My son is four years old. Lately, he's gotten into the habit of loudly screaming "NO!" whenever he's asked to do anything. It could be a simple "Come give mommy a kiss..." He'll scream, "NO!" Or "It's dinner time, let's go wash our hands." "NO, I'm trying to play!" And recently he's been shouting, "NO! I'm mad!" for no reason.

I need whatever advice you can give me. I've tried giving him time: "We'll have dinner in five minutes, so start getting ready." He'll still respond with a sharp, angry,"NO!"

I've been extremely patient. I ask him not to scream at me and speak with a normal tone of voice, but it doesn't seem to work. He's gotten several time-outs due to this behavior.

What are we doing wrong? How do we correct him? Please help me.


I can only smile :)

This is a stage in his growth and development. Every child needs to, eventually, become a fully autonomous and independent human being. It doesn't begin at age 20. It starts much, much younger.

When your child says "NO" he is not defying you; he is finding himself. It's his way of asserting himself. It's his way of knowing and confirming that he exists. It's his way of establishing that he has his own place. What he needs from you is security and stability and love and encouragement. This doesn't mean, of course, that you're supposed to let him do whatever he pleases. As much as he wants to assert himself, he wants and needs to have very clear boundaries.

And they are not mutually exclusive.

The best thing you can do for him is maintain the rules that you set down. When you say it's dinner time, then it's dinner time. And then, when he says, "NO," simply put your arms around him and say, "Sweetie, I know you'd like to continue playing, but now it's dinner time," or, "I know you're mad, but it's time to wash our hands."

In other words, allow him his assertiveness, but be firm in what needs to be done.

He's not misbehaving; he's doing what kids do. It doesn't call for time-out. It calls for hugs…and firmness.