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  • Amy Selven M.S., CCC-SLP

Modeling Alternatives to the Word “No”

Updated: Apr 1

The word 'no' is an automatic response in many situations, but when talking with children, it can often be a daily placeholder word that may not lead to the expected behavior. One impactful thing we can do for children is to model positive language. The way we speak shapes their understanding of the world and influences how they communicate with others. Here's a guide on how to use simple and alternative language to the word “no”, along with some examples:


  • Instead of saying "no," offer alternatives:

  • Example: "No, you can't have a cookie right now."

  • Alternative: "Cookies are a special treat. How about we have one after dinner?"

  • Change reaction to a “please” request and provide reasoning:

  • Example: "No! Don’t push your sister.”

  • Alternative: "Please leave your sister alone. It looks like you both need some space right now.”

  • Use the word “stop” instead of “no”:

  • Example: "No! Don’t climb on that!”

  • Alternative: "Let’s stop. Your body is not safe right now.”

  • Highlight positive behavior with praise or with words of gratitude and appreciation:

  • Example: "No throwing."

  • Alternative: "I love how you're being gentle and keeping toys on the ground!"

  • Example: "You need to listen."

  • Alternative: "Thank you for listening and following instructions!”


Remember, while using "no" can be necessary at times, incorporating positive alternatives helps children learn how to respond to communication positively and use similar alternatives in their communication. Embracing positive language creates a nurturing and supportive environment, models effective communication, and fosters a strong foundation for your child's language development.


-Amy Selven M.S., CCC-SLP




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