The other day, I was talking to a mum at our Beaconsfield store and among other things, we touched upon the topic of toddlers and the reign of terror that ensues when they discover the word "no".
Yep, I can hear you all nodding in agreement.
So why do they say no all the time? Is it because it's just a new word? Is it some kind of power trip, or are they deliberately trying to push your buttons?
Well, after some research, it turns out that your toddler is not angering you on purpose.
Dr. John Sargent, a child psychiatrist, told Parents, "Kids this age are realising that they can assert themselves, and arguing with you is one way they gain confidence".
It's pretty confronting and confusing when you sweet angel suddenly seems to be against every single suggestion you put forth, but according to Dr. Elizabeth Berger, a child psychiatrist and author of Raising Kids with Character, this defiance is part of a child’s normal development. She says, "Saying no is his way of testing out his independence. Your job is to take control of the situation in a calm manner to avoid a power struggle".
"Saying no is his way of testing out his independence. Your job is to take control of the situation in a calm manner to avoid a power struggle"
Here are a few tips on how to do just that:
The first step to handling your toddler's cries of “no” is to acknowledge that they are feeling something strongly. For a child to calm down and listen to you, they have to know that you understand.
For example, if your child doesn't want to go to be, rather than saying “no” back to them which can lead to a battle, say something like, “You’re not sleepy? Okay, I can see you don’t want to go to bed yet.”
Then, follow up with the next step.
2. Give Choices
Just like adults, giving a toddler choices helps satisfy their need to feel in control. So just like when you give them a choice of two outfits to wear so that they wear something you're happy with, when your toddler refuses to go to bed, take advantage and give them choices (just make sure you've thought them through).
For example, “I know you don’t want to stop playing, but it’s bedtime. Do you want to read a story first or brush your teeth?”
The key is to be a parent still while also respecting your child’s need to test out their independence.
3. Watch Your Words
Children are big copycats. What they hear, they imitate. So if you say it, you can be sure they will too. Instead, find other ways to convey your wishes. The best way to do that is by simply telling them what you DO want them to do as opposed to what you DON'T want them to do.
Say your toddler is in their high chair and banging their bowl. Instead of saying "Don't do that", simply ask the if they would please keep it on the table so they don't break it. A polite question with a solid reason is actually usually well-received.
We all know the times when a "no" is guaranteed to occur, so anticipate and plan ahead. Say your toddler hates having their nappy changed when thy're playing with their toys - take the nappy to them and change them while they hold some and "continue" the game".
No everything has to be a battle of wills.
5. Pick Your Battles
Of course, there will always be moments where no matter what you do, your child will insist on contradicting whatever it is you ask. So when it happens, stand your ground without starting an argument. Not everything needs to be a negotiation but it is important that you don't enter into discussions about non-negotiables. Your toddler needs to see you making decisions and sticking to them.” Be prepared for fireworks, but be strong - it's good for their development.
Of course, what do I know - our toddler years were a nightmare!