Toddler Tips: The “No!” Phase

Toddler Tips: The “No!” Phase

Your toddler is developing at a very fast pace. One day they he is a helpless little baby, not being able to communicate effectively and making an effort to crawl, and the other he can suddenly walk, talk and make choices. Well, it’s not that sudden or surprising, but it certainly is a big change. Below three tips to effectively deal with this so called “No!” phase.

One thing you should keep in mind as a parent is that opposing your wishes and requests iisn’t in itself problematic behaviour, but a normal and healthy way that your toddler has found to assert himself and gain confidence. Think about it for a bit: small children don’t have a say in the majority of things that dictate their day to day life. They don’t get to chose their daycare (if they go to one), they eat what we decide, go to bed where and when we want them to, get to go to the park (or other fun places) when it’s convenient for us, and so on. It’s only natural that, when they finally start to become more autonomous, they feel the need to exercise their own will.

Obviously the more we insist that they do something our way, the more they will refuse, and most of the time we end up tangled in a power struggle that leaves everyone in a bad mood. Things like having dinner, getting dressed or bedtime, just to name a few, can become major stressors for parent and child.

Keeping this in mind, here are three tips to effectively deal with this so called “No!” phase:

1) Stop saying “no” all the time.

Yes, you heard me right. Stop acting like your toddler! Focus more on what is allowed and less on what is forbidden. Instead of saying: “You can’t have dessert because you’re not eating your dinner” try “You can have your dessert after eating your dinner”. Switch from “You know you’re not allowed to play here” to “You can play over there”. Putting emphasis on the positive will avoid you a lot of trouble, believe me! Take my daughter’s case. If she has the slightest indication that something will displease me or that I don’t want her acting in a certain way, she will go out of her way to do just that. It took me a while to get smart, but now I am totally avoiding this kind of situation and using the word “no” in a sparing way. Live and learn, right?

2) Offer choices.

If your childs throws a tantrum over what clothes to put on every morning, and believe me I know what I’m talking about with a little princess in the house (currently she is only wearing dresses!), you better make a plan, otherwise you won’t get past the front door to work or wherever any time soon (at least not without tears and a battle of wills).
So in order to respect your child’s need for independence and at the same time be reasonable, it’s  important that you give choices, and that these are limited, otherwise the discussion between options will be endless. Going back to the getting dressed example, you could chose two outfits the night before, leaving them in a visible and handy place, so that in the morning they are ready to present to your toddler: “What do you want to wear today? You can chose between this one and that one”. Make it clear that each morning only two choices will be available and that the child can decide between either of them.

3) Distract!

When your little person is only concentrated on the “no’s” one of the best things you can do to help him snap out of it is to create a distraction. So imagine you’re out and about and your toddler refuses to go into the supermarket with you. Because it’s much more interesting to stay outside and watch the cars cruising by, right? Even though it’s freaking freezing on the street and dinner and bedtime, that zen part of the day when parents can finally rest, will be irreversibly late. Anyway the more you insist on going inside the more the power struggle goes on and you risk a big tantrum, everybody getting upset and no groceries. Before you get to this point (right about the first time your kid says “No, I don’t want to to go inside!”), try distracting your child by changing the subject, singing a song, telling a silly joke or playing a game, whatever works. Keep it simple though… For example, you could change the subject by saying: “Do you know where your favourite play car is? I can’t find it around the house”, or sing some nursery rhyme that you know always makes your kid smile, or propose a game/activity like: “You can help me push the grocery cart and pick the ingredients for dinner”.

Stay tuned, more tips on the “No!” phase are on the way…



Catarina Queiroz
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