I rarely say a solo "no", it always comes with a long explanation to which one child finds a solution to why we should do it anyways. The arguing begins, it isn't always whining. It disguises itself as problem solving, logical thinking and them offering to help so I don't have to do everything. Ya know, things you want your children to do. So I typically let the decision change along with my "no". I don't say "no" without an explanation or with the tagline "because I said so"...those words are scream inducing in our house. I don't want to hear the screams, trip over the little people that throw themselves on the floor or have to discipline the whiny arguing.
So instead I create confusion but not giving clear answers. I respond with...
"We will ask daddy"
"If everyone cleans their room"
"I'll think about it"
"After I finish my work we can talk about it."
I hope that through my ambiguity they will forget. That something will distract them. I give them two choices for lunch and when they say they would like chicken nuggets instead. I say "fine" and turn on the oven because then maybe they will be happy, maybe they will eat lunch without a fight and I will be able to sit the whole time I am eating instead of getting up to get them 5 things. (I have a problem saying "no").
The answer might seem easy to you. In black and white the problem appears a little more obvious to me. But standing in my kitchen with a mop in my hand, the dryer beeping, a 4 year old painting, a three year old clinging to my leg and the 6 year old asking me to read him a book the answer gets complicated. It's emotional and relational to me. I can play Devils advocate well. This throws me into a back and forth reviewing everyone's perspective, needs, opinions and desires. It makes prioritizing very difficult because for each person's need or perspective there is a different top priority.
When there is quiet, I can think more clearly. I can foresee problems (like leaving a bucket of mop water in the kitchen while I go read in the living room). When I think ahead I can fit more of each person's needs AND desires into a day. But this also makes the times I need to say "no"more obvious.
When I say "no" I help them (and me) understand what there is time for and not time for. When they hear the word more often it becomes more familiar to not get what they want, to learn patience or experience disappointment. We all have less dramatic reactions to that word when it isn't a shock.