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Toddlers Saying "No"

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    Your toddler’s constant use of the word “no” stems from a strong desire to be independent.
    Your toddler's desire for independence can mean that they display a lot of unreasonable negative behaviour that's puzzling or, at worst, irritating. Common examples include a refusal to let you strap them into their buggy, turning down food that they enjoyed last week and insisting you carry out an impossible task, such as finding a favourite toy that's been left at home when you're on a journey.
    This difficult phase may not last long in some toddlers, but for others it can go on for many months or even continue into later childhood. This can be hard for some parents to handle.
    It helps to realise this behaviour is a normal developmental stage as they make a bid for independence.

    Positive steps.
    • You'll keep your sanity if you make an effort at the beginning of the toddler stage to 'toddler-proof' your home - this cuts down on the need for unnecessary battles.
    • It helps if he or she doesn't get too tired or hungry - regular mealtimes and bedtimes make a big difference.
    • Make a determined effort to keep your use of the word "no" to a minimum - as far as possible, make your requests positive, "keep your bike on the pavement" rather than "don't go on the road".
    • If you have to refuse a request, use phrases such as "great idea, we'll play that later" instead of "no, I'm too busy to play with you".
    • If your toddler is strong-willed and often challenges you, do your best to be patient and remember this stage won't last forever.
    • Toddlers need to try out things for themselves as often as possible, so try not to be too controlling - for example, it can help to let your child climb into her car seat instead of being placed there by you.
    • When it has to be "no", for safety reasons perhaps, make it calm and firm - show your toddler you mean it, but don't get angry.
    • For younger toddlers you may have to add actions to your words - lift her away from the video machine or plug and offer a toy to take her mind off it.
    • Use clever tactics - "I bet I can race you to get your shoes on" often works better than "get your shoes on now".
    • Offer your toddler choices, within limits, to keep battles to a minimum, so that "no" is a less likely response - "do you want to wear your red skirt or black trousers?" or "would you like an apple or an orange?" for example.
    • Use praise when they are good to encourage them to repeat the behaviour.
    • One of the most useful techniques with toddlers is distraction and you should use it for as long as it works - "I think I hear Daddy's car arriving" or suddenly starting a song often makes toddlers forget they were about to start a battle.
    • Try not to laugh at your toddler when they say "no" - it can be tempting when it's amusing, but this is likely to upset a small child who takes their independence seriously.
    • When you can, try to explain why some behaviour isn't acceptable - as your child gets older, they'll understand more about this, but it can start very soon - "touching that might break it" or "that's hot and you'll burn".
    • Use delaying words - "later perhaps" or "not until after lunch".
    • Offer alternatives - "you can't write on the wall but you can write on this piece of paper".
    • Lighten up - does whatever it is they're doing really matter?
    • Keep a positive attitude - look for good behaviour and praise your child.
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