From the minute my husband taught my youngest daughter to shake her head “no,” the word has become a staple in our household. What was once a cute thing she did on command has suddenly become the first sign of her independence. Almost simultaneously, we learned how she felt about being told she couldn’t do something or have a toy she wanted-and it wasn’t pretty.
“No” is often one of the first words toddlers can use in context, and its meaning packs a big punch. They may also demonstrate some strong feelings about being told they can’t do or have something. Don’t fret-the “no” stage will pass. Say goodbye to it painlessly by following these simple steps.
Don’t play the “no” game.
Toddlers often say “no” at the most inopportune (sometimes comical) times before they recognize the meaning of the word. Resist the urge to ask silly questions and have your child respond with “no.” It may delay their understanding of the powerful word. From the minute you begin using and teaching the word, use it in context and not as the punchline for a toddler-themed joke.
Be firm and take action when using the word “no.”
When you are telling your child not to do something, say it once in a firm voice. It isn’t necessary to raise your voice and yell, but you do want to be firm. Then, remove your toddler from the situation as a concrete demonstration of the word and its meaning. In addition, removing your child from the activity or item is proactive-you won’t spend the next hour reminding them not to do something! Toddlers live in the moment, so they’ll head right back to something if you don’t make a change.
Say “yes” as often as you say “no.”
Don’t waste your child’s toddler years saying the word “no” to everything! Trust me … with three little girls, there are going to be plenty of opportunities to use the word as they grow up, too. Make sure to tell your toddler “yes” just as often as you say “no.” Positive reinforcement is absolutely essential at this young age.
Comfort and re-direct.
If the word “no” invokes some strong, negative feelings in your toddler, offer some comfort, but don’t give in. Did you say they can’t have a toy because it’s too small? Don’t change your tune when they turn on the waterworks. Instead, offer them a toy they can play with. Now is the time to set the stage for some follow-through, moms and dads. When they’re a little bit older, you’ll be glad you did.
As parents, you will have to tell your toddler “no” on occasion. These simple steps can help make the word relatively painless, no matter who’s saying it.