6 Refusal Skills for Teens: How to Say NO Without Saying No


Parents spend hours teaching their children how to drive, helping them with homework, and shuttling them to sports practices.  

 As teens gain more independence, parents need to add another item to their to-do list — teaching their kids how to navigate tricky social situations. Help keep your children safe by equipping them with the skills they need to steer clear of risky situations, such as underage drinking, without feeling like they look “uncool” or like they’re being left out by their peers. 

Know the Facts 

Before starting the conversation with your child about the perils of underage drinking, it’s important to know the facts. Although alcohol use among young people has declined in recent years, millions of adolescents still experiment with underage drinking. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that alcohol is the most commonly misused substance among American youth. In fact, a recent study found that, each day, 6,200 adolescents begin drinking alcohol. 

Once you understand the reality of the problem, one of the best ways you can prepare your children for the pressures of underage drinking is to Start the Conversation and help them learn the refusal skills they need to stay safe.  

Top 6 Refusal Skills 

Refusal skills are techniques that help tweens and teens resist peer pressure and say “no” to things they don’t want to do. It’s easier for teens to avoid underage drinking and other risky situations when they’re armed with easy and effective refusal skills. https://www.talkitoutnc.org/9-ways-resist-peer-pressure/ . Start with these six ways to say NO: 

  1. “I’m good right now.” Often, the best solution is to keep it simple.
  2. “I don’t want to get grounded.” Placing the blame on engaged parents is an easy way to avoid underage drinking. When confronted with alcohol, there’s no one better to blame than parents for deciding not taking a sip. Let your child know they can blame you for being strict. Adolescents are less likely to question a teen who is faced with the threat of being grounded.
  3. “I’d be suspended from the team.” If saying “no” isn’t enough, teens who play sports can blame the coach who would suspend them from the team for drinking alcohol. They can also explain that they want to focus on doing well on the field and that alcohol has a negative impact on athletic performance.
  4. I’m driving tonight.” Being a responsible driver means staying sober, and it’s the perfect reason to turn down an alcoholic beverage. Remind your teen that North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinkers who get behind the wheel, so if they drink, they could have their driver’s license suspended or revoked.
  5. “I’d rather do something else.” Sometimes, teenagers turn to drinking because they don’t have a better option. Help your children come up with a list of fun sober activities they can suggest when their friends are considering attending a party where alcohol will be served. They can organize a video game tournament, have a pizza party, host a movie night, play basketball, or sing karaoke. Encourage them to be creative and teach them that they don’t need alcohol to have a great time.
  6. “I have to go home.” If your child gets into an uncomfortable situation, it’s important for them to know that you’ll come to the rescue, no questions asked. Create a code word they can use to secretly text you if they need to be picked up from a party or other situation that feels unsafe. Let them know they won’t face negative repercussions for reaching out to you. They can tell their friends that you texted them and need them to return home immediately.  

Practice Makes Perfect 

Understanding different refusal skills is useful, but implementing those skills in real-world situations can still be difficult because the pressure to drink alcohol is likely coming from a friend rather than a stranger. Ask your teen about situations where they think they may encounter pressure to drink alcohol. Together, you can come up with the best response for each circumstance. Taking time to practice saying “no” will help give kids the courage to combat peer pressure and stay safe. 

Start the Conversation

In a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 80% of teenagers said their parents were the biggest influence on whether they drank alcohol. This illustrates why it’s so important to talk with your children about underage drinking. Not only will it help you establish trust with your child, but it will also help them feel comfortable turning to you when they have a problem.  

Your children need your guidance to navigate their often-tumultuous teenage years. Help them out by explaining the dangers of underage drinking, setting clear boundaries, and teaching them how to say “no” so they can stay safe. Visit www.talkitoutnc.org to get tips for Starting the Conversation today.