toddlers playingBy Leslie Marley

Every parent with a toddler will reach a stage where his or her child’s favorite word is “no.” This stage is known as toddler refusal. A child is learning how to communicate and practice independence, and the word “no” is a succinct way to express opinions and emotions.

The key to getting through this stage is patience and understanding. View the “no” stage as an opportunity for you and your toddler to learn how to practice self-expression in a healthy way.

A Normal Stage of Development

When your child begins to use “no” as a default response to everything, do not be discouraged. He or she may not fully understand what the word means, but he or she knows it can cause a reaction or get attention.

Your toddler is also using it because he or she has had exposure to it. You have likely said it many times. Part of language development is repetition, so your child is simply picking up new words that he or she hears.

Be prepared to hear “no” in common instances like when it’s time to stop playing and take a nap. Again, it’s normal for your child to test boundaries at this stage.

Tips on Dealing with “No”

Fortunately, there are ways to turn this stage into a constructive learning time. Here are some tips to guide you through the “no” stage, but know that it will take patience and time.

  •  Limit how often you say “no.” Remember, your child repeats what he or she hears. If you are constantly saying it, he or she will too.
  • Turn negatives into positives. If you are approaching a situation with the immediate intent to be negative, try to find a way to turn it into something positive. Projecting positivity can help your child to do the same. This will eventually help him or her stop using “no” so much because it doesn’t fit into a positive attitude.
  • Don’t provide opportunities to say “no.” Your child will quickly learn the appropriate use of “no.” To stop your child from saying it as a valid response, make sure you approach things in a way where “no” just won’t work. Instead of telling your child to clean up, try making it fun and turning it into a game. You can also employ choices like, “Do you want strawberries or oranges for a snack?”
  • Choose your battles. When your toddler says “no,” it may quickly turn into a struggle or argument. This is especially true if he or she is actually objecting to something, such as going to bed or eating dinner. In some cases, it is best to walk away and not let yourself get upset. Some battles simply are not worth fighting. For example, your child simply may not want to try a new vegetable that night. If he or she declines, it may be better to try again another day.

Finally, don’t forget that encouragement and praise for good behavior are important. Acknowledge when your child is doing something you are proud of, and he or she will be more likely to repeat good behavior. It’s also important to teach your child how to communicate feelings and emotions in a healthy way. This way, you can discourage the word “no” while teaching him or her other ways to communicate feelings.

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Leslie Marley

Leslie Marley

Leslie Marley is the Director of Education and Curriculum at U-GRO Learning Centres, a premier provider of early childhood and preschool education in Central Pennsylvania. Leslie has worked in the field of early childhood education for more than 20 years, 14 of them with U-GRO Learning Centres. She has served in a number of different capacities: including Teacher, Director, District Manager, and most recently, Director of Education and Curriculum. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Curriculum and Instruction in ECE. She is passionate about guiding early educators to initiate best practices, supporting the success of each child, and positively serving and empowering children and families.
Leslie Marley

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