A Fact of Life: Children Say No


What does it mean when young children say no?

  1. They are developing a mind of their own – a good thing.
  2. They are learning to stick with things to get what they need – to be determined. – a good thing.
  3. They know what they need.

What’s a parent to do when young children say no?

  1. Insist they do what you need them to do – that’s your job in order to keep them safe and learning how to live in the world.
  2. Tell them you see that they have their own ideas.
  3. Offer them acceptable ways to get their needs met – have cookies after dinner, go outside when an adult can be with them, take a special toy with them to the doctor’s office, etc.

What’s a parent to avoid doing when young children say no?

  1. Punishing them or criticizing them for saying no
  2. Insisting that they not use the word “no” – they will need to know when and how to say no in order to deal with temptations and peer pressure. For more about determination, see “Grit.”
  3. Reacting with anger – it makes it harder to handle the situation and it can make the child more determined and upset than ever.
  4. Giving in – it doesn’t help them learn acceptable ways to live with rules and still get what they need.