“No,” is a frequent response when I ask my one-year-old granddaughter to do something.  It doesn’t really matter if it is something she doesn’t like – such as coming in the house from outside, or if it’s something she actually loves – such as having a snack.  It’s a powerful and controlling word, so no surprise it’s one of the first words a child learns, and learns to execute!  “No,” is the response we find ourselves giving her frequently as well.  “No, you cannot eat the dog food”, “No, you may not run in the parking lot,” and the “No’s” go on and on.


Now, imagine you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum, you’re not one, but maybe you’re 81 or 91 or even 101!  And, once again, you’re being told “No”.  “No, you cannot drive your car”, “No, you must use your walker,” and so on.  How does that feel, for someone who once held the power of “No”? Is it any wonder that this same individual will say “No” to taking their medication and “No” to getting up in the morning?  Once again, the power and control with this simple word commands authority – which is so important to the person who feels they have no control.

What can we do in these situations to try to get the desired response, and at the same time keep the individual safe, and eliminate the “No”?

We have all heard of positive reinforcement, seeking and acknowledging success and accomplishment, rather than focusing on failures or problems.  Good teachers and good parents know this, and use it successfully in the classroom and in the home.   Good caregivers know this too – whether family members or professionals.  Encouragement, distraction, and redirection are all helpful tools as well, and can make the individual feel empowered and in control, and help eliminate the “No”!

The next time you want to say “No”, think about how you can turn that into a “Yes”!  Instead of saying it’s time to take a bath, try asking a question, such as, “Do you want to use the yellow towel or the blue towel today?”  Or, “Should we have bubbles in the bath?”   Offering choices, to a one-year-old, or to a 91-year-old, can change the outcome, and dramatically change the interaction.

Eliminating the “No” requires quick thinking and adaptability.  However, once you recognize the techniques and start using them you will be happily hearing more “Yes” than “No”!

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