🤱 "Why Kids Are Quick To Say No"

(5 Minute Read) What to do when your kids say no and want to do their own thing.

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The fire alarm is ringing and I am trying to get my 8 students with special needs out of the building. We are begging we are pleading with them, but one student will not budge. You see, this wasn’t a planned drill, we didn’t preview this big change in our morning circle, and we didn’t have it on our shared calendar. This was a real deal emergency and we were met with “I’M NOT LEAVING, I’M NOT DONE WITH MY FREE CHOICE!”

It was at this moment, I realized this student was missing a really important skill. The ability to remain flexible and adapt to change and that skill was now putting them at risk of being in a dangerous situation. It was a fire alarm for me as an educator.

Being a special educator for the last 15 years has taught me a thing or two about children and their ability to be “flexible thinkers”. A flexible thinker can adapt to changes, problem solves, and doesn’t get stuck or fixated. I’m taking what I learned during that time and using that to develop executive functioning in my toddler.

My toddler is a fiery independent little one. She wants what she wants when she wants it and that means she often throws some big tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. I noticed this when she was very young during diaper changes. She would thrash and cry and do everything to try to avoid diaper changes, unfortunately, diaper changes are “no choice activities” and they just have to happen. So I decided at 6 months old to start to introduce choice and no choice language to promote flexible thinking. But before we continue this conversation, go support the sponsor we love today, here’s a quick ad for them.

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I want to be clear with my toddler that some decisions she gets to make and some she doesn't. I remind myself that between the ages of three and five, toddlers and young children are developing their autonomy and independence. It is my job to give them opportunities to assert that independence and autonomy but also develop clear boundaries, so they're less likely to act out.

When Maddox doesn't get to make a decision, I tell her something is a "No Choice". I started this really young "Oh, I know you don't like getting your diaper changed, but this is a no-choice activity. We have to do it." If the no choice is something that has to get done, like cleaning up, wear a coat, brush your teeth, there are either corrective actions or boundaries set if you refuse. For example, the boundary set could be: “No outside time without a coat” or the corrective action could be: Mommy does it for you!

When Maddox refuses a coat this sounds like “Wearing a jacket is a no choice, we have to put our coat on to stay warm. Mommy will help you put it on so we can play outside” (corrective action) or “Wearing a jacket is a no choice activity, we have to put our coat on to play outside. First our coat then outside.” (Boundary set)

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The only way choice and no choice language works is if it is paired with actually getting to make choices independently. I look for opportunities to plug in a lot of choices for Maddox to make so she develops her sense of autonomy. On the flip side, I don't overwhelm her with choice (not everything is a choice). What books you read, what toys you play with, which shirt to wear, or choosing something to eat. Those are things that you can have choices in.

Using choice language and weaving choice into every day makes the in-the-moment battles less emotionally triggering for you and your child. Intentionally teaching into this concept of choice and no choice will help your child with thinking more flexibly, adapting to change, and problem-solving improve as they grow and get older.

Parenting is a balancing act, and even with experience, I'm still learning. If you're juggling approaches to address behavior, let's create a game plan together. Schedule a free call to start with curiosity, connection, and consistency. Click the link! 


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