If you have a child that does NOT like the word “NO” then you’ll want to give this episode a listen.  This is the last episode in this month’s series “Emotional Life Skills for the Strong Willed Child” and will help you know how to respond to kids who may whine, complain, or throw a fit when you tell them “No”.  Clinical mental health counselor, Mike Fitch shares his best tips for handling this issue.



Mike Fitch, CMHC

Tip #1: Be Aware of The Reality

Kids aren’t really thinking about their behavior.  When they don’t get want they want, they instinctively yell or cry for what they want.  Saying NO can be a catalyst for a power struggle or some whining.  Our kids simply don’t like to hear the word “NO”.  Especially when they really want something.  We feel the same way as adults.  When we get our mind set on something we want or think we need, it’s hard for US to hear the word no.

Also, there will be times in your children’s life when the word “no” is more of an issue than other times.  Here are some specific ages.

  1. Age 2-3
  2. Teens

Just know that there is no quick fix for this.  It will most likely be a lifetime issue.  However, use the follow tips to minimize the negative effects of saying “NO”.

Tip #2: Ask yourself “Do I really need to say no?”

There are ABSOLUTELY times that you NEED to say “NO”!  We don’t want you to think this tip is teaching you to say “yes” all the time.  You are not customer service trying to keep clients happy.  Rather, you are the authority in your house and get to say “No” when appropriate.

However, have you ever said “no” to your child when the answer really could have been:

  • “Not now”
  • “Sure. But only when your chores are done.”
  • “Let me think about it for a little while.”

If our kids are constantly being told “No” it can increase their frustration when we say it.  See if there are times you can say something different that might help you avoid a power struggle or metldown.

Tip #3: Make note of what your child is asking you for

One of the biggest issues we hear from parents of strong-willed children is that they can’t find a consequence that will work for their child.  If you pay attention to what your children are asking you for, they will tell you which things they care about.  If your child is frequently asking to play Mine Craft, you now know that loosing the privilege of playing Mine Craft might be a consequence that would motivate your child.  It sounds mean saying it, but your kids are giving you hints about what WILL work for them.

Tip #4 : Get clear in your own mind and with your family about what things you will say “No” to

You do get to have family rules.  You don’t have to negotiate with your child.  Instead, sit with your family to come up with family rules and routines.  After you’ve made family rules and routines if your child asks for something that would break a family rule or routine you don’t have to say “No” instead your get to say:

“What is our family rule about that?” OR “You know we don’t play video games before chores.”

The family rules and routines get to be the bad guys!  Isn’t that awesome!

So get clear with everyone in the family what the rules and routines are.

Here’s some examples:

  • Rule: We only have one treat a day
  • Routine: Homework time starts at 5:30 pm
  • Rule: We don’t buy treats at the grocery store if anyone asks for them.  Rather, mom can choose to buy a treat if everyone is good.
  • Routine: We start bedtime routine every night at 7:00 pm
To learn how routines can help you avoid power struggles, go here.

Tip #5: Walk Away

If the child is really upset that you said no, saying more will make it worse.  Here’s a quick lesson on the brain.  Part of your brain is responsible for making rational decisions and for critical thinking.  This part of the brain only work when you are calm.  As soon as your brain is flooded with an emotion, the rational and critical thinking part SHUTS OFF.  What does this mean for you and your child?  If your child is flooded with emotions because you said “No” to something, they cannot learn from a lecture.  There is really no point in talking when your child is flooded with emotion.

Also, if your child thinks they still have your attention, they may still try to argue or get their way. 

If you walk away, they can’t argue and they will have the space they need to calm down.

What if you’re out in public and they are melting down?  You may need to take them to the car to cool off.

Whatever you do, make sure you follow the next tip!

Tip #6: Once you’ve said “No”, DO NOT GIVE IN!

We cannot emphasize this enough! If you say “No” then give in after your child has thrown a fit, you’ve just taught your child that if they want something THEY JUST NEED TO THROW A FIT.  No!  That’s not what you want!  

You want your child to learn that throwing a fit, whining, or arguing will NOT get them what they want.  This is why it’s so important to be thoughtful before you say “No”.  If you say “No” and you really meant “Yes” it puts you in a challenging position.  Do you say “yes” and loose credibility with your child, or do you stick to your guns?

Tip #7: Set expectations beforehand.

This tip goes hand in hand with Tip#4.  However, it is good to use in situations where you haven’t made a family rule or routine. 

For example: If you’re going to the store and you don’t want to buy a treat, let your kids know beforehand that you won’t be buying a treat.

Setting expectations beforehand sets your kids up for success and could save you some frustration.

Tip #8: Consistency is key

As with every parenting tool we teach here at Parent with a Pro. Consistency is key!  If you consistently use these tools, you will see a difference.  If you are inconsistent using these tools, you will not see a difference.

We know consistency is one of the hardest parts of parenting!  But if you can be consistent, parenting won’t be so hard.

Happy Parenting,

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