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Helping you through the ‘no’ phase

 Teaching your toddler to accept no

Have you started to think that ‘no’ is your toddler’s favourite word? If so, don’t worry. The ‘no’ phase is all part of speech development. How long this goes on for varies from toddler to toddler. But thankfully, there is something you can do about it.

So here are some tips and suggestions to help encourage your toddler to say something more positive!

Understanding why toddlers say no

One of the reasons your toddler likes the word ‘no’ is simply because it’s easy to say. They’ve probably also learnt that saying ‘no’ gets a reaction from you. It’s just their way of showing you they’re their own person and asserting their new found independence. So in a strange way, it’s a good sign!

Toddlers learn by copying what others do. So if you find yourself saying ‘no’ often, they’re likely to copy you. Perhaps you could try saying it a different way?

Instead of ‘‘No! Don't touch the radiator,’’ try saying ‘‘Hot! Are your fingers OK?’’

And instead of ‘‘No shouting at bedtime,’’ try saying softly ‘‘Shhhh, bedtime is quiet time, remember?’’

Thinking of the right questions can help you get a ‘yes’ rather than a ‘no’. So give them plenty of praise when they follow what you say, to show that ‘no’ doesn’t get them what they want.

Some do’s and don’ts to help keep those no’s to a minimum:

  • Say ‘no’ as little as possible so your toddler doesn’t just copy you.
  • If you need to tell them to do something, say it positively.
  • Don’t let them see that ‘no’ makes you feel irritated.
  • If you have to refuse a request, use phrases such as "great idea, we'll play that later" instead of "no, I'm too busy to play at the moment".
  • Ask questions. ‘‘How quickly can you get dressed?’’ instead of ‘‘Could you put your clothes on please?’’ And ‘‘Would you like to wear your red jumper or your blue one" instead of ‘‘Please put your jumper on.’’
  • Give them plenty of praise to back up good behaviour.
  • If you think they’re in the mood to say no, try changing the subject. ‘‘Let’s see what’s for lunch today.’’ Or ‘‘Where is teddy hiding?’’
  • If they say no, reply with ‘OK then’ and delay them by saying ‘We can do that in a little while, but first...’
  • Stay positive. Remember, they will grow out of the ‘no’ stage.

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