Why is “No” a Toddler’s Favorite Word?

Why is “No” a Toddler’s Favorite Word?

You’re trying to get your little one dressed in the morning.  You say, “Put on your shirt.”  He says, “No.”  You say, “Please put on your shirt.”  He says, “No.”  You plead, “C’mon, put on your shirt or we’re going to be late.”  He says, “No.”  Why is he being so recalcitrant?

As annoying as this scenario might be, you can’t take it personally.  What is going on is your child’s discovery of social power.  For the first year-and-a-half or so of life, children are generally gregarious and cooperative creatures.  But one day, it occurs to them that they are capable of controlling interpersonal interactions.  And for some reason, human beings find power to be intoxicating.

Think about it.  Let’s say one morning you discovered you had the power to fly.  Would you say, “That’s nice.  I’ll have to check this out when I get home from work.”  No.  Immediately you would have to find out how high you could fly, how far you could fly, how fast you could fly, etc.  So, upon discovering he has social power, your little one is simply psychologically compelled to test the limits.

Now you don’t want to make the mistake of appeasing your child.  Always letting the little one have his way will eventually lead to the “terrible twos” – the situation where the older toddler has major tantrums when he ultimately can’t always have his way.

What you want to do is set, maintain, and enforce reasonable limits on his behavior, but also indulge his desire to exercise power whenever possible and appropriate.  That means striving to give him reasonable choices instead of always issuing direct instructions or making direct requests.  So, instead of the above scenario, simply lay out his clothes on the bed and ask him, “Do you want to put your shirt on first or your pants on first?”  You aren’t allowing him to decide what he is going to wear, but you are giving him a suitable opportunity to be in control.

That is why Romp n’ Roll classes are full of options for the children and include some periods for independent play.  It may be important for the little ones to reach a particular goal, but it is also important – and developmentally appropriate – for them to start exercising some control over how they get there.