Skip to main content

Overuses "No!"

What to do:

Self-talk. Say to yourself, "I don't like it when my child says 'No' to me, but I know that he's showing that he's growing up and trying to become independent. That is a good thing. I'll look on the bright side!"

Empathy. Tell yourself, "I think that my child says 'No' for many reasons-power, control, independence-and that's normal. I understand how she feels. I say it too, sometimes, for those same reasons!

Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn how to tell me what he doesn't want to do and learn that saying 'No" is important. It's my job to teach him how to stop doing something that is dangerous or hurtful, as well as how to express himself."

Redirect Your Child's Behavior. Teach another behavior to replace the one you want stopped. For example, if your toddler is digging in the potted plant, instead of saying "No", simply say, "Please stop digging in the plant. Let's play with the dollhouse instead." This redirection moves her to a new behavior and avoids the use of word "No" repeatedly by you.

Practice What the "Stop" Rule. Instead of saying "No" to your child when she is doing things that you don't want her to do, teach her what the word "Stop" means. Tell her, "When I say 'Stop', the rule is that you stop doing what you're doing. For example, when I say 'Stop' when you get close to the wall with your truck, you stop moving the truck to the wall." When she stops, praise her stopping and give her a hug.

Practice with these kinds of actions, as well as more dangerous ones, such as getting near a hot stove or crossing the street. Say, "When we get near the street, I'll say, 'Stop'. That means that you don't move. I'll come to you, and we will cross the street together holding hands." Practice this activity even when you don't want to cross the street to teach her the rule. This will also help teach your child to use the word "Stop" when she wants to stop acts by others, such as biting or hitting.

Get to Know Your Child's Personality. Your child may be saying "No" because it gets so much attention from you or because she just likes the sound of saying the word "just for fun". For example, she may say, "No!" as she's reaching into the pretzel snack cup! In other words, don't always take her literally when she says "No" to every request.

Let Your Child Say "No" and Use Grandma's Rule. When she says "No" when you ask her to do something, use Grandma's Rule. For example, say, "I understand that you don't want to pick up your crayons. When you've picked up the crayons, then you may play with the markers."

Using Grandma's Rule in this way-saying "when you have done what you need to do, then you may do what you want to do"-teaches your child to be able to get to do what she wants, and teaches her that you've heard what she's said. Take her feelings into consideration-but she still needs to do what you've asked.

Some Things Are Non-Negotiable. When your child refuses to get in the car, for example, say in a kind voice, "I know you don't want to get in the car. I'm sorry about that. But it's time for school. You can get in by yourself, or I can help you get in. You choose which way."

Let Your Child Know that Saying "No" Is Important. Teach your child that saying "No" is sometimes what she needs to do. If your child says "No, I don't want to wear that shirt," simply answer by saying, "I understand that you don't like this shirt. That's okay. We'll get something else to wear." This shows her that you don't mind that she says "No" sometimes. In addition, teaching her to say "No" when a playmate tries to hurt her, shows her that she can protect herself by saying a firm "No".

What not to do:

Don't Laugh at the Use of "No". Laughing or calling attention to your child's overuse of the word "No" only encourages her to use it more to get your reaction.

Don't Get Angry. Getting angry will tell your child that "No" is a bad word to be avoided at all costs, which is not a message you want to deliver. There are many times when "No" should be encouraged, such as to express an opinion or to protect against an aggressive act by someone.

The authors and Raised with Love and Limits Foundation disclaim responsibility for any harmful consequences, loss, injury or damage associated with the use and application of information or advice contained in these prescriptions and on this website. These protocols are clinical guidelines that must be used in conjunction with critical thinking and critical judgment.