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What To Do When "No" Is Your Toddler's Favourite Word

Posted by Anne-Marie Perkins on

Parents wait for the moment when their child starts to communicate and can articulate what they need or want. But once your cuddly, friendly baby is a verbal baby whose favourite word is "no," you may look back on the non-verbal stage in a nostalgic way. 


While the "no" stage of the development of your child’s speech development is often frustrating, it is also an important milestone for children and often a way for them to celebrate their newly found independence. 


However, all things considered - your toddler’s vocabulary is still quite limited at this stage, therefore the ‘no’ word can mean a lot of different things. Here are some possible translations:

  • “I want to do it myself because I am my own person!”
  • “I am tired! I really need to rest but I don’t want to miss out on anything!”
  • “I am frustrated because you treat me like a baby and I am not a baby anymore!”
  • “I want to be the one who makes decisions! Why do you always get to make all the decisions?”

It takes some tricks up the parental sleeve to get a 2-year-old to comply. At Pottiagogo, we have provided some  of our top tips on how to get your toddler to listen...

What to do when "no" is your toddler's favourite word

Tips and Techniques


Offer choices - Don't let the answer be yes or no, give them a choice between 2 options. For starters, ‘Would you like to put away your dishes or your toys?’ or 'Would you like to put on your blue coat or green coat?’ This will help your toddler get the feeling that they are in charge, or at least have a say in things.

Teach your toddler a different reaction - Toddlers sometimes say 'no' so much it is automatic. Sometimes, they couldn't think of another word, therefore we recommend starting to expand your child's vocabulary. For example, you could suggest ‘No thank you' or ‘No, I want to do this instead’. 

What to do when "no" is your toddler's favourite word

Don't say 'no' too often - Parents frequently tell toddlers what not to do, but if you say 'no,' the child will most likely imitate your actions all the time. A great way to help your little one is to suggest what they can do, in a quiet calm manner. For instance, instead of saying 'no' when splashing water out of the bath, say 'We're playing in the bath with water, not on the ground.' If they start to disagree, then the bath time is over.

Set limits - Make sure that your little one knows the rules — both what they can and can't do at home. Instead of raising your voice and saying ‘don't shout', use a quiet voice when telling your toddler to do something. Get down to their level, look at them in the eye, remain calm and tell them clearly what you want them to do.

Reward good behaviour - Try to divert your child from a stressful situation. Reward them with a kiss and a hug, a sticker, a little toy or extra play time if they do as they are told. Don't reward bad behaviour - it’s the worst thing to do!

Don't give up - Sometimes your toddler has to do as they are told — for instance, if they have a tantrum in public, your toddler must understand that you are in charge. Be strong, be consistent but be gentle - you don’t want to end up shouting as this will end in tears. 

What to do when "no" is your toddler's favourite word

RELATED: 8 ways to stop toddler tantrums when travelling

Notice how you may react when your toddler says no - Even your negative attention is attention, and if you have a surprised face with wide eyes, your toddler thinks "Wow! Look at Mummy’s face when I say that word!" The best way to react is to be cool, calm, cool and collected, even when you are not inside

Remember it’s just a phase...

If all else fails, try to remember the ‘no’ stage is something your toddler will grow out of and it won’t last forever. Just like the ‘needing to be rocked off to sleep phase,’ this too shall pass. Hang in there!

child development motherhood parenting terrible twos toddler toddler advice toddler tantrums

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