Published on May 22nd, 2013 | by Subash


Teaching Kids How to Say No

At times it can be very hard for children to say no. They might feel guilty and awkward about disappointing someone and might believe that they must always say yes for people to like them. They might be desperate to have friends, fearing losing them if they don’t comply with their wishes. But, in the long term, agreeing with everything will make children unhappy and they will lose other people’s respect.

Before Responding to a Request, Children Should Consider the Following Points:

– What it is that they are being asked and what are the consequences of their refusal?
– Who is doing the asking? Is it their dad asking them to help with a five-minute job – something they could easily do? Or is it a close friend who’s asking an enormous favour that they will need time to think about before agreeing to do it?
– What is the frequency of the requests? If someone asks a child all the time for help with homework and that person is only interested in the answers, not in understanding how they got those answers, then it is clear the child is being used. By always helping out with work and other things, the child is too available and the other person does not learn to be independent and responsible.
– How do they feel about doing the thing that’s asked of them? If they know the request is fair and they don’t mind doing it then they could go ahead. But if they feel they are being asked to do something they shouldn’t (such as doing something criminal or having sex before they are ready), then they should say no and stick to it.

When saying no, children should look as though they mean it. They should maintain eye contact, sound firm and adopt a confident posture.

Discuss the Following Questions With the Class:

– Do you usually do things other people around your age ask you to do? If so, why? Do you ever say no?

– Do you have trouble getting other people to accept your refusal? If so, why do you think that is? (You are not firm enough, you’ve let them persuade you to change your mind before, you feel guilty about saying 3, you are afraid of losing friends, your body language does not show at you mean no.)


Ask the children to sit in pairs and talk about a time when they wanted to say no but were persuaded to change their minds. Then ask them to discuss whether they have ever tried to get someone else to change their mind. Did they do this because they felt it would be good for the other person or to help them in some way?

Role Play:

Ask for two volunteers, A and B, to role-play how A persuaded B to change his/her mind using one of their scenarios or the suggestion below. Discuss the mistakes B made. For example:

A: ‘Can I borrow your maths homework?’
B: ‘This is the third time in a row you’ve asked. I told you last week I won’t lend it to you again.’
A: ‘Just this time. This is what friends are for.’
B: ‘You won’t understand the work.’
A: ‘You can explain it to me later.’
B(Speaking unhappily): ‘OK.’

Repeat the role play showing how B sticks to saying no: A: ‘Can I borrow your maths homework?’ B: ‘No.’

A: ‘Go on. Let me have it.’
B: ‘I mean it. No. Please respect my decision.’
A: ‘ok:

Note: needing to say no does not apply to reasonable requests from teachers and parents!

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