Q: "My Older children like to use the "disagreeing Appropriately" in what I consider to be inappropriate ways. For instance if I give an instruction that they simply don't feel like doing, they disagree appropriately. I find that I want to say "no, you can't disagree appropriately" because, I don't feel it is appropriate to disagree to help. Yet, if I don't allow them to disagree, then I get considerably more arguing and whining. And if I allow it, but don't let them out of the request, I worry that I am never rewarding them for disagreeing appropriately. Any suggestions on how to overcome this? On a positive note, my 5 year old is using this a lot better, and it has cut down on his whining considerably."
The fact that your children like to use disagreeing appropriately shows they have learned that calmly discussing works better than having an attitude problem or other alternative. It could also mean your children think they have found a system around having to do work around the house. Either way, don’t worry. Over using disagreeing appropriately is a natural part of the process to learning to live by the Four Basic Skills.
In the past when I have perceived that one of my children has decided to use disagreeing appropriately to work against our family structure, then I simply start saying “no” more often. If you think saying “no” will create upset children, then prep them for the ‘no’ answer before you give it. If they don’t accept the ‘no’answer then they need to earn a negative consequence.
If you want to have more occasions to show your children that disagreeing appropriately is the way to dispute things, then I would suggest saying “no” to things you want to say “yes” to from time to time. If the child disagrees appropriately, then praise it and change your decision. If they look like they are going to get upset, remind them to disagree appropriately.
If you don’t have enough things to say “no” about to encourage disagreements, then you might want to consider having your children be required to ask for more things. If they have to ask for all snacks, food, free time, etc. then you have many more opportunities to practice saying “no” and encouraging disagreements.
If you usually don’t change your mind with disagreements about helping out, then your children will soon learn there is no point disagreeing at those times.
If your family masters the disagreeing appropriately skill, then you will all be much more advanced than most of normal society. Disagreeing appropriately is a vital skill to learning how to govern your own emotions and behaviors.
A note about saying, "No":
Many parents have a hard time using the word no. Many people notice that the word creates a certain feeling in the person who hears the word. Don't under-estimate the power of words, they all really do carry feelings when they are said.
If you are not inclined to say the word no that is alright, you can say things like, "not at this time...I don't think so...or...I don't feel like that is a good idea." These phrases are all no answers as well.
Just know that if you use these phrases then you are not being as direct and could create additional conversation about the issue, and more disagreements. If you say, "not at this time" then you have to know that often times the child will respond with, "when can I then?"
My favorite way to give a no answer is to give a reason and then say my answer is no. Such as; "that goes against our family standard, so the answer needs to be no." Or, "Someone can get hurt if you do that, so I need to give you a no answer. No, you can't do that."
Of course it is much better to use specific words instead of using the word "that" all the time.
I remember when my parents used to say no to me about things I would always ask, "why." I really wanted more explaination. Dont forget to give rationales for your no answers most of the time. Simple no answers are alright, but giving a rationale too is even better. Your rationales don't need to be long.