I’ve heard it said there are two basic questions children long for answers to. The first is, “Am I loved?”. The second is, “What can I get away with?”. Likely, if you have children, you know the feeling of being asked over and over again for something, responding “no” multiple times to no avail, each time becoming more frustrated with the lack of appropriate acceptance of the answer. This sort of behavior is common from kids. Last school year, I promoted the “1-2-3 Magic” system among the teachers and parents. This really works well for setting limits for that nagging behavior or questioning when used correctly. But I wanted to offer another simple technique that you can try today to improve the results you may get when telling a child “no”, hopefully saving you and the child some frustration and preserving the relationship. The ACT Model (by Gary Landreth) is simple to use.
Here are the steps:
1. Acknowledge the Feeling
“I know you would really like to…” or
“I can see you are feeling very…”
2. Communicate the Limit
“…but you may not______....(because…)”
“but your sister is not for hitting.” or
“but the answer is no.”
3. Target Alternatives
“You can_______if you would like” or
“What you can do is______ or_______ (give a choice).
Some examples of how it might work:
- - “I know you would really like to go outside to play, but you may not because it is raining. You can choose to either complete a puzzle or we can play a game together."
-“I know you’re very mad at me, but yelling at me is not okay. You can go to your room or the basement and cool off for 5 minutes before choosing something else to do.”
- - “You really would like to have a few pieces of candy, but dinner is coming soon, so you can have one piece or none.”