Simple one line answer to why toddlers like to say “No” so much is because “No” is a very powerful word. Actually, it could easily be the most powerful word out there when you consider it’s synonyms.
I explained this concept of “no” being a powerful word with a friend and this is what she had to say (I am sharing this because this is probably what you are thinking right now!) —
“Okay, I now know that “no” is a very powerful word but it still bothers me, that my little baby says “no” so sternly and repeatedly, even though I have never used the word with her. While the powerful word and all is good in theory; I need a solution towards how to stop her from saying “no”, because it is not acceptable to me”.
Are your thoughts somewhere along that line? Let’s talk then —
Why do toddlers say “no” to everything?
12 to 24 months is an age when a child’s autonomy of what they can do (walking, eating and all other life skills), compared to a few months ago has increased a lot; his/her independence and mind has grown exponentially.
With this grown autonomy or rather exploded autonomy, they feel powerful. They “feel” in control of everything, and in charge of everything (in spite of being not).
Hence they feel the need to express their opinion on everything. In their minds, they have grown now and they need to make sure they have a say in everything.
So, at the slightest request of asking them to do something or telling them “we have to do this”; they repel with a “no”. Sometimes more loudly and more repeatedly that we can stand.
It’s their way of communicating their opinion; there is a discrepancy between how old they feel in their minds and how old they really are.
Plus, with a limited vocabulary, they don’t have many other words to express their opinion, hence the “No” prevails.
Related Reading: The Psychology behind why your toddler is not listening.
However, to be honest – once you understand this link between the toddler being autonomous and that they are saying “no” to feel powerful, it becomes very cute and adorable and it does not diffuse your nerves like it used to.
Those little people with tiny bodies want to be super powerful and want to be in charge of what happens to them, is very sweet and commendable on their part.
That is exactly how it should be; nothing should be done to them without their permission!
How to deal with toddlers when they are persistently saying NO?
I know that “no” gets you and makes you very angry and frustrated and you want them to stop saying no right now!
But, do you want to do know why that “noooo” bothers you so much?
It does, because “No” one is a powerful word, one that’s very difficult to hear. (Doesn’t it just proves itself).
But I completely get your frustration, and desire to redirect it.
So here are some things that we can do to release that frustration and hopefully reduce your child’s usage of the word “no”
1. Don’t give the word “No” any Power.
The word “no” gets its power from your attention, so don’t feed it with attention — positive or negative.
Let me clear an important thing first; I don’t mean ignore the child, I mean don’t give that word any attention so it falls off easily!
Here’s what to do — When your child is saying “nooo”, don’t cringe or talk about not saying “no”; or about why we need to do what we need to do and all that. You can and should acknowledge their emotions with words like; “I see you don’t wanna do it” or “You don’t like this” or something similar, or just wait it out!
But don’t let your emotions lead your actions when they are repelling with a “nooo”.
To explain in an example — Let’s talk a little about diaper changes, since “No’s” from a toddler for diaper changes seem to be very famous!
Say your child shouts “no” to a diaper change, and he/she is yelling it out loud while you tell them they need a diaper change.
Instead of forcing them or trying to explain to them why they need a diaper change. just tell them, “I hear you, you are not ready to change your diaper right now, lemme know when you are ready” and then wait for them.
Just let them have a moment of extreme denial, let them feel powerful to deny you to change their diaper.
Don’t worry, trust them that they will come and signal for you to change their diaper, and they will.
Or if you feel it’s too long, go ahead and do what you need to do, but after giving them a chance to feel powerful.
Related Reading: What to do When Kids Say Hurtful Words?
2. Giving them the power to say “No” is the easiest way to deal with it.
Yup, you read that right!
Explaining something to someone when they are not ready to listen takes a lot of effort and is often futile.
Plus when we approach it with an attitude of “No, you can’t say no”; we go through a huge burden of stress ourselves.
It difficult, negative and not worth it.
Rather just let them have that power for a moment, it does not spoil them.
It’s a storm to pass away, and it won’t turn into a long-term habit. All these are just mom fears.
Trust me, try it.
Giving them to power is the easiest way to deal with it.
However, the catch is not giving the word “no” that power. And you can give the child the power without giving the word any power – by waiting it out!
Related Reading: Terrible Twos or Tough Twos?
3. It’s can be difficult to listen to “no” outside, but there is a solution!
I know it’s so difficult when they are yelling their No’s outside of your house because there are other people listening!
But the way to make it less difficult for yourself is by changing your attitude; when you accept it that they are saying their “no” to feel powerful, the child and their action becomes adorable to you.
And who are you worried about? Other people? It’s a baseless mom fear again — no one our there is judging you because your child is yelling “nooo”.
Every toddler and child goes through this phase of saying “no”, everyone knows it and understands it.
Don’t worry about it, let them have their moment in public.
I’ll share an incidence that happened to us, to lighten your mood —
We were at the children’s museum, and they made an announcement to close in 15 mins. My older one declared it’s time to go. Hearing which my toddler started shouting “Noooo” very loudly, and she kept repeating her no, no, no, no for some time.
We stood there listening to her for some time. I acknowledged her that she did not want to leave yet, on which she again shouted noooo; I told her, “we’ll wait for you at the entrance of the room, you can come when you are ready”.
She shouted her no’s a few more times, and came running towards us giggling loudly.
The museum staff told us, how cute and adorable she was shouting “nooo”, I said thank you, and we left.
Now think of the other scenario — It would have been so unpleasing to everyone had I started explaining to her why we need to leave and all. Maybe some dragging could have been involved too, who knows!
She just needed a moment to be powerful and express her emotions, about the museum closing and her having to leave, which was not fun!
Related Reading: Six Tips to Calm Your Toddler.
4. Don’t try to work with them when they are having a moment.
So when they are already in the mode of trying to feel powerful, don’t explain them anything, nothing. Just like I said in the first point, wait for them to calm down.
Because what happens is; when we try to explain to them why not to say “no”, they feel that they need to express their opinion harder, so they shout “nooo” more loudly and repeatedly.
Basically what I am saying is, when two people talk together no one gets the point.
You need to be the mature one in the conversation and hear their side (in the form of “nooo”) before trying to explain anything to them.
The other incidence that happened today was while I was writing this article, my toddler took my pen away and was not willing to return it. I guess she wanted my attention. So I acknowledged her in a few different sentences, and she responded with a “no” to every one of them. And, after a couple of minutes, she left my pen with me to play with her brother.
(Yes we are hearing the alarming “Noooo” sound every hour of her waking time at our home at the moment, but it is so adorable and cute to see her exerting her power and giggling about it!)
5. Give them an option to pick between Yes and No
I wrote more about this in another post on “how to ask a question to you toddler so that they respond.”
The thing is kids are going to participate more and more in everything relating to them and your life as they get older, so rather than hearing their opinion without being asked for (which makes everyone uncomfortable); ask them their opinion to things pertaining to them.
Toddlers are very busy people and don’t want to be bothered, so the best way to ask them a question is asking it in a Yes/No format. So ask them a question and wait for them to answer if they don’t ask them to respond in the form of YES/NO.
This way you have a better chance to get an answer to your question, but also their desire to have a say in everything is fulfilled; which will eventually result in less No’s from them.
I encourage you to read more on this if you feel inquisitive by clicking on the aricle above.
Toddlers have limited vocabulary, but very-very high need to communicate and express their thoughts, and saying “no” is one of the ways they deploy to communicate with us.
[bctt tweet=”Toddlers have limited vocabulary, but very-very high need to communicate and express their thoughts, and saying “no” is one of the ways they deploy to communicate with us.” username=”nestedblissfuly”]
All they need is being heard.
Don’t let your mom fear come in by imagining, “they will form a bad habit and all”.
They won’t — not until you give their “no” power by feeding it with attention.
It’s a phase and it shall pass, as soon as your toddler learns more words!
Related Reading: Importance of Predictability in the baby’s life.
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