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Changing Your Child's No To Yes

As a parent you will hear the word "no" more often than not. It can be incredibly frustrating to deal with your child when he or she refuses to cooperate.

So in the new book, "Getting Your Child From No To Yes," co-author Barbara Unell teaches parents gentle ways to teach your child cooperation. It is not simply about discipline, she says, but about changing a child's behavior from bad to good.

"There is an agenda with these kids," Unell tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler. "That agenda is not to make you crazy although you may think it is. It may be they're scared to do what you're asking them to do or they don't know what you're asking them to do. The formula is simple: Ability Plus Motivation Equals Performance. Remember that when the kids say no. If they can do it, you'll have a better chance."

Read a few excerpts from the Introduction and Chapter 48:

Five Important Questions

Before reacting negatively when your child says no, ask yourself these five important questions.

How would I feel if I were my child? Considering your child's point of view is the first step toward finding ways to motivate him to cooperate. Is he tired? Is he having a great time playing with his blocks? Is he watching his favorite show? Is he afraid of something you're asking him to do? Once you understand his agenda, you can help him meet yours.

What is my child capable of doing? Are your expectations too high? Is your child physically able to do what you're asking of him? Can he hear you OK? Can he understand the words you're using? Remember, each child is unique and develops on his own timetable. Consult your health-care provider if you're concerned about your child's developmental progress.

Have I taught my child what I'm asking him to do? Have you practiced each step to make sure he understands what to do? If not, spend time teaching him how to brush his teeth, for example, before asking him to do so. You may have to practice many times before he masters the skill. Patience is the key!

How many directions can my child follow? If you ask your child to get dressed, turn off the TV, and put away his toys, will he remember to do each thing? Can he follow your directions without getting distracted? If not, test your child's ability to follow directions. After he shows you that he can follow one direction, try two and eventually three at a time.

Am I being a good role model for my child? Has your child ever watched you brush your teeth? Wash your hands? Use your napkin? Wear your seat belt? If not, remember that your child is always watching your example. Practice what you teach!

Chapter Forty-eight
"It's Time to Take a Nap."
"No! I Don't Wanna Take a Nap!"

A three-year-old's protests against naps are usually the loudest when he's totally exhausted. He may be objecting to the perceived double standard: You're up doing stuff, so why can't he? Let him know that nap time is your quiet time, too. If he knows you're settling down, it may help him do the same.

Helpful Hints


  • Establish a nap-time routine and follow it consistently.
  • Make rules about nap time or resting time, and let a timer dictate the minimum time for naps or resting.
  • Choose quiet activities before nap time so your child can begin to settle down.

Self-Talk

Don't tell yourself,"I'm too tired to be nice to my child. He'll just have to understand that."

Don't use exhaustion as an excuse for being unkind. Doing so teaches your child the inappropriate lesson that respect for others is conditional.

Instead, tell yourself, "We're both tired, but that's no excuse for me to get cranky."

This positive message will help you avoid blaming your mood on your fatigue. You're responsible for teaching your child that it's important to behave appropriately whether you're tired or not.

Don't tell yourself, "When my child doesn't take a nap, the rest of my day is shot."

By predicting disaster, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy and irrationally blame the outcome of your day on your child.

Instead, tell yourself, "My child's refusal to nap doesn't mean my day is ruined."

You control what you think about your child's refusal to nap. By staying calm when your child resists, you show him how to cope with frustration.

Don't tell yourself, "I can't stand to listen to him cry, so I'll just let him stay up."

No parent likes to hear a child cry, but allowing him to stay up won't teach him how to deal with adversity.

Instead, tell yourself, "I can handle my child's refusal to sleep, but he still needs to have quiet time."

It's possible that your child may not need to nap anymore. Give him the option of having quiet time instead, but make sure he understands that he has to do one or the other.

Don't tell yourself, "I don't care if he doesn't take a nap."

Giving up on nap time or quiet time teaches your child that his resistance will eventually pay off.

Instead, tell yourself, "Even though he resists taking a nap, I know it's important for him to have some rest time."

Recognizing the importance of rest will give you greater resolve to enforce the rule. It'll be good for him — and you.

Talking to Your Child

Don't threaten. Don't say, "Get in there and go to sleep before I spank you."

Your lack of empathy and threat of physical pain won't help your child feel comfortable and relaxed enough to rest. In addition, he'll learn that if you're bigger and stronger, you can intimidate others to get your way.

Instead, remind him about the rule. Say,"I know you don't want to go to sleep now, but the rule says you have to rest until the timer rings."

Remind your child of the rule, and let the timer enforce it. This will help you avoid conflict and stay positive.

Don't use guilt. Don't say, "I'm sick and tired of your whining about quiet time. Just shut up and get in your room."

Telling your child that he makes you sick and tired not only tells him that your love is conditional, it models bullying, a behavior you don't want him to imitate.

Instead, make a deal. Say, "When you've had your quiet time, then we can have your friend come over to play later this afternoon."

Use Grandma's Rule to focus your child's attention on the future fun after quiet time.

Don't nag. Don't say, "How many times do I have to tell you to take a nap?"

Nagging won't accomplish what you want (your child's cooperation), but it will produce an unfortunate side effect (teaching him to nag).

Instead, be positive. Say, "Isn't it nice that we're both going to have quiet time now? Then we can have lots of energy for the rest of the day."

Having a positive attitude and modeling rest time for your child help him see the benefit of following your directions.

Copyright © 2004 by Jerry Wyckoff and Barbara Unell. Excerpted with permission from Meadowbrook Press.