Modern Parenting

How To Get Your Toddler To Say “Yes” More

True or False: Your toddler’s current favorite word is no? Imma go ahead and guess TRUE. No matter how many cute little words they know: mamma, dadda, dog-dog, baby – “no” is without a doubt their favorite word. One might even say it’s their calling card, their anthem of sorts. And can you blame them? Toddlers have this way of being, let’s say, adorably suicidal, in that they find standing on wobbly end tables, putting electrical cords in their mouths, and trying to dart into the street absolutely hysterical. So, yeah, they understandably hear the word “no” an awful lot. 

While there is a lot of advice out there regarding alternative ways to say no, if we’re being honest, it’s just not always practical. Of course I would love to be able to say “Harper, I’d really rather you did not empty the dog’s water bowl right now.” Most of the time, I simply find myself saying “no, no, no, no, no not again, please!!” Hey, nobody’s perfect, and if you’re the parent of a toddler, you probably find yourself singing a chorus of “no” daily.

So while I don’t have any tips to prevent your little one from attempting to dive off the top of the couch, pick up dog poop, or eat pretty much anything that looks like food, I do have some solid ideas for getting them to say “yes” more.

Do you want to know the secret? Of course you do, that’s why you’re here! The secret is providing them with the illusion of choice when the situation arises. The word “illusion” here is very important because the choice they make obviously has to be controlled, and in the end, regardless of what they choose, everybody wins. It’s like, you can’t just let me loose at a buffet on a cruise and say “pick” – because clearly I would eat everything. So you don’t want to open up their closet and say “what do you want to wear today?” Alright, you see where I’m going with this…

Below you’ll find some easy, everyday ideas that I use, well, every day, with Harper.

Getting Dressed

In the morning, I’ll sit her on her changing table and hold up two outfits. She’ll point to whichever one she wants to wear.

At bedtime, Eric or I will hold up two pairs of PJs. Again, she chooses and sometimes we say “bye bye” to the other one.

Books

Every night, Eric reads Harper her bedtime story. Instead of choosing the story for her, he holds up 3 choices (long or short, depending on how tired she is). She’ll point to which book she wants to read.

Grocery Shopping

Eating real, nutritious food is very important to our family. So when I take Harper grocery shopping, either at the store or our local farmstand, I’ll pick 2 fruits or veggies off the shelf and hold them up while she sits in the cart. Again, she’ll point to the one that interests her. Sometimes she’ll pick something for the color (golden beets) or sometimes for the unique shape (starfruit), but the important thing is that she picked it. And yes! She’ll remember when she sees that starfruit later at home.

Now obviously, it should go without saying that there aren’t always perfect moments to implement these ideas with a toddler. I mean, if they’re having a meltdown at the store, it’s probably not the time to say “kale or broccoli?” But we already knew that.

While these ideas may seem simple, they work 99% of the time. Sometimes, I’ll hold up two outfits and she’ll say “no” but still pick the one she wants to wear. If these ideas don’t work at first, keep trying. One of them will stick eventually. Even if they still say no, you can feel good about the fact that you at least gave them the choice, right?

Don’t Forget to Pin It!

Does your toddler love to say "no"? Then try these 3 simple tricks for getting them to say "yes" more! These tips are so easy!

What are your ideas for getting your toddler to say yes more?

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  • Annie
    October 21, 2016 at 10:09 AM

    Great advice! I do this with my daughter sometimes and it is so much easier!

    • Marla
      October 21, 2016 at 2:29 PM

      Thanks, Annie! Glad to hear I’m not the only one 🙂

  • Megan @ The Many Little Joys
    October 21, 2016 at 5:31 PM

    This idea is what got me through the SUPER terrible twos with my first child. I call it offering two acceptable choices…and I still use it as often as possible. Do you want to walk to the car or skip? Do you want carrots or cucumbers? Do you want to climb up into the car yourself or would you like me to lift you? It’s all about empowering my kids to know that their opinions matter and that I have confidence in their ability to make good choices. Most of the time, it works like a charm. Manipulative? Maybe a little, but in a good way.

    • Marla
      October 21, 2016 at 7:55 PM

      So good to know! Sometimes I worry we are headed in that direction so since I find myself saying ‘no’ so often, I try to implement this as much as I can. I love the examples you gave, too, because it’s like, no matter what they choose, everybody wins!! And like you mentioned, it teaches our kids that their opinions matter, too!

  • Stephanie
    October 22, 2016 at 10:11 AM

    I love the way you frame choices to your kiddo. And I wish that mine would choose golden beets — he’s much more interested in anything red and messy! I had a #sayyes week on my blog last week, and focused on a few similar choices. Thought you might be interested: http://www.snackdinner.com/home/2016/10/9/say-yes-4-simple-ways-to-empower-our-kids

    • Marla
      October 22, 2016 at 1:00 PM

      That’s amazing! I’m checking it out now. Haha, Harper’s mantra is pretty much “if it has red sauce, I’ll eat it.”