Are you tired of hearing the word “no” from your kid?
You know how it goes: suddenly your sweet toddler discovers this dreaded two-letter word and begins using it as much as possible—and then keeps using it for the next 16 years!
NO, she refuses to eat broccoli for dinner.
NO, he won’t put pants on.
NO, he doesn’t want to eat, sleep, or take a bath.
NO, she won’t say “I love you” to Grandma.
It’s perfectly natural for kids of all ages to not just do as they are told or follow orders—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for parents and caregivers to deal with. That’s especially true when you don’t have the right tools to cope with and redirect this frustrating behavior.
Deconstructing Your Child’s “No”
Toddlers and teenagers are alike in their desire to assert their independence.
For toddlers, this defiance stems from them acknowledging their own individuality for the first time and trying to gain some control of their lives. They’re learning the basics of simple cause and effect and using this knowledge (combined with their newfound independence) to test their boundaries in every possible way:
If they push their sippy cup off their high chair, it will fall.
When they refuse to open their mouth to take a bite of carrot, they won’t have to eat it.
And if they say “no” to Mommy’s request for bath time—well, they may not get what they want, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try!
Teenagers also want more control, though for different reasons. They’re at a time in their lives when they lack control over their emotions and bodies and have a legitimate need for self direction and autonomy. Their reaction to any power and control being imposed over them is often to rebel, resist, and retaliate. (Psst—this is no different for younger children and adults. It is the human response, and children are people, too.)
As parents and caregivers, it’s our duty to empower our children to develop a solid sense of self. Healthy autonomy leads to confident adults capable of setting good boundaries, making wise decisions, and having fulfilling relationships with others.
How to Cope with Your Kid’s “No” Phase and How to Turn A No Into A Yes
You’re probably still wondering how you can possibly maintain your own sanity in the midst of all your kid’s never-ending “no” phase. Here are some strategies for dealing with defiant behavior, whether you have a toddler or a teenager:
Don’t let your child’s endless “nos” defeat you. As their parent or caregiver, you have the power to promote harmony and understanding to help everyone in the family through these challenging phases.
You can imagine if it’s difficult for us to hear no, it’s also difficult for our kids to hear no too!! It’s tough! Also if we’re saying no a lot then they learned it from us!
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A 3xTEDx speaker, media contributor, parenting coach, and a mom of two - helping families thrive by using the Guidance Approach to Parenting.