“NO” is My Toddler’s Favourite Word. Help!

Toddlers around 2 years old often say “NO” all the time.

You might be surprised that this is actually very developmentally appropriate and what they SHOULD be doing at this age!

Why do toddlers say “NO” all the time?

Young toddlers are just learning about autonomy and independence and the word “NO” is powerful. It’s an easy word to use to assert themselves and experiment with being independent from you.

What can you do?⠀

1. Expect it and stay calm⠀ Remembering that this is actually developmentally appropriate behaviour as they explore their new found independence and autonomy will help you understand their behaviour better. Staying calm is the best thing to do when your child says “NO” to literally E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G because if your child senses some discomfort on your end, it might become an unwanted power struggle that plays out longer than it needs to.⠀ ⠀

2. Acknowledge it⠀ Acknowledging their “NOs” can help children feel heard and that what they communicate matters. You can acknowledge them by saying “I hear you don’t want to take a shower now.” Or “You’re telling me you don’t want to put your pants on.”⠀

3. Offer options⠀ When children reject activities or things, we can offer them options to let them know that their choices matter and it’s not only the adults that get to call the shots all the time. Offering options can sound like “Would you like to take a bath now or in 5 minutes?” or “Which pair of pants would you like to wear to the park today?” We can even give choices like this “If you can’t choose a pair of pants to wear in 5 minutes, you will have less time playing at the park.” The key is to give real choices that they can choose and not issue threats so children feel they really get to choose.⠀ ⠀

4. Maintain boundaries⠀ You’ve stayed calm, you’ve acknowledged their “NOs” and you’ve given them choices but they are still saying “NO”. If this happens and if it concerns health and safety, we can confidently hold loving boundaries. You can try saying “It’s been 5 minutes, I’ll help you and carry you to the bath.” Or “We’ve used the time to play at the park with putting on our pants, and now I have to cook. We’ll go to the park again another day.” Children have the right to get upset and we can stay confident and calm, acknowledging their feelings while holding those limits. ⠀ ⠀

If you’re deep in the throes of this, it is HARD! Remember that their “NOs” mean that they’re practicing asserting themselves and if you can try to remain calm and unfazed while holding loving boundaries, you’ll get through this phase easier.

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