As your toddler’s vocabulary and confidence builds, leaving you wide eyed with admiration and pride, you may find that they begin to challenge your authority. Parents may differ in their approach to handling their child’s objections and adopt an attitude based on factors including their own upbringing, their personality, their partner’s personality and the attitude they have already adopted with any older children in the family. At the end of the day, you need to find a method that suits your family needs, but regardless of your approach, try to remain positive.
Why does my baby say no all the time?
Up until now your baby may have only named objects, a person or a situation. However between 18 and 24 months, the infamous “NO” marks the arrival of your child to the symbolic function of language, at which point they are able to understand the concept of objection. Your baby may use this new word to test your authority and may exploit it somewhat. Don’t worry, this phase will pass – just remain positive, calm and be firm.
“NO” therefore “I am”!
Walking, potty training, the first words… your toddler becomes independent and discovers the world and its many aspects. At the same time your toddler’s personality becomes apparent and “NO” may become a frequent reply, along with “I want to do it”, “not you” and other major tantrums.
You are probably taken aback by this behaviour and get the impression you are talking to a brick wall, but this phase is necessary for your child. By saying “NO”, they are in fact saying “I am”. It is a way of asserting themselves and helps them construct their personality, thus differentiating themselves from their parents. Your toddler will test their limits with you while they are as quiet as a lamb with grandma or their child-carer. It is hard to accept but it is entirely natural!
The “NO”s that mean “YES”
Although it may seem that your baby is being uncooperative and difficult, the word “NO” is a highly complex notion and can have multiple meanings. Understanding them is an art in itself!
For example, It is not easy to distinguish between:
- The “NO” pronounced out of habit (shame when you were on the point of offering them a sweet!),
- The cross “NO” (baby doesn’t want to get in the pram as you have just cut short 45 minutes on the swing!),
- The tired “NO” (generally preceding a major tantrum!),
- The “NO” that means “yes” (when they say “NO” while nodding their head)…
- The firm “NO” when introduced to a new food (bang in the middle of the dietary phobia phase, it’s not surprising!).
Your baby is making you understand that if they are to do what you say, then it is because they have decided to!
You’re the boss! (Yes, you are)
So how to find a solution while remaining patient and positive? There is nothing better than distracting their attention. Who hasn’t secretly thanked other parents full of ideas for distracting their children in the train or plane, thus avoiding a tantrum and a string of piercing “No’s”.
The main difficulty lies in finding the right balance: neither being too firm to avoid outshining them, while allowing them to fulfill their potential; nor being too permissive and allowing your child to rule the roost. If your child says “no” a few times try to remain calm, firm and avoid entering into a battle of the wills.
The golden rule is making them understand repeatedly that it is you that decides (whether to let them say “no” or not) and not them. “No” means “no”. At this point you must not give in and you must stick to your guns: setting limits (without contradicting the other parent!) is essential for your child’s development.
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