It's Time to Say 'No' to Toddlers

say no to your toddlerIt's amazing what you forget about parenting as your child gets older. Which is why as my daughter heads into the pre-school zone, and my 23-month-old greets the middle of his toddler years, I'm having to search my memory bank for those toddler parenting concepts.

After the third time I told my toddler "no" yesterday, I remembered that -- for some reason -- I wasn't supposed to say "no" to the tiny one. As I dug deep into my parenting tool box, I remembered the strategy to offer alternatives and to avoid a setup where you always have to say "no."

While this was relatively easy with his older sister, this little dude is all about being physical, and that can lead to danger. Which means my very chill "here's another toy" offer doesn't cut it when what he really wants is to pull the dog's hair right out of her head.

So I'm not ditching the "no" with this particular kid, and here's why.


We definitely use alternatives when it's relevant: "hot" for food he can't touch, or the lamp in my bedroom he loves to grab, and "yuck" for things picked up off the floor that he wants to put in his mouth. Surprisingly, "that's mommy's" works very well for my books, CDs, and DVDs. But alternatives to "no" aren't always readily available. Especially when it's a bad behavior that is unacceptable, like hitting or biting. I'm not about to give him a stick to bite on instead of his sister's arm. And we teach that hitting anything is unacceptable, not just mommy's face.

When I look him in the eye and say firmly "no," he gets that I'm serious. Also, all that alternative-giving can be exhausting. Some days I'm all about setting him up with endless "yes" entertainment. Other days I'm going to fall down in a heap if I have to come up with one more positive way to keep him from climbing on top of the dining room table.

Even Dr. Sears talks about the importance of saying "no," which can be difficult if you're an attachment parent, where the vibe is "yes." Of course he's also big on the alternatives, but states:

Whatever the terminology, saying 'no' is not a negative thing. It is a way of giving, and it takes a lot of effort. Mothers who can't say 'no' will have a big problem on their hands down the line. They become the moms that we see getting yanked around like puppets by their preschoolers.

When mothers begin saying 'no' at the appropriate times—confidently, firmly, and lovingly—It does not threaten the child. It might wrinkle him for a few minutes because he doesn't like hearing 'stop' or 'wait' or whatever the word might be that you pick.

So let's bring out the "no" again, parents. Someday (but totally not today) your kids will thank you.

Do you say "no" to your toddler?


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