So what are the skills and how can we teach them? ---Introduce to your child the concept of flexibility. Explain to your child how being flexible is an essential skill that he/she will need in the future. In real life not everything goes a person’s way, and we need to learn to accept it. Make the words 'flexibility' and 'acceptance' household words. Model acceptance and flexibility. When anything unexpected happens, especially something disappointing, demonstrate your acceptance to your child. "Oh, I'm little disappointed. I was supposed to meet my friend today, but she can't make it. But that's ok. I can be flexible. We'll meet tomorrow." Scaffold flexibility and acceptance. "We were supposed to go to the zoo, but now it's raining! But we can be flexible. Let's go to the ice cream store instead." Notice and praise members of the family practicing flexibility and acceptance. "Wow, everyone, did you see how flexible Moishy was when there were no more red lollipops left? He just took a green one even though he really wanted a red one." The more you talk about it, the more natural the concept will be. You want your child to attain fluency in the all-important concepts of flexibility and acceptance. ---In order to jump start the child’s behavior of accepting parent’s decisions, a reward system should be implemented to motivate the child. Creating a system in the form of a chart with rewards will help teach the skills so they can eventually become part of the child's repertoire. The child should be rewarded each time he/she accepts a 'no'. Once the child will practice accepting “No” from parents with an accompanying reward, it will be easier for the child to generalize the skill in the absence of a reward. It is best if the program is focused on a specific target, such as, for example, frequent requests for snacks. If the target is clearly defined it is easier to reward and implement the program. A good way to introduce the skill is by doing role play with the child. Have the child practice making requests from the parent, practice denying the request, and reward child for accepting 'no.' ---It is essential to use praise along with the reward program. Give sincere verbal praise each time child accepts “no.” For instance, say “I’m really proud when you are flexible." ---Once child completed the chart or similar program, continue providing verbal without providing a tangible reinforcer. If praise was consistently used during the reward process, the positive associations the child will have will help bridge the gap when eliminating tangible reinforcers. Thus praise will have the desired effect similar to actual physical objects. ---Place behavior on extinction. Placing behavior on extinction is accomplished by withholding reinforcers that encourage negative behaviors, thus eliminating these negative behaviors. When children misbehave, it is always to achieve a desired outcome. In this case, the negative behaviors would be tantruming, crying, aggression, or destruction of property when hearing a 'no,' and the reinforcer would be giving in to these behaviors.  The child's desired outcome in this case is whatever demand he/she made, such as a snack, toy, privilege, etc.  By placing  whatever behavior the child exhibiting on extinction, the focus will be on consciously refusing to give in to this child's negative behaviors, thereby shaping his/her behaviors in the future. A child will eventually stop exhibiting behaviors that do not work. Important pointers to have in mind when placing behaviors on extinction: ---It may take some time. The longer a child has been demonstrating negative behaviors, the longer it will take to eliminate these behaviors. If a child has a history of getting his way by either aggression, property destruction, or manipulation, then understandably, he/she will not simply stop exhibiting these behaviors overnight. Patience and commitment are vital. ---The most important component is to not give in to child’s inappropriate behaviors. Either ignore the behavior, or use a short phrase like “Sorry, you can’t have it.” Repeat it like a broken record if you need to. Do not engage in reasoning and arguments. Doing so will make the child feel there is an opening and will only prolong the process. No negotiations. ---It is extremely important to be absolutely consistent. Giving in even once to a tantrum or similar negative behavior will undo all progress and set you back to the beginning. By capitulating even 'just this once' you show your child that sometimes his/her behaviors work, and will result in him/her trying it again in the future. ---Be prepared for an Extinction Burst. This is a temporary increase in negative behaviors or their intensity when behaviors are not achieving their desired results.  When denying access, you should expect your child’s behaviors to escalate before decreasing. When a child  has a history of getting his way by, for instance, crying, this child will use more extreme tactics to get what he wants if his parents are denying him. He may start with throwing objects or even demonstrate aggression against his parents. If parents are prepared and know what to expect, it will be easier for them to ignore the child and not give in to his manipulation. However, it is absolutely crucial to understand that if the target behavior you are trying to eliminate is dangerous or has the potential for becoming so, you should not attempt extinction without the guidance of a licensed behavior analyst. Since negative behaviors typically escalate during an extinction burst, there is significant danger involved. The ultimate goal is helping shape happy and content children who can cope with challenge and adversity. By teaching our children the vital concepts of flexibility and acceptance, we are giving them tools for life."/>
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Q

How do I train my child to accept “No” for answer?

Often when my child demands an item such as ice cream, he will struggle to accept "No" for an answer. He will cry and yell until the demand is fulfilled. What can I do?

A

Answered by

Eliezer Reinhold, MSEd, LBA LP

Most children have a hard time accepting “no” for answer. This is especially true for children with ASD or ADHD, who may be more impulsive and needy. These children struggle even more with this and often react with even greater intensity.

Every parent needs to say “no” to their child at times, be it for things like snacks, toys, trips, or even for an outfit he/she disagrees their child should wear. A child might use many tactics to get his or her way. Crying, arguments and discussions are the most common, but many children present with aggression against parents. Some children even resort to property destruction.

Sometimes it is easier for parents to just give in to their child’s tantrums rather than deal with the fallout. Parents are overwhelmed with the many tasks daily life requires, such as working outside the home, preparing meals, doing laundry, or taking care of other children. It is tempting to simply give the child the snack or object he is demanding instead of risking the unpleasantness involved with saying ‘no’. However, each time a child gets his way by means of aggressive behavior, arguing, or even just crying, the child is ingraining negative habits and tactics to be used next time and for the future. As unpleasant as as the process may be, it is crucial for parents to teach their children the necessary skills for tolerating “no”. It is far more worthwhile for parents to endure a few hours or even days of tantrums rather than suffer needlessly for years with a child who cannot accept a “no”.

So what are the skills and how can we teach them?

—Introduce to your child the concept of flexibility. Explain to your child how being flexible is an essential skill that he/she will need in the future. In real life not everything goes a person’s way, and we need to learn to accept it. Make the words ‘flexibility’ and ‘acceptance’ household words. Model acceptance and flexibility. When anything unexpected happens, especially something disappointing, demonstrate your acceptance to your child. “Oh, I’m little disappointed. I was supposed to meet my friend today, but she can’t make it. But that’s ok. I can be flexible. We’ll meet tomorrow.” Scaffold flexibility and acceptance. “We were supposed to go to the zoo, but now it’s raining! But we can be flexible. Let’s go to the ice cream store instead.” Notice and praise members of the family practicing flexibility and acceptance. “Wow, everyone, did you see how flexible Moishy was when there were no more red lollipops left? He just took a green one even though he really wanted a red one.” The more you talk about it, the more natural the concept will be. You want your child to attain fluency in the all-important concepts of flexibility and acceptance.

—In order to jump start the child’s behavior of accepting parent’s decisions, a reward system should be implemented to motivate the child. Creating a system in the form of a chart with rewards will help teach the skills so they can eventually become part of the child’s repertoire. The child should be rewarded each time he/she accepts a ‘no’. Once the child will practice accepting “No” from parents with an accompanying reward, it will be easier for the child to generalize the skill in the absence of a reward. It is best if the program is focused on a specific target, such as, for example, frequent requests for snacks. If the target is clearly defined it is easier to reward and implement the program. A good way to introduce the skill is by doing role play with the child. Have the child practice making requests from the parent, practice denying the request, and reward child for accepting ‘no.’

—It is essential to use praise along with the reward program. Give sincere verbal praise each time child accepts “no.” For instance, say “I’m really proud when you are flexible.”

—Once child completed the chart or similar program, continue providing verbal without providing a tangible reinforcer. If praise was consistently used during the reward process, the positive associations the child will have will help bridge the gap when eliminating tangible reinforcers. Thus praise will have the desired effect similar to actual physical objects.

—Place behavior on extinction. Placing behavior on extinction is accomplished by withholding reinforcers that encourage negative behaviors, thus eliminating these negative behaviors. When children misbehave, it is always to achieve a desired outcome. In this case, the negative behaviors would be tantruming, crying, aggression, or destruction of property when hearing a ‘no,’ and the reinforcer would be giving in to these behaviors.  The child’s desired outcome in this case is whatever demand he/she made, such as a snack, toy, privilege, etc.  By placing  whatever behavior the child exhibiting on extinction, the focus will be on consciously refusing to give in to this child’s negative behaviors, thereby shaping his/her behaviors in the future. A child will eventually stop exhibiting behaviors that do not work.

Important pointers to have in mind when placing behaviors on extinction:

—It may take some time. The longer a child has been demonstrating negative behaviors, the longer it will take to eliminate these behaviors. If a child has a history of getting his way by either aggression, property destruction, or manipulation, then understandably, he/she will not simply stop exhibiting these behaviors overnight. Patience and commitment are vital.

—The most important component is to not give in to child’s inappropriate behaviors. Either ignore the behavior, or use a short phrase like “Sorry, you can’t have it.” Repeat it like a broken record if you need to. Do not engage in reasoning and arguments. Doing so will make the child feel there is an opening and will only prolong the process. No negotiations.

—It is extremely important to be absolutely consistent. Giving in even once to a tantrum or similar negative behavior will undo all progress and set you back to the beginning. By capitulating even ‘just this once’ you show your child that sometimes his/her behaviors work, and will result in him/her trying it again in the future.

—Be prepared for an Extinction Burst. This is a temporary increase in negative behaviors or their intensity when behaviors are not achieving their desired results.  When denying access, you should expect your child’s behaviors to escalate before decreasing. When a child  has a history of getting his way by, for instance, crying, this child will use more extreme tactics to get what he wants if his parents are denying him. He may start with throwing objects or even demonstrate aggression against his parents. If parents are prepared and know what to expect, it will be easier for them to ignore the child and not give in to his manipulation.

However, it is absolutely crucial to understand that if the target behavior you are trying to eliminate is dangerous or has the potential for becoming so, you should not attempt extinction without the guidance of a licensed behavior analyst. Since negative behaviors typically escalate during an extinction burst, there is significant danger involved.

The ultimate goal is helping shape happy and content children who can cope with challenge and adversity. By teaching our children the vital concepts of flexibility and acceptance, we are giving them tools for life.

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  • Hands-On Music Therapy

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    Each week, Ami Magazine features a “Let's Talk” post, with a question or inquiry commonly posed by Encore parents.

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