What to say instead of NO!

Have you ever found yourself saying “No!” to everything?  “No, don’t touch that.  No, you can’t have that.  No, we are not going there.  No, no, no, no, no!”

Today, I am going to discuss with you, what to say instead of “NO,” and how to save that word for when you really need it.

Often times, the word, “No” can be very confusing for your child.  Let’s face it, “No!” probably rolls off our tongues way too easily.  When we use the word, “No!”, children can have a few reactions to it.  They either stop in their tracks and immediately   stop what they are doing, have a meltdown, or they ignore you because they have heard the word so many times they no longer understand its importance.

“No!” should be saved for those times when it is really important.  “No!  Do not run in the street.”  “No!  Do not touch that HOT stove.”  Saying “No!” when your child is in danger is a lot more beneficial than saying “No!” when he is being too loud or is jumping on furniture.

I know that many of you say, “No!” so often that it is now a habit.  You may notice, after reading this article, how often you say it.  You may even catch yourself saying it and then think of different words to say instead.  It is important to set boundaries and to teach your child right from wrong.  However, your child with Autism learns from repetition and consistency.  So, if you constantly use the word, “No!” and it represents different meanings, your child may end up confused.

Another challenge for your child is that he may think that when he hears the word, “No,” he is in BIG trouble.  If you use the word, “No,” during a very dangerous situation and then you use it again during a time that is not such a big deal, your child may start crying.  He may remember the last time he heard the word and make the association between hearing, “No,” and getting into big trouble.  This may explain why your child has a meltdown every time he hears the word, “No.”
Think of all the possible things that “No,” can actually mean:

  • You can’t have that right now.
  • You are not allowed to do that.
  • We are not going there today.
  • Danger
  • Stop
  • Don’t touch that.
  • Maybe
  • Yes!  (I like to include this on my list, because sometimes we don’t follow through with our “No’s” and your child may start to learn that No means yes!)


So, now that you know some of the possible translations for the word, “No,” let me give you some alternatives to teach the same message:

Instead of saying: No, you can’t have chips right now.
Say: First, homework and then chips.

Instead of saying: No, you are not allowed to play with the train.
Say: Now is not the time for trains.  You can play with your cars or blocks.

Instead of saying:  No!  We are not going to the zoo today.
Say: Let’s check your schedule.  Today is school and tomorrow is the zoo.

Instead of saying: No! Don’t touch your brother’s food.
Say: This is your plate.  Eat your food.

Instead of saying: No! Don’t hit your sister.
Say:  Keep your hands to yourself.

When is it a good time to use the word “No”?

During an emergency AND when you really mean it!

Here are some things to keep in mind regarding the word, “No!”

  • Be consistent.  When you tell your child, “No,” make sure you mean it!
  • Remind everyone in your family how to effectively use the word, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
  • Teach your child other ways to express himself, so that he also learns to use other words besides, “No!”
  • Use visual rules to make your expectations clear.


If you have any other questions regarding behavior and setting expectations, please email Jennifer@autismeducates.com.

  • patricia ponce
    Posted at 15:49h, 23 June Reply

    i have 3 kids, all of them inside the autistic spectrum disorder. Oldest is girl 17 years old, middle is an girl asperger 9 years old and youngest is a boy is high function austistic boy . i need some orientation to handle the strong temper, depresion and mood swing in my oldest, temper tantrums in the youngest , and decrease opositional desafiant behavior in my middle. Please help me!

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 15:53h, 23 June Reply

      Thank you for contacting me. I would love to help you. All you need to do is email me at JenniferLingle@AutismConsultingandTraining.com to set up a FREE Get Acquainted Call with me. Just let me know what days and times work best for you. It sounds like you are going through a challenging time. I look forward to helping you.


  • Dale Stalnaker
    Posted at 14:56h, 13 August Reply

    My child likes to elope or take off. Also likes to go to people’s houses and peeks in their windows or if the door is open will enter a home. How do I stop this dangerous behavior?

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 16:07h, 13 August Reply

      Hi Dale, I offer a free Get Acquainted Call where we can discuss more about your challenges and create a Next Steps Action Plan to provide you with some tools and strategies. Just email me your general availability at info@AutismConsultingandTraining.com to get your call scheduled.

  • Arif Ahmed
    Posted at 07:59h, 05 June Reply

    Hi , I am in the UK and have been searching for information to help me. I have had advice from professionals here in the UK, to which I am following, I am not sure if the advice is correct. So hoping maybe you can help.

    I have a son, soon to be 3 in a couple of months, He is non-verbal and autistic. He pulls his mother’ hair. We assume it is because he is hungry., because after feeding him he is OK again.

    When he pulls his mother’ hair, we sternly say no to him. What we noticed since then is his aggression has increased. Are we doing the right thing? or are we doing this correctly. We don’t want our son to grow an aggressive nature. It scares us. Thank you.

    • Jennifer Lingle
      Posted at 17:31h, 05 June Reply

      Hi there. Thank you for reaching out. BEHAVIOR IS COMMUNICATION. He is probably becoming more aggressive, because he is trying to tell you something and he is frustrated that you are not understanding him. I know this can feel heartbreaking for everyone. Rather than telling your child “NO!” I would encourage you to replace the behavior with the phrase, “I am hungry.” If you know that your child is hungry when he pulls hair, then you need to give him the words/symbol to help him communicate with you You can give your child a symbol with a picture of him eating on it. Have him give you the picture when he is hungry, rather than pulling his mother’s hair. I hope that helps.

Post A Comment