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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

Waiting and Accepting "No."

Dr. Mary Barbera is a best-selling author and the creator of her own website with workshops, courses, and a blog. She also has a book and a podcast that discuss the challenges that come with raising an autistic child and how to handle certain daily struggles and difficulties that a parent in this situation may face. On her blog, she posted an article, and a video, titled "How to Teach Children to Wait and Accept No" in which she discusses how to get your child to accept no as an answer when they can't have something or to wait for something when they want it. She first discusses toddlers and crying. "Normally" developing infants and toddlers will cry to get their needs met; they'll cry when they're hungry or tired or need some attention, etc. Crying is a totally normal reflex and it can be a response that is indicative of communication in children when they are really young. As the child grows, however, they begin to develop language, so you have to be cognizant of what your child is really crying about in order to properly respond. When your child is crying and you try to tell them "no," if they refuse to accept that answer, you may need to take a new approach in order to get them to accept your words and change their behavior in moments where they would typically cry. Try determining a baseline for when your child is crying. How many times a week do they behave that way? Do they have full-on tantrums a hundred times a day because they can't do something or have something they want? You want to determine a rate at which they are crying and whether or not that crying escalates to behaviors like hitting themselves or others, flopping to the ground, etc. You want to assess the magnitude of the situation. You will then need to determine a plan. You will want to spend most of your time trying to prevent crying and giving/planning for reinforcements. Try creating a preventative strategy for you and your child to avoid crying in situations where it would typically arise for them. When trying to prevent crying or another problem behavior that is related to you saying "no," you're going to have to say "yes" a lot. When your child is being calm, and they're happy and attentive, you are going to want to reinforce that behavior and encourage it. Reinforcement is basically one big giant "yes" for a child, so giving reinforcement when they are doing as you ask and behaving appropriately is like telling them "yes" over and over again. When that behavior shifts and the child chooses to cry or whine to get something they want, you are going to have to pull back on the reinforcement. Crying and yelling at the child, however, is not the appropriate response. Remain calm during these scenarios and explain to the child that crying is not the way to get what you want. Another tactic that Dr. Barbera suggests is one that was created by Dr. Vincent Carbone. In this practice, you would "shh" or say "no crying" and then count out loud to ten. Dr. Barbera tweaked this tactic and advised that when your child is crying, trying shushing the crying and then wait for them to be quiet. You can offer choices to them during this practice as well but try to hold off on those choices until you know that they have fully calmed down and understand that crying for what they want won't be tolerated. You may also want to keep track or take data in your head on how your child is improving with this behavior change. You need to try and keep track of how often they are bursting into tantrums or when they are accepting no as an answer; perfect is not the goal, but improvement and understanding is. The next challenge is to teach your child how to wait. As adults, when we stand in line at the grocery store or we wait for dinner to cook, we are not just standing idle with our hands folded; we are likely doing something else around the house or scrolling through Facebook. Children need to be engaged if you expect them to be patient and wait. For example, if you are cooking a pizza for dinner and your child is throwing a fit because they just absolutely cannot wait for the pizza to be done, try setting the timer and putting them in charge of it or doing a simple puzzle or activity while you wait to keep their attention on something else. Prevention is the key in any of these scenarios. Ultimately, you have to decide what is going to work best for you and your child and then you have to put it into practice to see any change in their behavior.

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