Toddler Behavior - How To Deal with the "No's"

There are a number of different stages in toddler behavior. One of these is that your toddler will start to say “No” and resist what you want her to do. This is completely normal and an important stage in child development. Your child needs to learn to say no, to know what she wants and to establish her own boundaries. Imagine what our lives would be like if we did not learn these skills. We would be like dandelion seeds blowing any way the wind sends us. Learning to say no helps your child to become a strong and independent person as she grows older. Here are some tips to help you deal with this toddler behavior.

Make co-operation fun

When you want your child to do something that she does not want to do, see if you can make a game out of it:

- let her see if he can throw the toys into the box when it is time to put them away (as long as they are not breakable, of course)

- have a race to see who can put away the most toys

- put different colours away in order

- pretend the toys are racing each other to get to the cupboard first

Let your child know that you understand how she feels. When she refuses to do something, for instance, you can say “I can see that you are not ready to put your toys away yet and it is time for your bath. So let's put them away and then we can get them out again tomorrow.”

Make doing something else more attractive. “When the toys are away shall we put bubbles in your bath?” “Would you like to take your zoo animals up to play with in the bath?”

Saying Yes instead of No

If you tend to say no a lot to your child, she will be more inclined to say no to you. Instead of saying “no” or “don’t” when you don’t want your toddler to do something, try expressing what you want her to do in a positive way.

For instance, instead of saying “Don’t pull the cats tail” you could say “The cat doesn’t like having his tail pulled, it hurts him. Look, he likes to be stroked like this.” When your child asks for something and you say "No", he is likely to resist. Instead of saying “No” you could say “I want you to leave that toy here now, it belongs to the shoplady. Let's give it back to her.” Finding positive ways to say things to your child takes a bit of thought and you may need to try several different approaches before it works. It’s worth it though because it will make your relationship with your child much more rewarding.

It is helpful when you are struggling with your toddler’s behavior to put yourself in her shoes and see the world from her point of view. Think about how you would feel if someone was telling you that you couldn’t do something you really want to do. How would you want them to talk to you? What would make it easier for you to accept?

Remember that one of the nicest aspects of toddler behavior is the love of play and having fun with you. So use your imagination to find ways to encourage your child to do what you want her to do. At the same time, allow her to do what she wants whenever you reasonably can and it is safe for her to do it.

Keeping your toddler safe

There are times when your toddler’s refusal to do what you want can lead her into danger. If she runs away from you in the road or if she keeps trying to poke things into plug sockets. Again this is normal toddler behavior. She is discovering what the effects of certain ways of behaving are on you or on the world. Some of these things can be avoided by taking precautions such as putting plug covers over the sockets. In other situations, it may be necessary to take action to make sure your child is safe.

If your child runs into the road, then your only choice is to shout, run after her and catch her as quickly as possible. This may well result in an angry child and this a good time to explain to her why you acted as you did. Children respond well to being told how you feel. You can say “I was frightened when you ran into the road. I was afraid a car was going to hurt you so I had to catch you quickly.” From this you reinforce for your toddler that how you feel is important as well, that you care about her and that roads can be dangerous.

Your feelings matter too

Remember to take care of yourself as much as you can when looking after your toddler. At times, managing toddler behavior takes every last ounce of your concentration and ingenuity. If you are relaxed it will be much easier for you to remain reasonable and consistent.

• Give yourself “me” time whenever you can. If you can, ask someone to take care of your child for an hour or two during the week. It is often possible to swap with a friend so you take care of his or her child for a morning and then he/she does the same for you.

• Remember that we are not always very objective about our own children. Try to take a step back and observe how you relate to your child from a distance. Would this behavior upset you as much if you saw someone else’s child doing it?

• Aim to be consistent in what you expect from your child. Let him know what the boundaries are and stick to them.

• Be gentle with yourself. Raising a toddler is a learning experience for you too.

When you are feeling overwhelmed by taking care of your toddler, remember that each stage in toddler behavior is only a stage and it will pass. When you look back in a year or so, you will see that your toddler has become a responsive and delightful child.

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