Turning ‘No’ into ‘Yes’

Todays’ Problem Shared is from Marc, an adoptive dad to a little girl who is 8. Can you give him any advice?

My daughter has a temper. She’s had it since she was very small and her foster carer told us how she made it clear from a very early age when she did and didn’t want to do things. Angry hands

Over the years, we’ve dealt with her refusals to do things in various ways – and although we know consistency is key, nothing works for very long and we’ve always found that using 2/3 techniques in rotation has worked the best.

But. Now she’s older, the word ‘NO’ is becoming used more and more often.
Please come and do your reading. NO
Please go and brush your teeth before bed. NO
Come on, let’s wash our hands before dinner. NO
Can you stop pulling the cat’s tail now. NO
Please turn the TV down, it’s too loud. NO
Dinnertime – quick come and get up the table. NO
Let’s have some fun – do my nails and mummy’s too, then we can play hairdressers if you like? NO
Hey, it’s time for school, do you want to put your coat on first, or your shoes? NO
Come on, let’s pick a story together. NO
OK, can you choose a story then? NO
Alright, I can see you’re having some trouble, I’ll choose tonight. NO

What do you say back? I’m running out of things…I try to cajole her lightly, I change the way I ask, I suggest/tell her instead of asking, I give her a natural consequence, I’ll ask something different and come back to it, I’ll make it sound like HER idea. But always NO! I’d like to say we always get there in the end, but we’re frequently late…for school, playdates, to family because of the problems involved with the simple task of putting shoes on. There seems to be no pattern – it happens with things she likes, and things she doesn’t.

Any tips please? I’m out of ideas now and everything is turning into a battle. We need some yesses before everything feels negative.Happy hands

Have you experienced similar? How did you deal with it? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below and we’ll make sure Marc sees them…

4 thoughts on “Turning ‘No’ into ‘Yes’

  1. Suddenly Mummy

    I read this last night, and thought I’d come back today and see the answers, but there aren’t any yet!! My little one is going through phase of saying ‘no’ to everything as well, but he’s just a toddler so I’m hoping it’s a phase. For things we’re going to do anyway, I’ve stopped phrasing it as a question, so I say “Come here and put your shoes on,” or, even better, “I’m going to put your shoes on now,” rather than “Do you want to put your shoes on?”. Where I’ve genuinely asked him a question that I want to know the answer to, I’ve started accepting the first answer he gives, so if I ask him if he wants ice cream and he says ‘no’, then he doesn’t get any, even if that means he has to watch everyone else eating it. I’m hoping that will help him to understand that saying ‘no’ has consequences. I think that constantly saying ‘no’ is, like so many other things, basically a control issue, at any age, so the first step is taking back the initiative. Looking forward to reading everyone else’s advice!

  2. Sally

    We have gone through many years of ‘no’ and sometimes much worse. We reached the point where our son was not eating, washing, going to bed, dressing and it was horrendous.
    Luckily we had the support of an excellent therapist and things are now much, much better.
    When he refused to come to the table for dinner we had to calmly say ‘ok, if that’s your choice, but once the meal is over there will be no more food’ or, if meal times were stressful, give him the option of eating on his own.
    In terms of being late for school, I cleared it with them that we may sometimes be late, or he may not be wearing the right uniform (his control thing was refusing to wear black socks). That meant that I could calmly explain that he could chose to wear the white socks but would have to deal with the consequences at school, or if we were late he would have to be walked into school by me and into the year head’s office. I did this all in a very casual way, no emotion, but praised when he made a good choice. It took a lot of pressure off me and was quite miraculous in terms of the ‘no’ thing, perhaps because it was no longer about control and reactions.
    I now use this all the time, in lots of situations. We are sometimes late for things, we we don’t manage to make it at all, or someone is wearing the wrong shoes, but the whole atmosphere is calmer and as a result the behaviours have lessened.
    Hope this is useful. And good luck.

    1. Jemma

      What works well for me is asking a question with two or three answers e.g. Shall we put your shoes on sitting on the floor or the sofa? If she says “no” I just repeat “floor or sofa?” Eventually she gives in and there’s no conflict. It’s called the “broken record technique!” I was taught it during teacher training. You just calmly keep reciting what they need to do. Usually I would follow this with “sofa, good choice…nice and comfy!” Nice positive stuff.
      You have to think through things as a multiple choice question before you ask it, but after a while you get used to it. It’s a bit like the “yes, no” game you played when you were a kid. I used to love that game!
      Hope you get some positive responses soon!

  3. lindsay

    I don’t know if I have much to add because the strategies above are exactly where I would start too. My only advice would be if you haven’t tried some of the things above then just pick one and stick with it for a week or two, even if it seems at first not to be working don’t give up on the first couple time trying it. Also, if your daughter is able to understand enough to know that you are trying something new then before you begin sit and talk to her about it. Explain from now on what will happen and your expectations. It isn’t a negotiation, you are simple informing her of the new ways things will be happening.

    Good luck, keep us posted!!


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