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.
How to Get Your Toddler to Say “Yes” More
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.
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.
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?