Building Executive Functions: Let Your ADHD Child Say NO

by Yafa Crane Luria


You can help your children build their executive functions if you’re willing to hear the word “NO”

teen says thinkOne of the things we forget as parents, when we’re busy trying to get our kids to do what we want in the way that we want, is that whole “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” thing. Sometimes it’s okay to let them say NO. A NO is a chance to practice building executive functions.

Don’t judge me yet!

Don’t get me wrong – they need to do it respectfully and if they don’t, you have the right to ask them to try it again. (One of my favorite lines: “I know you didn’t mean to say it that way. Let’s try it again. You know I’m listening to you.”)

But here’s the thing: the world doesn’t get better if people always say YES. In fact, looking at things from the opposite way, turning conventional wisdom on its ear, is probably what I love the most about having ADHD. I love that it’s completely natural for me to say, “What if X isn’t the best solution?”

“NO” doesn’t have to mean “I don’t respect you.”

So many times we hear that “NO” and we push back: “What do you mean ‘NO’? I’m your mother/father! Don’t ‘NO’ me!” But what if we say, “OK, if you’ve got a better idea, I’d like to hear it.”

How BOLD is that??!!

Use your child’s ADHD, build your child’s executive functions!

Take that “NO” and use it as a teaching/learning opportunity. Have them:

  1. Come up with a better plan.
  2. Figure out how that  “NO” will play out (they may need your help on this).
  3. Identify whether this a Health or Safety issue? (Parents are always in charge of health and safety issues)
  4. Choose what they need in order to make your plan successful?
  5. Compare your idea and their idea

Man! Opportunity Abounds!

It is weird growing up knowing that you’re different. Knowing that your parents are listening to your line of thinking makes things so much easier for the ADHD child or teen.

P.S. Don’t do this when you or your child are angry. Calm down first. “Let’s talk about this in an hour” (or whatever time frame) is a fair response. They really are very few issues that need an immediate answer, but somehow, we think that the faster we answer the better we are at parenting. Not true. Take your time.

xo, Yafa

Copyright 2017 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved


What troubles you about parenting an ADHD child or teen?

Let’s talk! No judgment, no salesy come-on. However you WILL receive a good deal of TLC and a slew of strategies. You can say anything. You can cry. You can swear. Your confidentiality is guaranteed, and I promise to listen and give you hope and relief. (You might even find yourself spontaneously doing a happy dance).

“Thank you Yafa. You’ve given me incredibly helpful tools! It was really a pleasure to speak with you. I’ll be back in touch in the coming weeks.” Stella R, Portland, OR.

“I really appreciate that I could be vulnerable and you didn’t shoot me down. I feel comfortable with you and your humor brightened the call.” Danielle A, Bellingham, WA.

“I talked with you a year ago, Yafa, and your voice is always in my head, guiding me. I just wanted to email and thank you.” April W, Queensland, Australia

“Thank you for your encouraging, enlightening suggestions.” Jill E, Seattle, WA.

Thank you for ‘being there’ to share your wealth of knowledge and personal experience with us who are ‘floundering’ and ‘lost in the forest’ when it comes to ‘dealing with special and difficult circumstances’. Gratefully yours, Rochelle H, Alberta, Canada xox ((((BIG HUGS)))

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Alice Gerard October 2, 2015 at

It is OK for kids to say “no.” I was not fortunate enough to have kids. But I was a kid. The best thing that parents can do for kids is to teach them how to think for themselves. When the kids think for themselves, sometimes, they will disagree with the parents. And that is just fine.


Margit Crane Luria October 2, 2015 at

Exactly, Alice! On the other hand it’s certainly odd to commit to having disagreements with your kids!!!!


Amy Bovaird October 2, 2015 at

Hi Margit,
Wow. I really liked that in your post you were both practical and explained why this strategy might work better than a simple, “No.” I have known people with ADHD and sometimes as adults, they despair. In fact, I have one friend who believes that I have ADHD! I think it’s because I jump from subject to subject. At any rate, I like your thinking.


Margit Crane Luria October 4, 2015 at

Thanks so much, Amy. I really believe that if a tip isn’t a solution, it’s just not worth the time. And I agree with your observation about adults with ADHD. Of course it’s not across the board, but untreated children can grow up to be unhappy adults.


emilia October 2, 2015 at

such strategies are great in any case, not ADHD related as well 🙂 I tend to explode to quickly, especially when the kid is saying something that is not right in my opinion 😉


Margit Crane Luria October 4, 2015 at

Absolutely right, Emilia! They work for non-ADHD families as well! My secret is out! LOL.


Linn September 11, 2017 at

We have a “Say Yes to No” contract in our house. It applies to mom and dad too! We all promise to say No the right way, and use the right tone.

Having everyone on the contract has been empowering with our 8 year old. Still need some tweaking to do, but it is much better. For us, it is all about progress not perfection.


Yafa Crane Luria September 18, 2017 at

Can you give an example of that, Linn?


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