The terrible twos is a developmental phase that most children go through between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old. One of the main characteristics of this stage is that the child is becoming increasingly independent. This means learning handy skills like using the potty and learning to dress himself. It also means some annoying problems like always saying “no”. Often saying “no” is one of the few ways a child can control her environment.
How to prevent your child from saying “no”
1) Remain positive. If you want to tell your child “no”, try “stop” instead. Also, if you only mean “no” for right now, you could use “later” or “when you’ve finished (cleaning up, eating your dinner, etc.)”.
2) Be aware of transitions. Changing from one activity to another is difficult for many 2 year olds. It may make things easier to give a warning–“We have to go home when Mommy finishes eating.” Also, it helps to respect, within limits, your child’s activities. For example, if he’s looking at a book, it may help to time your request to when he’s about to finish, rather than requiring him to stop in the middle.
3) Give your child limited choices and consult their opinion instead of always telling them what to do and making choices for them. A limited choice is a “this or that” choice–blue or red shirt, sippy cup or straw, brush your teeth now or after we wash hands.
4) Stick to a routine. Routine offers a sense of security and control. It also limits the number of times that your child can choose to say “no”.
How to get a “yes” when your child says “no”
1) Wait a few seconds for her final answer. She might correct herself when she realizes she’s just said “no” to her favorite dessert.
2) Avoid a power struggle by phrasing your request as a choice, not a demand.
“Do you want me to brush your top teeth or your bottom teeth first?”
“Do you want your bath now or after your snack?”
“Do you want to walk to timeout, or shall I carry you?”
3) If there isn’t a choice that can be offered, tell your child what you would like to hear, and if needed, physically direct ( either by carrying or taking them by the hand) them to where they need to be. I tell my children, “Please say “Yes, Mommy”.”
4) Use humor. Sometimes when I’ve heard “no” to often or just don’t want to hear it at the moment, I sing “The No No No” song.
5) Remember that “no” doesn’t always mean “I won’t do it.” It can also mean “I want to do it myself” or “I want to do it the same way I always do it, but you forgot my routine” or “I want to do it after I finish this other thing”. Ask your child whether they mean any of the above.
This article is part of a series on the Terrible Twos.