a child is loudly opposing it, is one example of assertive parenting. However, this persistence must be balanced by listening to and validating the child’s point of view as well, briefly discussing the request’s rationale, then making it obvious, politely, that the parent is “in charge” and expects their request to be fulfilled.


  • Remember, every child needs to be heard, seen and validated. So, if we, as the adults and parents, fulfill this need – our children will be more willing to accept assertive parenting. Additionally, young children crave structure and direction – and we can provide that through assertive parenting.


  • Assertive parenting also promotes a positive parent-child relationship, increased reciprocal problem-solving, and increased self-esteem in children because they recognize and accept that  they can meet the demands placed on them.


  • Dealing with irritation, accepting what can & cannot be changed, adhering to standards & expectations, and dealing with difficult situations are all typically emphasized in assertive parenting. Academics, limits on video gaming, exercise, socialization activities, participation in family activities, need for medical or psychological care, and/or monitoring of activities for safety reasons (the parent calls to verify adult supervision at a teen social gathering) are all examples of situations where assertive parenting is  beneficial.


How to be an assertive parent and say ‘No’ to your child


  • Consequences 


It’s only natural for your kids to make mistakes. But as a parent, you will teach your kids that  all actions have consequences: good or bad. Reward them, make it a point to notice when your children are doing great! If you only focus on what they are doing wrong and forget to acknowledge the good, kids might feel unmotivated to do anything good.  Sure – Take their phone away for being disrespectful, limit leisure activities. But how about also allowing them to skip homework one day for acing a test? Additionally, let us enforce consequences for actions but balance it out with explanations and rewards as well. 


  •  Natural Consequences 


Natural consequences occur without the need for parental intervention. Allowing a natural consequence will often prevent a parent-child quarrel while ensuring that the child learns the appropriate lesson. For example: The child argues that there is no homework tonight, then they will have to face the teacher the next day. The child wastes his allowance; there isn’t enough money to buy the new video game. If a child cheats when playing with pals, their friends will begin to withdraw.

The majority of what we do daily is influenced by consequences. Unfavourable outcomes frequently prevent us from making the same mistake again. Consequences are what guide us towards being responsible individuals. We follow the rules because we don’t like the consequences when we don’t.


  • Democracy 


Democratic parenting entails treating children fairly. Parents treat their children with dignity and respect. Children are offered options and are held accountable for their choices. However, this does not imply that children can perform at the adult’s level  Freedom, chores, responsibilities should be age appropriate. 

Ex- Democracy also means allowing your kids to determine their own consequences in advance. For example, my children and I would jointly set consequences for certain behaviours. HW incomplete – no TV for 2 days, a low score in a test (again they determine and set what they can achieve) – redoing the test on the weekend etc. Often I noticed that when I allowed them to set the consequences – they were harsher than ones I might have picked and more importantly, they were more willing to abide by them.

This type of consequence based Assertive Parenting helps children feel more empowered and in control of their lives.


  • Be the Adult


Its only natural to expect your kids to be irrational at times. They do not have any knowledge of what goes on in the “real” world. Their family, their friends and their parents are their window to the world. They’re learning and absorbing often conflicting messages from you, the environment, their friends, the culture. Remember, it can be quite overwhelming!

As parents, it is your duty to see what demands you can give in to. It’s ok if you hear an argument and decide it’s valid and give in to the request. It does not in any way undermine your authority. In fact, it is role modeling for your children on how to accept another’s point of view, and it also teaches them valuable negotiation skills. When you refuse a request made from your children, explain to them why you are doing it. Just blatantly saying no without giving a reason will definitely make them act out or learn to lie… 

Ex- Your teenager wants to go to a late-night party, and you do not like the idea. Tell them why If you feel it’s unsafe, or if you trust your child but not the other children. Explain to them the intention of your refusal. By talking about it, you might come up with a compromise that works for both sides. 

You have the authority and power of making all decisions and there is no need  to explain to your child,  but giving them an explanation anyway will show them you’re not being unreasonable just because you have the power. 


  • Open up about your imperfections 


We are all human. And, as humans, we are flawed, and often wrong. We make mistakes, Build that safe space and connection with your  kids enough for them to present their side and show why you are wrong. Don’t scare them into not speaking about your mistakes. The Indian parenting culture often glorifies blind devotion to parents. This is what today’s generation opposes and often confronts. Once again open the door to conversation. Listen to their point of view, analyze the situation together. Show them that you want to hear their perspective, that you’re not the enemy but rather the protector. Change your opinion if your child convinces you they are right. Be willing to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Allow your kids to question your authority at times. You are not perfect, and neither are they. Being open to things will make your child trust you when you refuse them anything. It will be clear that there is a solid reason as to why you are denying them something. 


  • Be friendly but not a friend.


There are times when it is your obligation and responsibility to be  an authority figure in your child’s life.  The parent-child emotional bond is an extremely strong one. and you will both rely on that bond many, many times over the years. However, when the kids are young, attempting to be friends with them compromises your authority and undermines your duty as a parent.

Throughout life, your child will make many new friends while losing touch with the old ones. However,  you and only you can be your child’s parent. 

There’s nothing wrong with being friendly but from time to time make it a point to establish authority. You will have to play the “mom” or “dad” card quite a few times during the raising of your children. And, though they may not agree with you at the time, they will definitely respect you for it. 


In conclusion, do not let any conversation be a one-way street where you give them an ultimatum  and expect them to follow it blindly. This will not help in the long run. They might listen to you while they are young but act out or rebel growing up.

Let most decisions be a discussion where you and your kids arrive at a joint agreement.. You both talk to each other, present your side, and come to a conclusion where both agree. Explain why you are saying no. Try to always answer their question with a reason explaining your answer.

This will not only reduce arguments but also help you bond with your children and bridge that communication and generation gap. 

Deepma is a co-founder and trainer at The Confident Communicator, and is having the time of her life empowering children, teenagers, women, corporate executives, friends and family live their best life. She helps people become effective in the art and science of communication, build their self esteem, and conquer their deepest fears. She conducts training programs in Communication Skills, Leadership and Assertiveness for young adults and corporates, and has co-developed several products in line with the Company’s mission of Empowerment. "Our kids are grappling with the pressures of social media, stalking and seeking instant gratification, and it is our duty to help them rise above these influences and empower them to build positive self worth, and resilience."

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