Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedure (CAPP): How to Train Your Kid That “No” Means “No”


Calm/Assertive Procedures like this one give kids two choices and two choices only. Kids can either:

  1. Be cooperative


  1. Suffer the consequences of not being cooperative

Either way, we can be calm and empathetic because we do not allow this third option to exist:

  1. Do whatever you want, develop bad behaviors, and become a person people don’t want to be around

The possibility of allowing choice is what makes us angry, excitable, and sometimes irate because we love our kids and we know where kids who get to use choice C often end up.

Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedures like this one take into account all possible ways that kids will try to get to choice C. We stop those channels to and reroute back to either choice A or B. We do this all without ever trying to control that which we cannot control.

Here We Go…

Let’s start with an essential understanding: children do not have a constitutional right to explanations from their parents. The adult knows best because they have been on the earth longer and their brains are, at the least, more fully formed than their children’s brains. Any attempt at explaining expectations, choices for dinner, or choices for daily schedule will trick kids into thinking that they are in charge of their families and that they can get what they want with negotiating a better deal for themselves. This is unfair and confusing to the child.

No one wants to be around someone who argues, complains, and whines about everything. It is especially terrible if you have to live with this type of person. This CAPP will show you how to train your kid(s) to stop using repeated attempts at negotiation as a means of getting what they want.

What Not to Do

    Do not explain to, or reason with, your child. Once you say “no,” do not say why it is the limit, do not explain the value of an activity. Such explanations give kids the mistaken and unhealthy belief that they are their parent’s equal. They are not. Kids’ brains are not fully functional and they have a diminished ability to make wise choices, create plans, and make decisions for themselves. That is why they have a parent.

What to Do: Setting the Limit

  • Apologize: At a time of your choosing, when things are going smoothly, apologize to your kid. Tell them that you have been accidentally tricking them into thinking that they might be in charge of the family, and then getting frustrated when the kid has acted like he is in charge of the family. Tell them that this was unfair and that you are sorry. Tell your kid that you will be clearer from now on to avoid this confusion and that you won’t mention this again, since you know how annoying lectures can be.
  • Give a Directive: This limit could be announcing that your family will be doing something (“We are going to go to Uncle Bob’s house today.”)
  • Expect Non-Compliance: This will come in the form of a request for an explanation. When an explanation is requested (Why do we have to go to Uncle Bob’s? His house smells funny.”), refer back to “What Not to Do” before moving on to the “The Intervention.”

What to Do: The Intervention

  • Give a Signal: Use a word, sound, or phrase to minimally acknowledge that the request for an explanation was heard. Use the same signal each time. The word, sound or phrase could be:
    Oh, boy
    Oh, dear
  • Don’t Get Manipulated  into Saying Anything Else
      If you have read this far, you have probably already trained your kid to demand explanations. If so, your kid will keep demanding explanations. In the face of this, do not deviate from this word, sound, or phrase. Note that what you are saying is not an explanation! It is both a signal that you will not be explaining things today or ever again, and it is a clear indication that it is not your responsibility to explain things to your kid. Note also, that you are showing this to your child, not telling, since that would be an explanation!
  • ***Contingency Plan for Outright Refusal by Kids Who Cannot be Safely Picked Up and Carried Away***If your big kid skips a demand for an explanation and goes straight to outright defiance by refusing to do what is asked, skip directly to “What to Do: The Consequence.”
  • ***Contingency Plan for Outright Refusal for Kids Who Can be Safely Picked Up and Carried Away***If your little kid skips a demand for explanation and goes straight to outright defiance by refusing to do what is asked, simply say your word, sound, or phrase, pick up the child, and place him somewhere away from the family. Let him know that he can come back as soon as he can do what is asked of him. If what is asked of him is something that must be done right now (finishing his milk, for example), he is allowed to remain with the family as long as he is sitting in front of his milk and is working at a reasonable pace to finish it. Once he finishes, he can leave the table and go on living his life. No other consequences are necessary. If the refusal was over something that will be done in the future, the child can remain with the family until he refuses to do said activity. For example, if the child says “no” to going to Uncle Bob’s house tonight at six pm, and it is noon, we put him away somewhere. When he comes back, we don’t bring it up again. In this way the kid is tacitly accepting that he will be going to Uncle Bob’s at six pm. If he then refuses to go when the family is getting ready to go to Bob’s house, we then repeat the carrying process, except this time we take him to the car and strap him into the car gently but firmly. In this way, we are giving the kid some early and important training that parents are bosses, that parents are stronger than he is, and that parents love him enough to be in charge. With these little guys, it is usually not necessary to even go to consequences, unless you go through the aforementioned process, as taught, and you are still seeing the negative behaviors of demanding explanations and/or refusal.

What to Do: The Consequence

1. Get Out of There: Your child will likely keep demanding an explanation, or will simply continue to refuse. When this happens, it is important that you understand that your kid is in a position of power at that moment, since you are trying to set a limit and your kid is refusing to be compliant. It is in this arena called “now” when an uncooperative kid is in control, by the nature of the situation, since the kid can have power simply by manipulating with demands or refusing to be cooperative. The parent has no control over either of these kid tactics. All the adult can do in this situation is to get away from this place called “now” and get to another place where they have the control. This place is called “later”. Simply say, “Oh, man. This is going to be very rough for you. We will talk about this later. Try to have a good day.” When possible, walk away from your kid. Walk to another room and lock the door behind you if the kid tries to follow. If physical retreat is not possible, just keep repeating your word, sound, or phrase. Know that there will be a serious consequence coming for your kid, and that it will be more and more serious the longer your kid persists. This may help to keep you calm enough to avoid responding with anything else.

2. Wait: Wait until everything is going well and your kid is not agitated before you give your kid a consequence. For an eight year old, you can wait several days. For a teenager, you can wait a couple of weeks! The amount of time that you wait to give the consequence isn’t important. It is only important that you give the consequence and that your kid is not agitated when it is given.

3. Give the Consequence: If your kid has reached the consequences step, it means that they need to be retrained to not demand explanations or it means that they need to be retrained to not refuse to do what their parents ask them to do. In any case, the consequence is the same.

a. Explain that you have noticed that your kid doesn’t yet know how to do what is asked of him and that this is an important skill for kids in your family, and that today he will have the opportunity to practice doing what he is supposed to do without explanation and without refusal. Explain that until he has been deemed an expert at being cooperative without explanation, your kid will not be allowed to go anywhere or do anything besides go to school (since attendance at school is mandated by law).

b. Explain that you have come up with seven things that need to be done without explanation or refusal. One at a time, give work assignments of chores that need to be done around the house or yard. While we usually don’t tell kids to do chores in this way, see [CAPP: HARD WORK], direct instructions should be given. “Move this woodpile inside” and “Clean these dishes” are directives that have to be followed. Once all of these directives are followed without a request for explanation and without refusal, the parent can ask the kid if he is now an expert on doing what he is supposed to do without explanation or without refusal. If he says “Yes,” then a hug or handshake is in order and the training session is over. If the child says anything besides “Yes,” they need to keep training with two or more chores, after which the same question can be asked.