Talking to Toddlers: Tip 2: Turn ‘no’s into ‘yes’es

This is tough and definitely takes some practice. So many times we find ourselves say No to our children. This NO habit can have some unintended consequences.

Saying ‘No’ to a child (or for that matter anyone) invites disagreement or upset. And it’s a response best avoided.

On the other hand, constantly saying no makes ‘No’ lose its power. Think of it this way: ‘No’s are to be reserved for extreme situations. In cases where safety of the child is in question, for example. Reserve your ‘No’s with all their power intact for situations where your child thinks s/he is ready to cross the road all by themselves and are about to take their first step. In these situations, usually, there’s little time to think and a ‘No’ works just fine.

Don’t say ‘No’ doesn’t mean you say ‘Yes’ to everything! That would be inviting disaster. It simply means we phrase our words with more specific instructions of ‘what to do’ rather than ‘what not to do’.

For example: Instead of saying “Don’t hit the table with your bat” we could choose to say “Bats are used to hit a ball. Let’s / could you look for your ball.”

Instead of saying “Don’t run” we say “Please walk while in the house.” If that doesn’t work, you could at times, role model the walking and say “Please walk like this when indoors.”

When every handwash becomes an act of play it loses its purpose. And instead of saying “Don’t play with water during handwash”, We could say “Let’s finish this handwas and when the sun is out, you play with water as much as you want, in the balcony!”

I couldn’t stress more on the fact that this is not a way to manipulate the situation into making it rosy. Therefore, we must believe in framing things positively and its helpful impact. Only then would we have the patience to follow through with the conversation. If you are feeling more like a ‘No’ rather than positively framing what you want to say, it’s better to say that ‘No’ as gently as possible and mean it.

“Don’t run in the house!” tells them what not to do. So what is expected of them? Do they stand still? Do they frog jump? Or do they sprint?

Another way of turning ‘No’s into ‘Yes’es is also to offer honest and well-meaning options. For example, when it’s time to change your child’s diaper and they don’t want to, you can offer them two options “we can do it now or in one minute”.

Toddlers and even babies can handle making choices when it’s not overwhelming: 2 is that magic numbers. Give them too many options to choose from and it will go down another road. Offering to change diapers or defer it by a minute is indeed a real choice. It is accomplishing what’s urgently needed and yet is taking into consideration that the child does not want it done at this moment. If the child chooses one minute, take it seriously. Do give it a minute and the diaper change will be a much smoother experience for the both of you.

Turning a No into a Yes takes some attempts before it becomes a culture, till it becomes a habit. But trust me, it does become a habit and all the effort is every bit worth. And the added bonus is that the habit trickles into our other relationships, too.

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Aditya MV
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