Your toddler’s talking. Yay! But lately, she’s all about repeating her new favorite word: “No!” You’re at a friend’s house, you’re at Grandma’s, you’re dining out, you’re trying to pry your tablet from her freakishly strong toddler hands, and all you’re hearing is “no, no, no, no!” Before you start throwing a tantrum of your own, check out these simple strategies for dealing with your little naysayer.
1. Swap words. Sometimes the “no” train has left the station simply because it’s one of the few words your toddler has mastered. “No” is a totally simple word to say — and your tot is all for showing off her mad speaking skills. That’s okay. You want her to talk. But now you need to switch things up a bit. Give her a new, ultra-easy word to replace “no.” Go, toe, doe or anything else that she can quickly master might end up fixing the “no” situation.
2. Crack up. When you start to hear her refusal, turn your tot’s soon-to-be meltdown into a giggle fest. C’mon, you know you’ve caught a case of the giggles plenty of times before. They’re infectious! Turn her frown around, and get her laughing. Make a silly face, a funny noise or start dancing like no one’s watching.
3. Break the cycle. Your tot is refusing her green beans, shouting “NO!” as loud as her little voice will carry. She sees you scrunch your face, hold your breath, wipe away a tear and eventually give in. She knows the pattern, and she’s using it to get what she wants. The answer here is easy: Don’t cave. Okay, that’s easier said than done. You’ll have tears (yours and hers), you’ll hear more “no’s” and you may even have a full-on scream fest. But, after a few times, she’ll get the message and cool it.
4. Limit choices. So, you’ve just given your tot these choices: She can put on a coat, spend five more minutes at the indoor playland, walk around the mall with you or eat her lunch. Whew! That’s a lot of options for anyone — let alone a two-year-old. Now she’s so overwhelmed that she’s vetoing everything. Limit her options to two. Bonus points if both choices are really the same thing, just cleverly phrased in different ways. Would you like to wear your blue coat out, or would you like to wear the pink one? Yep, either way, she’s still wearing a coat!
5. Be a role model. Admit it, there’s a slight possibility that your toddler’s “no” addiction might come from hearing it a lot. Hey, no one’s blaming you. When she takes your never-been-worn lipstick to your dining room’s white walls, “no!” is certainly a valid response. That said, try to find a few alternatives. Let’s say your toddler just threw her lunch onto the floor. Hold back from shouting “no!” Swap it for something like, “We don’t throw our food.”
6. Stop it before it starts. When your toddler hasn’t napped or eaten for hours or isn’t feeling well, she’s cranky. And, when she’s cranky, she’s spouting “no’s” a thousand times more often than on a normal day. Stick to a schedule as much as possible, try to avoid skipping naps and keep a few snacks on hand. The better your child feels, it’s less likely that she’ll go straight to “no.”