Inside: Does your toddler struggle with listening and cooperation? If your toddler’s favorite word is “no” – you’re not alone! Find out how to get your toddler to say “yes” more with these simple, practical parenting tips.
No matter how many cute little words your toddler may 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 “I’d really rather you did not empty the dog’s water bowl right now.” But in reality, most of the time I just blurt out: “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 (more listening and cooperation all around!).
Do you want to know the secret to teaching your toddler to listen and follow instructions?
Of course you do, that’s why you’re here!
How to Get Your Toddler to Say “Yes” More AKA Teaching a Toddler to Listen
The secret to better listening 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.
For example: You’re running late for preschool and you need your toddler to get dressed, like, yesterday. You wouldn’t want to open their closet and say: “what do you want to wear today?” Toddlers are easily overwhelmed by too many choices and an open-ended question such as this one can quickly lead to power struggles (toddler wanting to wear winter jacket in 90 degree weather – but you said “what do I want to wear?”)
It’s up to you to provide your toddler with two basic choices: red shirt or blue shirt?
So instead of saying “what do you want to wear today?” you would say “Today you can pick your shirt – would you like to wear the red or the blue shirt?”
Now, if your toddler responds with, “but I don’t want my red shirt or my blue shirt, I want my green shirt.” It’s very important to keep your boundary intact and only allow them to choose from the original two options.
The more you repeat this process with them, the easier it will become. However, the opposite is also true: the more you allow them to choose from that elusive “3rd option” – the more likely they will be to ignore your original options each time, thus leading to constant power struggles (this is where a daily routine can work wonders – here are a few options to check out: 1 year old, 18 month old, 2 year old).
The idea here is to allow your toddler to be “in charge” in order for them to feel more in control. This is where the toddler saying “yes” factor comes into play.
Here are some simple ideas to try out:
Getting Dressed: Would you like to wear your Dinosaur PJs or your Truck PJs?
Books & Toys: It’s time for bedtime stories, you can choose 3 books from the bookshelf in your room.
- Toddler gets to choose 3 books at bedtime
- Independent Play Trick: Provide your toddler with a basket or box and allow them to fill it up with the (pre-approved) toys they want to play with for independent playtime or quiet-time.
Grocery Shopping: Which fruit do you want today? Blueberries or strawberries?
- Toddler gets to pick between two options for snacks, fruit, veggies, etc. Getting them involved is the best part!
Now obviously, it should go without saying that there aren’t always perfect moments to implement these ideas with a toddler. If you’re trying to get out of the house and you’re running late, or if they’re having a meltdown at the store, it’s probably not the time to say “kale or broccoli?” But you will discover little moments where using this “illusion of choice” trick is just the thing you need to get your toddler to listen and cooperate!