Think of your typical toddler. If you were listening in to their conversations you’d hear a lot of NO to this, and NO to that, and how-could-you-even-suggest-that NO! Sure the NOs are their way of testing out and flexing their own autonomy, but it can be
tedious for parents.
Parents want to support and nurture their child on their journey of growing up, moving out and supporting themselves, but those NOs seem to know no boundaries…so, yes
The struggle is real!
How to go from NO to YES?
1. GIVE OPTIONS
Would you like to wear your blue sweater or red sweater?
Do you want an apple slice or orange?
2. GIVE ATTENTION
One of the most helpful phrases in preschool: Tell me about__________.
OR describe what they’re doing if your toddler isn’t verbal enough. Children LOVE sharing what they’re doing and/or having an one of the adults in their lives take notice and show interest. This tells children they are worthy of their parent’s time and attention and what they’re doing is also valued.
Remember PLAY is a child’s WORK and is very serious business!
3. GIVE Consideration
Offering explanations of what, where, how, etc. will often be just what’s needed to make a disagreeable toddler become agreeable. YES, sometimes, in safety-related matters a full explanation isn’t appropriate, but when children understand the why behind a request they’re more likely to cooperate….this is TRUE for me as well!
4. GIVE CONTROL
I need to do some work for your school, could you help me by________. Everyone likes to feel useful and needed!
5. GIVE Connections
Children want their parents’ time and attention. Connect with them—PLAY, read, talk…just BE together! 5-10 minutes can make a huge difference!
You know we all have a bad day now and again. So give ’em a break—they’re growing and learning! Be free with your love, compassion and understanding. Laying the groundwork now will help in the future—and they’ll also be much more likely to give YOU a break. Because we all have a bad day now and again….
What about the reverse? When and how to tell your toddler NO? I recommend judicious caution. If everything is NO then nothing becomes No because babies/children will end up ignoring and/or tuning out what you say.
Included in the role of ‘parenting’ is teaching and instructing–that includes areas or topics that are uncomfortable and/or pose dangers to them. I have found children–of all ages–are more likely to cooperate (as noted above) when they understand the reason(s) behind requests. Of course little ones need to be kept safe. If possible, explain why something is dangerous ahead of time–explaining is also relationship-building with your child..it’s a sign of respect!
Save the word NO for those times that really are dangerous–to your child or injurious to someone/something else. When you do use the word (particularly Moms) do not say it in a sing-song, high pitched voice…make it serious sounding, like you mean business–you want to get their attention with a stern NO!
If they’ve gotten themselves into a dangerous situation of course FIRST remove them to a safe place and explain why/what they did was wrong —with plenty reassurance that you love them. I do not believe in corporal punishment for any child–especially babies–all children inherently want to please their parents AND will try to so.
PLAY is perfect for giving little ones all the options they crave for making their OWN decisions! In unstructured, free PLAY, in particular, they can dictate how the PLAY develops and proceeds. Definitely show interest in your child’s PLAY; engage in PLAY with them periodically, but also encourage them to PLAY solo; arrange times for parallel PLAY to blossom; and when they’re older support cooperative PLAY with PLAY dates or spontaneous PLAY from neighborhood friends. (Read more on the Ages & Stages of PLAY)
Yours in Play!