A toddler saying no can be one of the most frustrating things as a parent! Read how I was able to stop this terrible habit in just three days, with very little effort!
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A Case of the Toddler “No’s”
My three and half year old daughter was having a case of the “no’s.” After almost anything I said to her, an automatic “no,” was generally the reply. Sometimes it was “no” all by itself. Other times, it was more like, “No, I just want to do this first.”
It really was an automatic response, and it was just getting to be too much. Not to mention, that her younger brother (1.5yo) started picking up on this habit, as well! I needed to do something about it.
You can read here about how I prevent many toddler tantrums using the secret that I think all moms need to know. I diligently give my kids warnings before all transitions. This definitely keeps tantrums to a minimum, and generally keeps the “no’s” in check, too.
So before doing anything, I checked myself, first. I made sure I was continuing to clue in my daughter about what to expect next in the day. She should know that she has one more minute to play, before cleaning up. And that lunch would be following. Just announcing clean up out of no where would obviously elicit a “no” from any three year old!
As I was more conscious about giving notice before transitions, the no’s kept coming. Which meant I needed to do something about it.
My Teaching Background
I was a teacher in the primary grades for years. I mostly taught kindergarten, but taught some first and second grades, as well. Behavior modification was always occurring within the classroom. I’d usually have a few students who needed assistance from time to time with a variety of behaviors.
Sticker charts and behavior charts were often a go-to with my colleagues. And with good reason: they are (usually) simple, and can be effective. They innately kept a record of the behaviors that we were trying to stop or encourage.
However, they were never my favorite. I’d often forget how individual students did at certain parts of the day. If the parents and student were no on-board with it, then they weren’t always the most effective.
With that said, I tend to stay away from these types of things in our home. I don’t really bribe my kids or even give rewards for doing what’s expected of them.
My go-to is praise. I will emphatically tell them when they did something good. When they do something kind, I point it out. I talk positively about them to their siblings, so they get to overhear it.
It keeps things positive, and happy. And it works. …Almost all the time.
A Plan to Stop the Toddler “No’s”
So I needed a plan. A sticker chart was definitely out for me. (I hope to never need to use one again in my life!) I didn’t want to do any rewards using food.
So I decided on books. Always a winner.
We have these great board books from Ranger Rick about all different animals.
They’re short, informational, and have great pictures. They come as a subscription, so we got two in the mail every month.
But really, any books will do! Using many short books definitely made more sense for us than using longer ones.
Any of these book sets from Amazon would be great!
Anyhow, I took the stack of thirteen books, and I set them next to my daughter’s place mat at breakfast.
And I said this to her: “Tonight, after your brothers go to sleep, you and I can have special time together. We can read ALL of these books together! BUT each time you say no, one books goes into a no-read pile. I’m hoping we can read them all, but if we can only read a few tonight, that’s okay, too.”
(Side note: I had many conversations with her in the past about her saying “no” automatically. She knew she was allowed to say no if I asked a question, etc. It was the automatic “no” to anything that was the problem. I made sure she was aware of that, and knew the difference.)
Now I had realistic expectations. I didn’t really expect her to do anything different this first day. Really, it was more about her learning how this was going to work. I explained it to her, but she wouldn’t really get it until she went through the day with it.
I also expected her to get upset the first few times she said no and lost books. And this happened. But I kept showing her the books we could still read. And that we would still get that special time together.
Did My Toddler Keep Saying No?
Well the first night, we had just one book left. But I made a big deal about it. I said something like, “I am SO glad that you have a book left so we get this special time together! I bet tomorrow, we’ll get to read even more together.” We cuddled up and read that one little book, and I kept it positive.
The second night, we read three books! Not a whole lot, but it was an improvement, and I focused on that. “Last night we only got to read one book, but tonight we get to read three! I can’t wait to see how many we can read tomorrow!”
On the third night, we read eleven! The no’s were actually going away! I was thrilled about that, and my daughter was happy to be reading with me. And really, I was, too. I’m always grateful for one-on-one time with my kids.
We kind of did the Irish good-bye to this system. We were out of the house all day the next day, so it really wasn’t feasible. The no’s had gotten to be a lot less, and my daughter didn’t ask about the books. So I just let it go. For now, at least.
If those nasty “no’s” start making their way back, then I will definitely start this up again. In fact, if there’s any other undesirable habits that arise, I will certainly consider going this route, since it was so successful.
If You’re Trying to Stop Your Toddler from Saying “No,” Consider This:
- Have a game plan ready. Know how you’re going to present this to your child.
- Start in the morning.
- Be consistent. Each time a “no” (or other habit) occurs, take a book from the pile.
- Don’t make a big deal when books are lost. They’ll get the point without you saying anything.
- Follow through. Give yourself plenty of time to read with your child at the end of the day. Make it special and positive!
- Start fresh each morning. Return all the books to a single pile at the start of the day.
- If your pile of books is mostly or completely gone early in the day, adjust the expectations. Rather than the remaining books being read at bedtime, change it to lunch or nap time. Then, start again fresh for the second half of the day.
- Keep it positive! Give positive feed back, and enjoy spending some extra time with your child!
It really can be possible to modify our children’s behavior in a positive way. You can try out this strategy to stop your toddler from saying no, or any similar behavior. It certainly require patience, creativity, and the ability to read our child’s needs.