How to Handle Your Toddler Saying “No”

How to Handle Your Toddler Saying “No”

Posted on February 15, 2023 by Sharee

Here’s a rhetorical question for you: Why do almost all toddlers learn how to say “no” before they can pronounce their own names? Toddlers can hardly say a word like “boat” in more than a whisper, yet they can yell “no” at the top of their lungs in the grocery store you frequent. While this might sound like the setup for a punchline, it’s true – every toddler learns “no” as they develop a personality and independence (usually around two years old). Sure, your toddler having free will is a good thing. But try telling that to a haggard mom who’s short on sleep when her toddler is yelling in the milk aisle.

The truth is, for the first couple of years, your baby will listen to you and be relatively compliant. But once they start having a voice of their own, they’ll begin to disagree. And when a toddler starts saying “no,” it’s hard for them to go back to being agreeable. If the “no’s” start flying more often in your household, you may be tempted to yell back or plead for them to stop. Unfortunately, choosing that route won’t be very successful. Instead, follow these tips so you can be prepared when it’s time to deal with the “terrible 2’s.”       

Create a Distraction

When someone creates a distraction in a movie, it’s usually to divert attention away from bad guys in an action movie. But in real-world situations, doing so can be great for toddlers who can’t quit saying “no.” As most parents will tell you, distractions are often key to ensuring a few moments of calm. They’re also great for averting “no.” Like kitties, kids love shiny objects (both literally and figuratively). Use any tools in your arsenal to distract your child: a favorite book, a new toy, or even a sibling. Enticing your baby with something jingly or shiny might be just enough distraction to break a never-ending stream of “no’s.”

Provide Two Choices

Toddlers will often fight back against your wishes because they view instructions as a binary choice: option A or option B. But when the option parents choose is the only one given, the opposite becomes the default choice. By giving your child two choices, you can circumvent this false duality and offer two options you really want. For instance, instead of telling your toddler, it’s time to leave the playroom for dinner, ask if they’d prefer to go now or if they’d like to play for another five minutes and then leave. Presenting your child with two choices (both of which you support) makes them feel like they’ve got some deciding power in the scenario. Taking this route helps minimize freak-outs and the inevitable “no.”

Use a Five-Minute Warning

This tip piggybacks off our previous entry and is meant for you to be clear about what you expect and when. Don’t tell your toddler that they must get a bath now. Tell them that in five minutes, they need to read a short book with you, put away their toys, get changed, and then head to the bathtub. Yes, that’s a long chain of instructions that may be hard to remember, but the goal here is to help them know what’s coming next. Be sure to include a reward of sorts – in this scenario, reading a book together works. Giving your child something to look forward to can prevent unnecessary “no’s” and help keep them happy about what’s in store.

Provide Positive Alternatives

On the off-chance that you are unaware, kids absorb everything around them like a sponge. That includes your own usage of the word “no.” Telling them “no” when they want something you don’t want them to have will teach them that using “no” is OK. Instead of saying “no” if your toddler starts pulling on your dog’s hair, tell them that “We pet our doggie and give them hugs. We don’t pull their hair.” Using positive phrasing and alternatives helps toddlers understand what they’re doing isn’t correct. Perhaps more importantly, it lets them see an alternative (but equally pleasing) way to get what they want without them defaulting “no” and shutting down.

About Ladybug Childcare Center

Choosing the right childcare center for your kids is a big decision. If you’re like most parents, you’re probably grappling with a mix of questions and emotions. As a family-owned and operated childcare center, we know how you’re feeling. We also know how rewarding the right childcare choice can be for both you and your little ones.

Whether you have a toddler going through the “terrible 2’s” or a preschool-age bug in the rug, your baby is unique, and we know it. With that in mind, our goal at Ladybug Child Care Center is to provide your child with the opportunity to explore, learn, and grow in a nurturing atmosphere. Everything is designed with your child in mind, from our individualized and nurturing infant program to our stimulating toddler and preschool curricula. We also offer programs for school-aged children through our unique AdventureCentre.

Ladybug is all about meeting the individual needs of your child. When we meet your little bug’s individual needs, we also meet your needs as a parent.

Filed Under: Tips for Parents, Toddler