When toddlers declare “no!” over and over, it is a sign of age-appropriate emerging independence. As children ages 18- to 24-months realize they are their own person, they have a rapidly growing experience of needing to test this out and feel their power. This is the first step on a long evolutionary path ahead of them; a path of independence and personal power. (Just wait until the teen years!)
Have you noticed — “no” is a very powerful word? And since they have so few words at this age, the word packs even more punch and says a lot of different things.
Here are some possible translations:
- “I want to do it myself because I am my own person!”
- “I am frustrated because you treat me like a baby and I am not a baby anymore!”
- “I am tired! I really need to rest but I don’t want to miss out on anything!”
- “I want to be the one who makes decisions! Why do you always get to make all the decisions?”
Getting a 2-year-old to cooperate takes some tricks up the parental sleeve. Here are just a few you might try:
Trick 1: Notice how you may be reinforcing your child to continue to say no by the way you are reacting. Even negative attention from you is attention and if you have a wide-eyed shocked expression, your toddler is likely thinking, “Wow! Look at how Mommy’s face changes when I say THAT word!” Calm, cool and collected is the best way to respond.
Trick 2: Give your 2-year-old opportunities to do some “very important jobs.” Simple tasks, like stacking the toilet paper rolls in the closet, folding (as best she can) washcloths, putting the shoes from the hallway into the shoe cubby, are all BIG for a child. If she engages in the activity, encourage her by saying, “You are a working so hard! This is so helpful!” The idea is that you want her to feel important and valued, providing her a sense of purpose and power in the family unit and the household.
Trick 3: Give him lots of opportunities to make his own choices. However, be sure to limit the number of choices to two or three. Also, look for opportunities to let him know you noticed him making choices on his own, (i.e. “You are choosing to brush your hair all by yourself this morning!”).
Try to remember, your toddler is simply figuring out who she is — separate and apart from you. This is an important part of his development.