Toddlers say ‘no’ when they discover that they can influence the world. They’re flexing their little muscles of control.
So to stop your toddler saying ‘no’ firstly offer them choices. And the trick is: offer them two choices that you’re happy with.

  • ‘Do you want the red jumper or the blue jumper?’
  • ‘Do you want to put your pyjamas on before you clean your teeth or after?

When you think about it, it must be so hard being a toddler. Always being told what they can and can’t do. So be kind and let them know you ‘get’ how frustrating it is.

  • ‘I can see you want to carry on playing. And we need to clear up now. Do you want to tidy the toys on the floor or put the crayons in the box?’
  • ‘I know you want ice cream, and too much isn’t good. Do you want a yoghurt or a banana?’

Secondly, toddlers love it if we lighten up! So turn your request into a game.

  • Let’s see if we can get you dressed before the timer goes off! Ready, steady, GO!
  • Let’s strap you in to your space ship then we’re ready to launch the rocket! Where shall we go today?
  • What music shall we put on when we clear the table today?

Finally, ask questions so your toddler can picture themselves doing what you ask.
So just say Tommy always says ‘no’ when he needs his nappy changed.

At a neutral time when you’re both calm say…

  • ‘Tommy, when I say it’s time for a nappy change, what do you need to do?
  • Yes, you sometimes say ‘no’ and what still needs to happen?
  • Why do I need to change your nappy? That’s right because otherwise, you’ll get stinky and sore!
  • So when I say: ‘Time to change your nappy!’ What do you need to do? That’s right, lie down.
  • And can I change your nappy when you’re standing up? No, I need you to lie down so I can make sure you’re all clean and the new nappy is on nicely.
  • And when you lie on the changing mat, what game shall we play when we’re doing it? Shall we play beat the timer? Or where’s Tommy? Or this little piggy?
  • OK, and will you remember that next time?’

And when Tommy next needs to be changed say:
‘Tommy – it’s nappy time. Can you remember what game you wanted us to play?’
If your toddler can’t speak yet, just ask the questions and give the answers as well. You’ll find it’s much more effective than telling your toddler what they need to do.

So the 3 tips to stop a toddler saying ‘no’ are:

  1. Offer them choices
  2. Turn your request into a game.
  3. And ask questions so your toddler can picture themselves doing what you ask.

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If you need more than three tips on this – or you’d like to discover the secrets you need to have happy well-behaved, children – please contact me by clicking here. You can arrange a free 20-minute (no obligation) chat to find out if working with me personally (by phone, Skype or face-to-face) would help you and your family. Contact Elizabeth

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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