Mommy Hacks: Battling The No

If you’ve raised a toddler, you know exactly what this title is referring to. Aden is at that age, Ariah will get there too – all kids do. By age two or three, children not only know exactly what the word “no” means, they learn just how to use it against you. (Cue evil laughter!) Lately I’ve been relying on these methods in order to stop the no before a full-fledged temper tantrum sets in.

How to Battle the "No" - Photo of Aden Housley via

As much of a pain as it can be, this “no” phase can actually be a sign of a healthy parent-child relationship, believe it or not. When little ones are defiant during this stage of development, it’s usually in response to a positive action by the parents – like trying to get your child to share or teach them responsibility. This defiance shows that they’re realizing that they DO have some control – which in general is a good (though incredibly frustrating) thing. So if you’re repeatedly hearing the “no” moms, pat yourselves on the back – you’re doing it right! Lol.

How to Deal with the “No”

Restructure requests. At this age kids realize that they simply don’t like being controlled. By switching your own requests from negatives to positives, they’ll feel less like they’re being controlled and more like you’re both in on the action. For example, instead of saying “Don’t do that” or “No wearing that” you might say “Do this instead” and “How about this?” Explaining yourself can help them see why wearing a coat is a reasonable request, for instance.

Relate to them. Let them know you understand why they’re saying no (even if 99% of the time you have no idea). If they won’t put away their toys, tell them you can see how they’d want to keep playing, but they can play later after X is done, etc. Any parent knows that a conversation like this can go back and forth for what seems like forever, but showing understanding makes it easier for them to give in.

Find the emotion. Similarly, sometimes when a parent thinks there is absolutely no reason behind a child’s defiance, there actually is a cause buried deep down. If they refuse to let you dress them, maybe it’s because they don’t want to go wherever it is you’re going. Just like before, continue to ask questions that will help you understand the root cause.

Give them a choice. If the reason they’re holding onto the no is that they want to maintain control over the situation, choices help them keep control without allowing them to completely disobey. With a choice like “Do you want to get dressed now, or after you’ve picked up your toys?”, they still have to do both things, but they can control when. That choice makes a huge difference because both the parent and child are actively involved – he doesn’t get to do whatever he wants, but he also doesn’t have to feel overwhelmed by your request.

Learn more about our parenting style here.