Everyone has to learn to live within limits, and it is best when children learn it young. Accepting ‘no’ as an answer teaches children the valuable skill of denying access to a reinforcer. This is also known as ‘contentment.’ Oftentimes a child develops problem behavior that has been maintained by a history of obtaining preferred items or activities. They may have many manipulative techniques to challenge a ‘no’ answer, including screaming, biting, bolting, flopping and self-injury. If you see these behaviors in your kids, the following DOs and DON’Ts will be of some assistance.
What not to do if the child emits problem behavior when told ‘no’
•Do NOT Give your child what s/he wants
•Do NOT Negotiate with your child
•Do NOT Offer other items
•Do NOT Attend to the problem behavior
If you are doing any of these things, your child will likely continue to react negatively when told ‘no.’
What to do when your child does not obey the ‘no’
• Do Practice! Practice! Practice!
•Do Begin with less preferred items/activities and when the child asks for it, say “no”
- Make the task easy at first so the child can experience the reinforcer and be successful
- When the child can accept no for less preferred items/activities, gradually move on to more preferred items/activities.
Depending on where your child is developmentally, social stories may be of some assistance.
•Do Develop a social story that explains how your child can demonstrate “accepting no,” and read it with him/her on a daily basis.
•Do Break up the day into time periods in which your child may earn a reward for demonstrating the “skill of the month.”
• If the learner (child) complains or emits problem behavior, simply go on to other activities
- Remove all attention for the problem behavior except to protect
• If the behavior continues, tell him/her, “Let me know when you are ready” and “wait him out”
- Do NOT give the child what s/he wants while complaining or engaging in inappropriate behavior
- Do NOT offer an alternative
• If your child does not complain or exhibit other problem behavior, provide praise!
The idea is to reinforce “Accepting Behavior”. If you find that you continuously have trouble getting your child to accept the word ‘no’, seek a professional Behavior Analyst for help.