By Eric Shuey M.S., BCBA, LBA

We all can improve upon our parenting strategies. This may or may not apply to you, but my hope is you find this blog a little helpful. I’m a parent myself and have made many mistakes in raising my two girls. No one’s perfect and no one has all the answers, but one common mistake that we parents and caregivers make is that we often think we can reason with our children. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could sit down and explain the merits of whatever it is we are trying to have a child do and they simply say “yes mom or dad I completely understand and that makes perfect sense.” But that rarely happens. Most of us have been in a store with our child when they are demanding that we buy them some toy or stuffed animal that they cannot live without. The toy is placed ever so conveniently by the cashier’s register so that your child can’t miss it. Any attempt to explain to your child that they don’t need another “Shop-Kin” or whatever toy is popular will go in vain. We try to explain we need to use the money on something else, other than toys, and yet this is not effective. We further continue to debate with our child. Just using the word “no” is a good strategy, but your child just needs to understand that “no, not now” means “no, not now.” This blog ties in well with the last blog about following-through from past experiences. It is important to note, if your child is one that will become aggressive or self injurious when told “no” or denied access to toys or items in the grocery store, then it may be time to seek professional help. As it may be typical for a child to cry, whine, and complain, it is not typical for a child to become aggressive or hurt themselves in attempts to have their parents give into their demands.

Just using the word “no” is a good strategy, but your child just needs to understand that “no, not now” means “no, not now.

Many children may lack the communication skills or the appropriate coping skills to handle being told “no.” This is a specific replacement skills that your child will need to learn and practice. There are certain strategies you can use that someone can assist you with. Don’t be afraid to ask around and seek support. Continue to work on following through on what you say and not looking at your child as a small adult, as they have had very few experiences to draw from to guide their decisions. We as parents must train them how to respond in specific situations and how to tolerate every day let downs and anxiety. Being able to say “no” and have your child understand this and not engage in disruptive behaviors is priceless. This happens not by lengthy discussions but by following through when you say “no” and not going back on this.