Our youngest son is very advanced. Now, I know you might be thinking all parents think their child is gifted, but I can back up my claim! Our son really took to the word “no” when he was first learning to talk. He fully embraced the word quickly and has gotten very good at using it. If there was a college degree in the word “no” I believe our son would have his PhD in it already. As frustrating as it can be, I have to smile when thinking about just how good he is at using it.
I say this all, of course, because most parents have experienced their child telling them “no.” There are various methods we might implore to coax our child into complying with our request. We are clear on what we are asking of them, lay out consequences for inaction, and may even throw in bribery (how about a sticker?) to sweeten the pot, and still get “no” for a response.
Taking away favorite toys didn’t work.
Taking away a sticker, or the opportunity to earn one, didn’t work.
Making him go to his room didn’t work.
Talking to him about why I needed his help didn’t work though I believe it helped him better understand why I was asking him to do what he was doing and why I was frustrated.
Finally, at my wits end, I enlisted the help of his pre-school teacher. She reminded me that there are probably a few things going on. First, he wants to be acknowledged for what he is feeling. Second, he wants an opportunity to have his say. That made a lot of sense to me. I think we all want to be heard and all want the opportunity to express how we feel or how we want to respond to a situation. When either is taken away from us that can be really aggravating—maybe just enough to make you want to say “no” every time you feel this is happening to you.
When I ask my kids to do something, particularly something they don’t want to do, I remind them that there are only three reasons why I’m asking them to do it. I am trying to teach them something. I am trying to keep them safe. Or I need their help. Helping my boys make the connection with what I’m asking them to do really seems to help.
With the case of my youngest, I’ve employed a few new techniques. I work to acknowledge what he is experiencing and feeling. I express more empathy for how he is feeling when he is upset with what I’m asking him to do—to leave playtime early or not accommodating his desire to go to the store for a treat. I am continually trying to reach my son to help us get to a place where “no” isn’t his go-to response, but saved for situations that really warrant it.
We’ll get there one day I just know it!