If your toddler is screaming out ‘Nooo!’ at every opportunity, don’t despair. ‘Nos’, also referred to as toddler refusal or toddler negativism, are a normal part of child development and are really a sign of independence and confidence. Toddlers haven’t actually worked out how to get their needs met, so they experiment with different ways.

Why No?

Toddlers engage in this behaviour because they have just figured out that they are totally separate from their parents. When they say no, they are asserting and testing this newly found independence. It’s not because they’re being naughty. It’s simply their nature at this stage in their development. Most children generally outgrow the constant no-saying between 3 and 5 years old.

How can parents deal with it?

Even if a parent knows and accepts that this form of expression is commonplace at their child’s age, battling with the ‘nos’ isn’t much fun, so here are some suggestions to help deal with and/or prevent toddler negativism.

Focus on what you want your toddler to do instead of what you don’t want him/her to do. You are less likely to get a ‘no’ or a refusal if you don’t begin your own request with a ‘no’ or a ‘don’t’.

Most of the time, toddlers say no because they don’t fully understand what their parents are asking of them. By modelling what you want them to do you is giving them a visual demonstration, and kids at that age love to copy what grown ups do.

Be clear with your requests. Keep it simple and specific so the toddler can easily comprehend what you need. Break down larger tasks into smaller chunks. For example, instead of saying, ‘Clean up your toys’, try saying, ‘Let’s put your blocks in the toy chest.’

Offer simple options that your toddler can choose from. They like to feel important and in charge! Give them lots of opportunities throughout the day, and they will be more likely to accept the times when there is no choice. Giving choices also avoids asking a yes or no question, to which your toddler might give you the dreaded ‘no’.

Make the most of your toddler’s treasured independence and ask for help with simple tasks. A request such as, “I need your help making sure everyone has put on their seat belt” may get him or her to climb into their own car seat effortlessly. You will be helping to build confidence, satisfying their need for control, and also making your day go much more smoothly.

Look for patterns. Your child is less likely to cooperate when tired, hungry, sick, or uncomfortable. Pay attention to the times during the day when he or she is likely to act up, and be proactive about meeting needs at those times to encourage cooperation.

Lastly, remember to keep your sense of humour when it comes to toddler defiance. Remind yourself that once upon a time you too were little. It’s an inevitable part of your child’s development and there will surely come a time when you will look back at this stage with nostalgia – ‘nos’ and all!

For more information on your toddler’s progress, check out Dak Li Jgħodd.