It’s one thing to raise kids who want to behave, but what do you when your child says no to everything? When all the words out of their mouths is a defiance to your rules, big and small? Maybe you can relate to Amy’s story below:
I’m struggling with some of these issues and want your take—what do you do if you set the expectations and your child resists them, like, hard. Example: you ask your child to bring her dishes to the sink and she simply refuses. My child says no to everything (even stuff like washing her hands after using the bathroom—driving me crazy!).
You hear that defiance is normal for kids, from toddlerhood to the teen years. We know our kids are normal and doing regular kid stuff, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Especially when simple rules and responsibilities provoke power struggles.
What to do when your child says no to everything
Here’s what I told Amy:
Offer choices (or even the appearance of a choice).
Phrase the task as a choice she gets to make. “Do you want to wait until you finish your drink to put the dishes away, or do you want to do it now?”
Why are choices powerful? They provide your child the autonomy to decide how she wants to do the task. No doubt she needs to do the task, and she might even resent that she has to do it. But given the autonomy and choice, she’s more likely to comply when the choice falls on her.
Notice that the choices don’t have to be “either or.” You’re not giving her the choice to put the dishes away or not, because she needs to put those dishes away. Instead, you’re giving her the choice how or when she gets to do them. Parent-approved choices, of course—she can’t put the dishes away next week.
Show empathy: you’re on her side.
Seeing the situation from your child’s point of view is all she needs to feel heard. “I know it can be such a drag; sometimes I don’t like putting my dishes away either. We have to keep our house clean though, so the dishes need to go in the sink.”
With empathy, your daughter understands you know how she feels. And that perhaps you would even feel the same way in her shoes.
Phrase the task like asking for help.
It may not always seem like it, but kids are wired to please their parents, including helping out. Phrase the tasks she needs to do as something you need help with. “It’d be a huge help if you can be mama’s big helper and get these dishes in the sink for me while I wipe the table.”
Now the focus on being a helper, rather than being bossed around. She’ll feel more independent knowing she’s helping you out, not just obeying orders. Plus, you emphasize teamwork, marking her contribution as something essential.
Give a “better” option.
Let’s say you haven’t allowed your daughter to go anywhere near the dishwasher. I bet this line would help get her to put the dishes away: “Hey, want to help me load the dishwasher?”
When phrased as a privilege, the chores become something they get to do. My kid loves spraying and wiping surfaces in the house because he thinks it’s awesome to spray things. Well there you go—I just got him to do chores.
Struggling with getting your kids to do their chores? Want to develop good habits from the start? Get my FREE printable chore lists to help you and your kids organize chores. Download it below:
Offer an incentive.
This isn’t a reward (because external rewards only work for so long). But frame the chore as a means to an (awesome) end. “After we place our dishes in the sink, we can check out that puzzle you liked earlier today.”
The focus is on the ‘after’ part—the fun part—and less on the means to get there. The chore isn’t the big battle and power struggle, but something to do to move on with the day.
Pick your battles
Have you ever counted how many times you say ‘no’ to your kids? And not just the word ‘no,’ but any alternate for of it. “Please don’t jump on the couch,” “We don’t hit one another,” “Not too loud.”
If you’re like me, it’ll be a lot.
And for the most part, we have to. We’re parents, and we keep kids in check. We provide boundaries and show them appropriate ways to behave.
But can you imagine living under those circumstances? It’s tough being a kid sometimes. And we have to remember that thought when we’re on the brink of another power struggle.
I’d like to think I stand my ground on a lot of things with my kids. I follow through with consequences is important, no matter how hard it can be.
But while I’m strict, sometimes the best thing to do is pick your battles. This doesn’t mean relenting every time. It means that we all have bad days, and that one “lost battle” isn’t going to send mixed messages forever.
Because usually, my kids and I are able to run smoothly. But some days are better if everyone deals with the dishes the next day.
Learn how to effectively discipline your child with these tips:
- Nobody’s Perfect, Including Our Kids
- THIS Is Why Your Child Is Testing You
- How to Discipline a Toddler Who Deliberately Disobeys
- The Surprisingly Simple Question You Should Always Ask Yourself before Disciplining Your Child
- Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child
Your turn: What do you do when your child says no to everything? How do you convince your child to follow the rules? When do you know to stand firm or let them ‘win’? Let me know in the comments!
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