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Saying no to your toddler when they really, really, really want something

Parenting Styles   |   Age: 2 years 6 months



Saying no to your toddler when she really, really, really wants something

When you see those puppy-dog eyes staring back at you - when she ups the ante with pleases and extra kisses, your plan of standing your ground can evaporate into nothing even as you try to stand firm.

Giving in to your little one’s requests every once in a while isn’t a bad thing - it shows that you’re listening to her, and that you want her to have the things she wants.

However, there’s a limit to the number of times that saying yes will make you or your baby any happier, and there’s a good chance that some of the things she asks for won’t always be practical, safe, healthy, or possible, so there will be times when saying yes won’t even be an option. Sometimes, you have to stand firm even if it’ll cause a little heartbreak.

No means no

No matter how much the word ‘no’ can feel like it’s crushing both of you, if you’re going to say no, showing your baby will ultimately help her feel more secure in her relationship with you.

Explain just enough

Giving an explanation to your baby when both of you are overwhelmed or frustrated is hard, so when your baby first makes her request, it can be helpful to have a simple reason ready. This can be as basic as, “it’s too close to dinnertime.”

Trying to explain too much can make it seem like you’re wavering from your refusal, and as your baby gets older, longer explanations will give her more opportunities to argue with you.

Sorry isn’t always the way to go

While it’s true that being able to apologize is one of the best personality traits a person can have, there are situations when apologies aren’t going to help you or your baby out.

“Sorry, but I didn’t buy you the Lego set because you just got one last week.”

“Sorry I didn’t allow you to swim by yourself, but the pool was too deep for you.”

“Sorry I didn’t let you eat all those candies because they gave you a tummy ache the last time.”

Maybe you stood firm on your decision for your baby’s safety, or just because not every trip to the grocery store is the right time for a special treat. But if your reason for saying no is for the best for your baby, saying you’re sorry can confuse the issue. Even if you’re sorry that your baby is upset, the nuance may not come across when she is this age.

Distraction works

Bribery is like distraction, but it’s not the same, and it’s not as healthy a way to deal with an issue as a true, positive distraction. Choosing beneficial activities that your child can’t resist is a win-win. Playing a game with your tot or visiting a nearby park for a while will often be enough to keep her mind off the topic.

Standing firm when you and your baby are on opposite sides of a battle of wills is tough, but it’s only through saying no now and then that you can start to teach your baby about the importance of self-control and delayed gratification.


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