Why does my baby say no all the time?
Up until now your baby may have only named objects, a person or a situation. However between 18 and 24 months, the infamous “NO” marks the arrival of your child to the symbolic function of language, at which point they are able to understand the concept of objection. Your baby may use this new word to test your authority and may exploit it somewhat. Don’t worry, this phase will pass – just remain positive, calm and be firm.
“NO” therefore “I am”!
Walking, potty training, the first words… your toddler becomes independent and discovers the world and its many aspects. At the same time your toddler’s personality becomes apparent and “NO” may become a frequent reply, along with “I want to do it”, “not you” and other major tantrums.
You are probably taken aback by this behaviour and get the impression you are talking to a brick wall, but this phase is necessary for your child. By saying “NO”, they are in fact saying “I am”. It is a way of asserting themselves and helps them construct their personality, thus differentiating themselves from their parents. Your toddler will test their limits with you while they are as quiet as a lamb with grandma or their child-carer. It is hard to accept but it is entirely natural!
The “NO”s that mean “YES”
Although it may seem that your baby is being uncooperative and difficult, the word “NO” is a highly complex notion and can have multiple meanings. Understanding them is an art in itself!
For example, It is not easy to distinguish between:
* The “NO” pronounced out of habit (shame when you were on the point of offering them a sweet!),
* The cross “NO” (baby doesn’t want to get in the pram as you have just cut short 45 minutes on the swing!),
* The tired “NO” (generally preceding a major tantrum!),
* The “NO” that means “yes” (when they say “NO” while nodding their head)…
* The firm “NO” when introduced to a new food (bang in the middle of the dietary phobia phase, it’s not surprising!).
Your baby is making you understand that if they are to do what you say, then it is because they have decided to!
You’re the boss! (Yes, you are)
So how to find a solution while remaining patient and positive? There is nothing better than distracting their attention. Who hasn’t secretly thanked other parents full of ideas for distracting their children in the train or plane, thus avoiding a tantrum and a string of piercing “No’s”.
The main difficulty lies in finding the right balance: neither being too firm to avoid outshining them, while allowing them to fulfill their potential; nor being too permissive and allowing your child to rule the roost. If your child says “no” a few times try to remain calm, firm and avoid entering into a battle of the wills.
The golden rule is making them understand repeatedly that it is you that decides (whether to let them say “no” or not) and not them. “No” means “no”. At this point you must not give in and you must stick to your guns: setting limits (without contradicting the other parent!) is essential for your child’s development.
There is a certain stage, at around 15 months of age, when your toddler will have acquired a sense of independence. It’s when they also start exerting it on YOU. Be warned and armed, but also remain cool calm and collected, and most of all stay positive, because it’s not going to go away in a hurry but with some helpful tips, you may be able to enjoy this stage of development much more.
As your toddler’s vocabulary and confidence builds, leaving you wide eyed with admiration and pride, you may find that they begin to challenge your authority. Parents may differ in their approach to handling their child’s objections and adopt an attitude based on factors including their own upbringing, their personality, their partner’s personality and the attitude they have already adopted with any older children in the family. At the end of the day, you need to find a method that suits your family needs, but regardless of your approach, try to remain positive.
There are many ways of parenting, many documented official techniques, others loosely based on how we grew up ourselves, and then there are those somewhere in between. It’s pretty fair to say the common thread between all of the techniques is that of encouraging some level of independence in your child so they can eventually leave the nest a well adjusted adult – and this is practical parenting.
Giving your baby independence
You’ve probably seen the signs. Grabbing a spoon during meals, pulling their socks off right after you put them on, and turning the pages of their favorite book.These are cues of independence and are completely normal. And although it may be frustrating and time-consuming to let them “do it themselves,” it will help your baby later if you give them a little independence now.As your older baby reaches this age of independence, here are a few tasks you can let your baby do by themselves. But remember, even an independent toddler should never be left alone. So always stay within reach.
Let them brush their teeth with a toddler-size toothbrush
Show your baby how you brush your own teeth, and they’ll try to do the same. Don’t expect perfection just yet. It’s the learning that counts. Be sure to help them finish the job.
Let them wash their own hands
Place a stool in front of the sink, let lukewarm water run slowly, and show your baby how to dispense and use liquid soap. Bar soaps aren’t a good idea yet because they’re so slippery, and some actually look like snacks to a 1-year-old.
Let them feed themselves
This is a great age to let your baby experiment with food. Try new snacks that they can pick up with their fingers to practice feeding themselves.Also, try letting them experiment with a spoon. Thick foods work best for this so try your baby’s favorite yoghurt thickened with baby cereal. Give them a couple of baby spoons and then let them try using them.
Let them clean up their toys
If you’re lucky, they’ll think it’s all in good fun. Sing a cleanup song every time you do it, and before you know it they’ll be singing along with you.
Give it time
Life with a toddler who insists on doing things for themselves can be exhausting. It would be faster for you to wash them, feed them, and dress them, but in the long run you’ll be glad you taught them so much at this early age. So for now praise their accomplishments, allow extra time for independent tasks, resist the temptation to help, and take lots of pictures.
Becoming a parent is a wonderful experience but it can take a little time to get used to. After all, there is no one style fits all approach to parenting. Try not to worry, remain calm and you will soon develop a parenting style that works for you and your family.