9 ways to avoid saying “No” to my toddler

Ok, so here comes how I try to avoid (obviously, not always possible) it. Before you read it though please bear in mind that I am definitely / 100% not an expert and not here to say “do this because it will work”. I have no clue how it would work with other kids, other mums, in other families but for us it does. So that is why I thought I share. Here are my examples for different scenarios…

1# Toys or stuff it doesn’t matter. I know the Man and I are not always agree on what is allowed to play with in the house and what isn’t but generally if he can reach it and it isn’t The Man’s video games than everything goes. (well there are times I gave him bits from places he can’t reach). Of course, he wants my bank cards but luckily I have plenty expired in my wallet, so go for it. My hair dryer which was fun to play with for a couple of days but not interested anymore. The birthpool pump – not much harm he can do with it just drag it across the house and garden. So what, if he wants to empty my shame cupboard (full of plastic bags I reuse)? Play hairdresser with the Man’s beard trimmer (unplugged)? Mop up / hoover or play with the pennies from the penny bowl I keep on the kitchen counter? I don’t really mind. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter if I have to tidy up toys or house stuff. The mess will be the same. I am very relaxed about staff around the house generally as long as it doesn’t harm him or us.


2# Have clear rules we are all sticking to. If he sees forbidden items in the cupboard like a cardboard smoothie drink / a biscuit. I am firm but nice to tell him that these are for later. I go down into his level and stay calm explaining why he can’t have it right now. Of course, he doesn’t like that answer but I am not giving in. Usually less then a minute smoochy facing (that is his angry face I absolutely love by the way) he carries on. But I stuck to my promise and do give or offer it to him later. To be honest, he doesn’t always take them but I think at least when I said he can have it later I mean it and he learns that.

3#Offering options and making it sounds much more fun. In the bath for example he loves making me “coffee”. Which means he pours from a bottle, bath water into a cup. He does that on the side where if he over pours it, it comes out to the floor. So I asked him to do it for me on the other side and see how cool it is that water coming out of the cup runs back into the bath and it looks like a waterfall. So far it is working. My other one was getting him down the stairs. I didn’t want him never to use our stairs so we invented a game. “like a dog” He has to walk up and down the stairs on four paws and have his tongue out. He can also bark which is fun, right?


4#Picking my battle. When he is finishing his breakfast and wants to finger paint with the left over milk on the table, well why not. Same with eating tomato ketchup with his fingers once he had a good amount of food. These are the things not worth battling over. I don’t really mind as I have to wipe the table and him anyway and for the ketchup… mummy does the same with the Nutella bottle so who is there blame him?

5#When I do say it,  I use my normal voice. Of course, there are times there is no other word/s to replace “No” and I have to use it. When that happens I try to stay as cool and calm as possible. Not raising my voice and just explaining (try to keep it short as possible … toddler concentration span and all that) why he shouldn’t go right when we need to go left while Caelan is screaming hungry in the baby wrap and we are still 10 minutes away from home. Again I usually offer that we can go there tomorrow or another time which most of the time works.


6#Does “careful” sound better then “no”? Not sure but I use it when I would say no. I can see him climbing up. I can see him speeding straight on. I can see him running the opposite direction. If it is safe (we are in the park / playground) my first reaction is just follow him and not even saying anything. If it is turning into something my heart can’t take as he is heading to the 6 feet high slide for older kids I just step closer and say “careful”. I do tent to let him carry on. Trusting him is the key in our case. I try not to use “don’t go there because you will fall”. First I don’t believe he will and second try. As for the 6 foot tall slides yeah I was mega close but we were ok.


7#Explaining why it is a “no” and repeat. Back to the point when I do say no. I always try to elaborate why it is a no. Simply just shouting “No” I don’t think would cut it. And with toddlers, repetition is the key I think. So when he is speeding towards the zebra crossing and I go after him I do say stop again and again and basically every single time I tell him the cars are coming and they are big and can’t always see us so we have to have to stop.

8# Turning “no” into a laugh. Brendan loves Monkey Puzzle by Julia Donaldson. It is such a lovely story and have plenty of “No” in it. I am reading it to him on a weekly bases a million times and he loves it. Every time I read it when I say “no no no” I put on a funny voice and intonation. He loves it. So when he really wants something and I have to say no I usually use this voice and in most cases it distract him to the point he doesn’t remember what he wanted. It works like magic and usually turns his request and my refusal into a laugh.


9# When we/ he has to compromise. So there are millions of examples here but just a few…   “Yes you can play with the butter knife and pretend that is a flute but use the blunt side. / Yes you can leave the table in the pub but go and discover the area where we can see you. /Yes you can go to the swing again but we are leaving in 5 minutes now / Yes, you can have hot dogs but try the veggies first please. A “but” always sounds better than a “no” so I try to drop it as much as I can.


As always I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. How do you try to avoid it? What works for you? What wouldn’t?



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