Alternatives to saying “no!” to your toddler
We’ve all heard it somewhere, saying “no” all the time to our toddlers isn’t helpful. Though saying no to our children is important for boundaries, there is however, the risk of overusing the word “no”, and we don’t want to do this because we want it to be effective when we really need to use it. Toddlers are very inquisitive, their brains are busy developing faster than at any other time in their life. Because of this, we find that we are always on our feet making sure they are not about to pull something off the side or go somewhere unsafe. We want to protect our children, but we also don’t want to discourage their love and confidence for exploring.
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The great thing about switching up the word “no” is that we can get creative and use this as an opportunity to teach and encourage our children in so many ways!
Use it as an opportunity to show them what they can do
If your toddler is anything like my toddler, they may love to pull out all of the clothes or shoes which you have just spent time putting away. As frustrating as this is, chances are that your toddler is 1. copying you because you are the coolest person in the world to them, and, 2. it is helping to develop their cognitive skills by doing these activities. Our children aren’t doing this to irritate us, so here are some examples of what we can say instead of “no”
“Are you helping me? you’re so clever! Let’s go find something that we can pull out of your toy box instead”. I also created this post full of fun ideas to do with your toddler.
“Is that fun for you? we can’t pull out these shoes, come and help me take the clean clothes out of the washing machine”. Take this opportunity to have your child help you with a task and they’ll be doing what they are naturally wanting to do at the same time.
“That’s very brave trying to climb on that chair, it isn’t safe though. Let’s go and climb on this instead” children love to practice climbing to strengthen their muscles and balance, and some children are very adventurous by nature which is a beautiful thing. Perhaps you could stand with them while they climb the stairs, or take them to a safe park. These are brilliant for indoor safe climbing.
“Don’t hit, that hurts.” hitting is developmentally normal for toddlers because they haven’t yet learned the language skills and emotional regulation skills to express their frustration. So that we don’t make our toddlers feel bad about themselves for hitting, we need to tell them the logical reason for not hitting, rather than telling them that hitting makes them “bad” or “naughty”, or just by saying “no” and not helping them to learn why. You can then help your child to label their emotions, “are you frustrated because your toy won’t fit”, “are you sad because you also wanted a biscuit?” when we are calm and validating to our children, we are more likely going to be able to help them learn how to express their emotions in better ways.
“It’s not safe to put that in your mouth, let’s go and find something that is safe for you to chew on.” Toddlers aren’t doing anything wrong by putting everything in their mouth, and they aren’t purposely ignoring your 19278383th request to stop doing it either (even though it feels like it).Putting things into their mouth, helps their sensory motor development. They may also like to chew or suck on things to help calm themselves.
When you need to say no, or stop your toddler from doing something, you can hold your boundary while still having compassion for their response. Toddlers’ reactions to our boundaries (tantrums) are completely normal. Toddlers learn how to manage their emotions by the way their caregiver responds to them. When we respond with warmth and calmness we are showing them how to handle their feelings and this coregulation is how they will learn emotional regulation over time. Whereas a child who is continually left alone to cry and experience negative emotions alone will learn to emotionally suppress, or have anger outbursts because they do not yet have the brain development to self regulate. You are their safe place to feel all of their emotions and learn how to process them in their busy and exciting world.