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  • Writer's pictureLisa Taylor-Jones

Understanding and Supporting Your Child's "Always Says No" Phase

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Insights from a Speech and Language Therapist

As a speech and language therapist with years of experience working closely with children and their families, I have witnessed numerous developmental phases that children go through. One particularly challenging phase that many parents encounter is when their child seems to constantly say "no" to everything. While this can be frustrating and worrisome, it's essential to understand that this behaviour is often a normal part of child development. In this blog post, we will delve into the reasons behind this phase and provide practical strategies to support your child during this time.

Baby putting hand out to say no

The Power of "No":

At some point in their development, most children discover the power of the word "no." Saying "no" empowers them and allows them to assert their independence and individuality. It's important to remember that this phase is a sign of your child's growing autonomy rather than a personal attack on your authority as a parent.

Language Development:

The "always says no" phase often coincides with rapid growth in language skills. Children are acquiring new vocabulary and expanding their understanding of the world around them. However, their verbal abilities may not yet be sophisticated enough to express themselves fully. Consequently, saying "no" becomes a default response as it is simple and effective.

Assertion of Preferences:

During this phase, children begin to form preferences and express their likes and dislikes more prominently. Saying "no" is their way of communicating their preferences and exerting control over their environment. It's essential to validate their preferences while setting appropriate boundaries and providing guidance.

Grumpy child frowning with arms crossed

Testing Boundaries:

The "no" phase can also be seen as a way for children to test boundaries and understand the consequences of their actions. They are exploring their independence and seeking to understand where the limits lie. It's crucial to establish consistent and reasonable boundaries to ensure their safety and well-being while allowing them the freedom to explore within those limits.

Strategies to Support Your Child:

  1. Offer Choices: Provide your child with opportunities to make decisions within a controlled environment. For example, offer two options for meals or allow them to choose between two outfits. This empowers them to feel a sense of control and reduces the need for constant "no" responses.

  2. Use Positive Language: Instead of asking questions that can easily elicit a "no" response, reframe your inquiries in a positive manner. For instance, say, "Would you like to wear your blue shirt or your red shirt today?" This encourages more constructive dialogue and helps your child feel heard and understood.

  3. Model Positive Communication: Set an example by using positive and affirming language in your interactions with your child. Encourage them to express themselves by providing them with the words and phrases they can use to convey their feelings or preferences more effectively.

  4. Patience and Empathy: Remember that this phase is temporary, and your child is navigating a crucial stage of development. Practice patience, empathy, and understanding as you guide them through this period. Celebrate their growing independence and praise their efforts to communicate in more constructive ways.

Young girl in dress with hands covering her face

Understanding Your Child's "Always Says No" Phase - Summary:

The "always says no" phase is a common and temporary stage in a child's development. By understanding the underlying reasons and implementing strategies to support your child's communication and assertiveness, you can help them navigate this phase with greater ease. Remember to maintain open lines of communication, set appropriate boundaries, and provide positive reinforcement for their growth and progress. With time, patience, and a nurturing approach, you can help your child move beyond this phase and foster healthy communication skills for a lifetime.

If you would like more information about the work we do here at Step Up Speech and Language, please take a look at our services. Alternatively, if you would like to speak to Lisa regarding your child, please don't hesitate to contact us.


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