Positive Alternatives to Saying No!

Has your toddler started flexing its muscles and asserting its will with a string of “No!”s? Congratulations, you’re the parent of a healthy young child. As your toddler begins to develop its own preferences and character, you can expect to hear it disagreeing with pretty much most things by throwing around its new favorite word. 

As explained in Toddler Defiance & the Word “No”, one reason why toddlers sometimes pick up the word is because they hear their parents use it often around them as a word of power. 

One way to limit your toddler’s use of the word is to limit your own use of it as well and find different ways of expressing yourself. Here are a few positive alternatives that you can use and teach your child in the process:

Choose different ways of saying no

Chances are your toddler is going to be getting into a lot of mischief on daily basis, and if you’re going to use “no” to stop it in its tracks every time you catch it doing something unacceptable, you’re going to wear the word out. Rather than using “no”, state what your child should do instead. 

Children respond better to positive instructions, so instead of saying, “No! Don’t spray water on the floor,” try “Let’s use the water spray in the bathtub.” If your toddler is on the verge of doing something dangerous, explain in the positive way why it’s not allowed, or if you don’t have time use warning words such as “Hot!”, or “Stop!"

Provide your toddler with options

Toddlers are at an age when they want to feel independent, so instead of yelling at your toddler if you see it reaching for a knife while in the kitchen, offer it a spatula or whisk instead and place the knives out of reach. If your toddler demands sweets before lunchtime, have it choose one of two kinds of sliced fruits instead.

Distract your toddler when necessary

Dangerous objects are usually attractive to active toddlers, but luckily young children are easy to distract. So when you notice your toddler heading towards a danger zone or reaching for a dangerous object, try to draw its attention to something fun and harmless. By redirecting your toddler’s interest to harmless pursuits, you can avoid having to say “no”.

Don’t stress the little things

Let your toddler splash in the puddle on the way home, make minor messes with its yogurt on its highchair tray, and take down the fridge magnets to play every so often. Such activities won’t do your toddler any harm, and you’ll have more meaningful opportunities to teach it discipline.

Avoid situations where you will have to say no to your toddler

Try to keep your child away from dangerous situations and stick to environments where your toddler can safely be adventurous. You can do this by childproofing your home and keeping dangerous items out of reach and sight.

Say it like you mean it

Say "no" when it matters, say it with conviction, and drive its seriousness home, but do so calmly and with a straight face. If your toddler is pulling at the cat’s tail, don’t laugh and tell it not to do so; your toddler won’t take your words seriously if you laugh. When your toddler complies, give it a hug and warm words of praise.