When a child says “no”, instead of viewing your child as a disrespectful, disobedient child, view it as your child learning to stand up for herself. Saying “no” is an important life skill to have. After all, you don’t want to raise a submissive child who gives into peer pressure. Now, that doesn’t mean giving in to your child’s resistant behavior, but having that perspective shift will help you to respond in a helpful, more effective way than reacting with anger at their “disobedience”.
Some ways to respond to a resistant child:
- Connect with your child: Children who feel connected with their parents are less likely to become resistant and more likely to cooperate.
- Ask a question instead of giving a directive: “What do you need to do before you can go outside and play?” vs “You need to do your homework first”.
- Offer a choice: Offering choices empower a child to cooperate. “Do you want to hop to your bedroom like a bunny or run to your bedroom fast like a cheetah?” or “Time to do chores. Do you want to mop the floors or clean the toilets?”
- Teach your child to say no respectfully: “Please say that again more respectfully.”
- Respect their “no”: When possible, allow them to say no and respect their “no”.
- Provide information: Let your child know why you’re saying “no”. But keep your explanation short so you don’t engage in a power struggle.
- Empathize: When a child feels understood, their resistance starts to dissipate. Ex. “I see that you’re angry that it’s time to stop playing with your toys so we can leave. I get it. (Pause) It’s time to get in the car now.”
- Find positive ways they can feel powerful: Children feel a sense of power when they say “no”. If you fill that need for power in a positive/appropriate way, they are less likely to say “no” to fill the need.
- Limits you “no’s”: Children learn from what we model. If we are saying “no” to them a lot, they will begin saying “no” to us.
My instructor when I went through the program to become a certified parenting coach introduced me to the poem, Angela’s Word, and it’s such an impactful poem that really shows why it’s important to have a perspective shift around our children saying “no”.