The ‘NO’ Phase: What you need to know

Have you started to think that ‘no’ is your toddler’s favourite word? If so, don’t worry. The ‘no’ phase is perfectly normal, and all part of speech development. How long does it last? Brace yourself, as though it may be short-lived (a month or two) it can also frustratingly long (lasting all of toddlerhood).

But thankfully, there is something you can do about it. So here are some tips and suggestions to help encourage your toddler to say something more positive!

Why your toddler says no

One of the reasons your toddler likes the word ‘no’ is because it’s easy to say. They’ve probably also learnt that saying ‘no’ gets a reaction from you. It’s just their way of showing you they’re their own person and asserting their new found independence.  “No” means “I’m my own person; I don’t have to agree with everything you say. I can be my own boss!”

Another reason toddlers say “no” is that they hear it a lot — from you! So look for ways to limit your little parrot’s exposure to the word. They learn by coping and imitation after all! Instead of “No! Don’t touch the oven,” say “Hot! Be careful.”
Thinking of the right questions can help you get a ‘yes’ rather than a ‘no’. So give them plenty of praise when they follow what you say, to show that ‘no’ doesn’t get them what they want.

Do’s and Don’ts to help keep those no’s to a minimum:

  • Say ‘no’ as little as possible so your toddler doesn’t just copy you.
  • If you need to tell them to do something, say it positively.
  • Don’t let them see that ‘no’ makes you feel irritated (they’ll only love the reaction).
  • 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 at the moment”.
  • Ask questions to which the answer isn’t no.

‘‘How quickly can you get dressed?’’ instead of ‘‘could you put your clothes on please?’’.  Or ‘‘Would you like to wear your red jumper or your blue one” instead of ‘‘Please put your jumper on.’’

  • Give them plenty of praise to encourage good behaviour.
  • If they say no, reply with ‘OK then’ and delay them by saying ‘We can do that in a little while, but first…’
  • Stay positive. Remember, they will grow out of the ‘no’ stage.  Eventually.