Imagine if someone was holding your precious little girl captive and refused to release her. Would you panic, grow frantic and do whatever it takes to get your child back? This is a position I am occasionally in when my two year old is in full-fledged “no” mode. I want to plead with her, “Please, bring back my sweet little girl who eagerly does what mommy says!” Sometimes, the “no’s” start as soon as she wakes up. She calls out for me, “Mommy, Mommy, Momma, Mom!?” I come in her room to comfort and pick her up, and she hurriedly goes to the other end of her crib, shaking her head no, with a smirk on her face, when I try to pick her up. It turns into a production for as Quinn continues to challenge me with her emphatic “No’s,” as I cajole her to put on her clothes for the day, to have breakfast, sit on the potty, you name it! Through my ongoing battles with my little “no-gotiator,” I have began to compile different methods that actually work, more times than not, and figured I share them with other parents and guardians who are struggling with toddlers whose favorite word is “No! These tips are in “no” special order:
1. Give your little “no-gotiator” the impression that she has a choice. For instance, my toddler is getting more and more picky when it comes to food and what she wants to wear, so I will often select two outfits I want her to wear then ask her which one she wants. She’s very happy when she gets to wear what she picks out.
2. Appeal to her emotions. Though this one does not work as frequently as I would like, it is a good way to get her to develop a sense of empathy. Those times when she yells out no, simply ignores me or refuses to do what I am asking, such as putting away her toys after playing with them, I will tell her how happy it makes me when she follows directions and that I like it when she listens. I will usually put on my sad face so that she can see that I am clearly disappointed that she is not doing what she was told to do.
3. Positive Reinforcement. I make sure to, not overly praise but acknowledge when she listens and does not put up a fuss the first time I ask her to do something. For example, Quinn has a Dora the Explorer electric toothbrush she loves using. She loves it so much that she will say, “no” and run away when it is time to stop brushing her teeth. Whenever she hands over the toothbrush willingly, I let her know that I like how she follows directions.
4. Make the Connection Between Actions and Consequences. I’ve learned that I can’t be all talk and no action. If my little girl keeps saying no, such as refusing to leave a park or play area, I will give her a warning, countdown and then simply deal with her tantrum as I carry her off explaining that she must listen. Usually, there is no appealing to her emotions when it gets to this stage, but I do not want her to think she can get her way by simply saying, “no!”
5. Realize that your “no-gotiator” may be more persistent than you think, and consider if the battle is worth it. Getting my little girl to try new healthy foods is becoming a struggle. Just the other day, she cried hysterically and refused to eat her veggie pasta. There was no negotiating with her. She would not eat even one bite: even after offering her a special treat if she did. Having her sit at the table and cry hysterically beyond a half hour did not help either of us, but after she calmed down, I did appeal to her emotions in hopes that she will try something new in the future.
When all else fails, try to relax. As Daniel Tiger says, “When you’re feeling mad, and you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to four!”
All the best,
P.S. Another tip is that nothing works 100 percent of the time, and I’ve learned not to beat myself up too much when my little “no-gotiator” is unwilling to compromise. If you have any other tips, please feel free to share.