Alternatives to Saying No to Teenagers That Actually Work

saying no to teenagers neon no sign

One of the least effective parenting strategies is to say “no” to your teenager because there’s a good chance they won’t listen and might even rebel against your wishes. Teenagers are in the process of learning how to be more independent, so they are more than willing to make up their minds for themselves regardless of how many times you say “no.” If you want to influence your teen to listen to your rules and guidelines, try these five alternatives to saying no to teenagers.

Bring it Up at a Family Meeting

Instead of saying “no” right away, you can push a negotiation with your teenager to a weekly family meeting. This way, you don’t have to put them down right away without a discussion, simply let them know that you will discuss at a later time. This might work to prevent your teen from going out and doing it anyway because they want to see if they can get your permission first.

Let’s say your teen wants to stay out past curfew. At the meeting, you can say, “It sounds like you want to go against one of our established rules. Is this a one-time thing? Why can’t you hang out with your friends earlier in the night?” Your teen will then have the floor to make an argument for why they want to do something you would normally say “no” to. If at the end of the argument, you still feel like they shouldn’t stay out past curfew, you might allow them just 30 minutes of extra time before they have to be home, or you could say, “not this time, but maybe next week.” Your teen might be more willing to listen to you after a family meeting than if you just said “no” right away.

For more tips on facilitating a family meeting, you could try utilizing some of these inspiring talking points.

Strike a Deal

The best way to avoid saying “no” is to find a way you can say “yes.” If your teen wants you to pick them up ice cream on your way home from work, but you don’t want to, try this. You could say, “I’d be happy to stop at the store for you on the way home, but only if you finish all of your homework by the time I get off work.” This way, you’re not telling your teen “no” directly, you’re leaving the choice up to them by making a deal. If they aren’t willing to hold up their end of the bargain, you can make it a “no” without ever having to use that word.

Restate a Pre-Made Agreement

If your teen wants to do something that is already off-limits, you can simply remind them of the established rule. You don’t have to say “no,” you just have to remind them of something they already know. You might sound like a broken record, but reinforcing an agreement you’ve made such as, no friends can come over until after your chores are done, will keep that agreement fresh in your teen’s mind. The more you repeat the rule, the less your teen will ask because they already know what you’re going to say. At a certain point, your teen might stop asking altogether and go straight to doing their chores because they want to have friends over as soon as possible.

Offer Advice or Another Option as an Alternative to Saying No to Your Teen

Instead of saying, “no, you can’t do that,” trying telling your teen what they can do. Let’s say your teen wants to go swimming, but you want to say, “no” because it’s dangerous to swim alone. You could offer advice like, “why don’t you see if any of your friends want to go with you so you aren’t swimming unsupervised.” Or, “If you can wait until later today, I could bring my book and hang out with you while you swim so you’re not alone in case something happens.” You could also offer alternatives such as, “What if you go into town, instead?” Or, “It’s a really nice day for skateboarding.” These suggestions prevent you from saying “no” and putting your teen down, without sounding controlling.

Make THEM Say No is one of the Top Alternatives to Saying No To Teenagers

Another strategy is to make your teen realize that “no” is the best answer. One way to do this is to have your teen imagine what it’s like to be the parent. You could say, “If you were me, what do you think I would say about racing your brand new car?” They might come up with some good answers like, “It’s dangerous for me, it could cost money if something goes wrong, it’s unsafe to other drivers…” and so on. Then you can ask, “Do you still think it’s a good idea to go racing?” And your teen might end up saying “no” to their own idea. Teens have a bias that prevents them from thinking through a lot of outcomes, but this strategy will help them think through a situation more thoroughly so they can make the right decision and you don’t have to say “no.”

You’ll Never Say No Again with these Alternatives to Saying No to Teenagers

Thanks to these tips, you have a whole bunch of great tools you can use to avoid saying “no” to your teenager. By coming up with alternatives to “no,” you can have more constructive conversations with your teenager and get them to listen to you, with less of a risk that they’ll go out and do whatever you forbid anyway.

Author Bio:

Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.


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