At one point all toddlers get into NO stage where everything you ask or suggest them to do, gets the same answer: “NO!”. Some toddlers get there sooner, some later but in a vast majority, they get there.
Duration of this stage is also different with each toddler, some get through NO stage faster and for some it can take longer to get over to next stage. And it’s really stressful when you, as a parent, can’t get a child to cooperate!
Hearing constant “NO!” can be very discouraging!
On this page you will find few solutions shared by parents like you and me, to get through this stage without stressing into madness. We have all been there (some of us still are!) and we survived this stage in our toddler’s development. Many of these solutions might not work with your toddler, some might. It’s up to each child because all of them are different and same tactics might not work with all. As you will see from the answers, there is more than one solution you can try.
Alternatives and Distraction. My 23 month old daughter took her shoes off at the park a few days ago. She refused to put them back on. So I sat her on the bench and told her she could get down when she was happy to put them back on. After a few minutes of pointing at other things (sort of toddler conversation) she happily put them back on (having entirely forgotten about her previous tantrum!)
Thing I have found to work with my toddler is reverse psychology. For example: I ask her to get into bed at evening and get “NO” with bunch of yelling (she’s on the floor at this point), and I respond with: “OK, you can stay there and I will sleep all by myself in this cosy bed. It usually takes minute for her to climb up.
One thing I’ve found helpful is to offer questions that don’t allow a “no” response. So, rather than asking “Will you pick up your toys?”, I might ask “Would you like to pick up your toys now, or in 5 minutes?”. Giving a choice helps kids to feel a bit more in control, and helps them take ownership of the thing you are asking them to do. Or, you could offer a consequence as the “alternate” choice. We were at a rummage sale and my toddler wanted to play with the toys and also take home one of the free toys being offered. Since the person holding the rummage sale gave the okay for him to play with the toys while I browsed, my son played happily — until it came time to put them back in the bins. My request for him to pick up the toys went unheeded (a non-verbal no), so I informed him his consequence for not picking up was he didn’t get a free toy. It takes a few times for these cause and effect consequences to sink in, but the technique has been wonderful now that my son “gets” what will happen if he chooses “no.”
I feel, toddlers use the word ‘No’ because they have heard us say it many times and it usually is the word that we say to attract their attention. For example, you see your little one reaching for the vase and you yell ‘NO’ to stop them. They stop. They are pulling your phone from your hand and you say, ‘ no, no darling’. In the same way, they say no-no because they want to mimic you. In our family, when a toddler says no, I decipher it to mean ‘okay… so they wanna play with mom!’ Usually, when he/she says ‘no’, I respond with ‘ oh really… are you sure…?’ Toddlers don’t have much vocabulary and it helps to give them time. ‘Do you want to do it after sometime?’ She will say, ‘some time’. I get down with them to do whatever she was busy with and I start preparing her by giving her three steps. “Let us do this, then we will XXXX and what do we do then? XXXX” . I repeat this a few times untill she is the one excitedly replying to the last step. Works all the time.
When my son went through this stage, we found that most of his No’s had to do with transitions. He didn’t want to leave or stop a certain fun activity. When we started telling him ahead of time that there were going to be changes, this dramatically reduced his resistance. I started saying things like, “We’re going to be leaving the park in 5 minutes,” and “It’s almost time to stop playing and sit down to eat lunch.” Getting into the habit of letting him know what was coming really made a huge difference for my son! There were few other tactics I used in an effort to raise a cooperative child.
I tried not to use the word ‘No’ with my toddler, because I thought it would prevent him from using it too. But I couldn’t avoid it after he turned two, and so it was inevitable that we landed in the ‘No’ zone! I think toddlers use it to assert themselves. All they want it to be acknowledged and made to feel that they have a choice. Direct orders to do something rarely work. It’s best to make it look like a choice, like ‘Shall we brush your teeth now?’. Or a fun activity, like ‘Let’s have fun in the bath!’.
I often have the lying on the floor refusal, not always a verbal no so I always give take up time to the request or question. I often stand and count to 17. I read it somewhere but can not remember where, it gives my child something to do while giving take up time. Most of the time we have done what needs to be done by then, if not I repeat the request but add a reason why.
It’s important to remember what causes the Terrible Two’s. There are two major factors in all the tantrums, “no’s”, and fights. The first is an inability the toddler has to communicate what she wants. She has experienced enough of the world now that she has some very decided opinions. Unfortunately, her language development has not kept pace with her understanding. This understanding to language deficit causes the toddler to have a lot of stress. The main way she alleviates that stress is through crying or tantrum throwing.
The second major factor involved in the Terrible Two’s is that the toddler has just reached a childhood development stage named “autonomy versus dependence”. In other words, the toddler has just figured out that she is her own being –separate from Mommy. She is also learning she has her own will and voice. And although the tantrums are very frustrating for the parents, they are how the toddler is expressing her voice, will, and separate self. You can learn more in an article where we shared our experiences in surviving Terrible Two’s.
Shared by Deborah, mother to 2 boys (7 and 5 year old) and 3 girls (9, 3 and 1 year old),
author at Mommy Crusader and her Knights and Ladies.
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Did you try any of these tips to get your toddlers to stop saying NO so often?
Or have a hack we didn’t mention which works with your toddler?
Share in comments, we would love to know!
Mihaela runs Best Toys 4 Toddlers blog and loves to come up with new ideas how to use old toys her 2 daughters keep leaving on the floor to slip over. She loves them despite the fact that they call her mommy few hundred times a day, and it makes her nuts.