Is Your Toddler Saying No to Everything? Here’s What To Do

My son, Lucas, once went through a time period where he was saying no for everything. I recently got asked a question by one of my online community members. The question was what to do if your child or clients answer every question with no. Is your toddler saying no to everything? Don’t miss this video.

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So today I am sharing an excerpt from a question during one of my live Q&A sessions discussing what you can do for a toddler saying no to every question asked. The question reads, “my son is 4 and a half and attends a regular preschool. In the past few months, he’s constantly been saying the word no. Sometimes he means no, but a lot of times when he replies no to a question, it appears to be out of habit because we are asking him about things he really enjoys doing.

Do you want ice cream? He’s saying no, and he enjoys that. Do you want to watch Toy Story? He’s saying, no. It is becoming a problem at school because they see this as him being defiant. Typically he’s saying no in a mild manner tone and other times he says it more aggressively. Any suggestions with this behavior problem would be appreciated.” I actually have a very interesting and applicable story of Lucas saying no many years ago. When Lucas was halfway through kindergarten, he moved to an approved private ABA school out of the county. He was traveling an hour each way. He was going to this ABA school and all of a sudden, when he was around 6, he had gone from being very compliant through preschool, intensive ABA, and half of kindergarten to saying no. So I said to the therapist that came home and at school, is Lucas saying no a lot?

She goes, yeah, actually, he is. I said, okay, so when is he saying no? She said, well, he’s out at recess and you know, he really loves the slide and recess. And she said, so we say, “Lucas, it’s time to come in and do work.” That’s the antecedent. Okay, the setting event is the playground. The antecedent is time to come in and do work. The behavior is him saying no. Then I’m like, okay, so we got the A, the antecedent, we have the B, the behavior is no. And I said, so what happens? I was looking for the consequence, the C. She said, well you told us that we shouldn’t drag him in or we can’t physically pull him in, so we say, “Well, we don’t have to do work. Come on, let’s go in, we’ll have some pretzels, we’ll watch Barney.”

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So they basically reinforced him saying no, by making the task easier and more reinforcing. So now I understand where this no is coming from. You’re reinforcing it. So anytime a behavior’s going up someone is reinforcing it. She said, okay, so what should we do instead? I told her we should not use the word work. We also need to dangle the carrot before problem behaviors. At the time, Lucas loved the ocean, so he’d go out to where his neck was in the water. And I, of course, had to be out there swimming for hours to get him in. It’s not like, Lucas come on in and do work. You’re not going to be able to transition kids smoothly if you make what they’re coming to so much more difficult or less reinforcing then what they have.

Instead of saying, let’s go in and do work, always have a transition plan so that you’re taking him from a 10, not to a 2 but you’re taking him from a 10 to a 9, back up to a 10, maybe to an 8, back up to a 9 and throughout his day he is not crashing and being offered something that’s a 2. So from then on, they only transitioned him back from recess to watch Barney and eat pretzels, which he was going to get anyway. But they did that before no. And then they showed him we’re not coming from a 10 to a 2. We’re coming from a 10 to a 9. That’s my question for you, find out who’s reinforcing the no, when it’s happening the most, when it started, and start reversing that. The other part of answering your question is he’s saying no for ice cream and Toy Story when they are things he likes to do. That is a yes, no response. If a toddler saying no happens in regards to questions that you think they should be saying yes to, that’s a different issue.

You need to teach him probably yes and no depending on where he’s at with the VB-MAPP. We have a whole lesson on yes and no within our intermediate course here. I also have a free video blog on teaching yes and no. So between those two strategies, you should be able to get the no gone. I hope you enjoyed this short video about a toddler saying no to every question. Wherever you’re watching/reading this, I’d love it if you would leave me a comment, give me a thumbs up, share this video/article with others who may benefit, and for more information, you can attend a free online workshop at marybarbera.com/workshop and I’ll see you right here next week.

A toddler saying no to everything isn’t the only problem behavior your child or client might be having. Start making a difference for your child or client with autism through free training!
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