Kids learning to accept no for an answerBy: Katherine Burgett

Learning to accept the word “no” can be a difficult task for a child, and sometimes an even more difficult task for the parent. For parents that feel uncomfortable using the word “no” with their child, fear not! Think of your child accepting no as being able to calmly accept that a desired item is not available, not about over-using the word “no.” The actual word “no” can be reserved for dangerous situations (running into the street, touching a hot

stove, throwing rocks toward people, jumping into deep water). Teaching accepting no is giving children an alternative choice that decreases undesired behaviors (yelling, tantrums, angry outbursts) and empowers them to make a personal decision.

Each time accepting no is presented to a child, it will either end with satisfaction or undesired behavior. First, the child makes a request or demand. Next, the child is told “no” and presented with an alternative. If the child accepts the alternative, everyone is satisfied; if the child rejects the alternative, both the requested and alternative item are no longer available and the child gets neither choice.

To decrease rejection of alternative, start with an equally desired alternative or a more desired alternative. Just as adults have different “loves,” so do children, so the desired alternative will be different for each child. (You may find it helpful to make a list of your child’s loves, likes, and dislikes.)

Here are some examples of how these conversations might work:

Example 1:
Sally: I want a cookie.
Mom: I’m sorry you can’t have a cookie. You may have a Popsicle.

Example 2:
Timmy: I want to go swimming.
Dad: You can’t go swimming; it is raining. We can play hide and seek.

When success has been met using equal or greater alternatives, move to equal and lesser alternatives.

Example 3:
Sally: I want a cookie.
Mom: I’m sorry you can’t have a cookie; that is a sometimes food. You may have an

Example 4:
Timmy: I want to go swimming.

Dad: We can’t go swimming; it is raining. We can read a book.

When this is successful, there is no need to offer items that are disliked. In the end, caregivers will have set up a positive reaction situation. The child will learn to problem solve and realize that there are acceptable alternatives that are equally enjoyable.

If you want to request a ready-made interest chart to use with your child, feel free to comment below and we will be happy to email one to you!

Acceting No

Great book by Julia Cook to use when implementing this technique.

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