She Says… No.

I always thought that once Owen learned the word “No”, it was the beginning of the Terrible Two’s or a horrible stage where he said “No” to everything. He started saying “No” a few weeks ago, and, at least for now, it has been an awesome development. He can finally tell me, IN WORDS, what he does and doesn’t want to do. His emphatic “Yeah!” is still the default answer to any “Do you wanna…” question, so maybe we’re still in the honeymoon phase with the N-word. But it’s pretty amazing what this little word has done to improve our conversation/communication with Owen.

He has an opinion.

And he can tell me what he wants with WORDS instead of WHINING.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of whining. But at least many of our conversations can go something like this.

Before getting out the yogurt and mixing up my concoction of applesauce and flax seeds (which, once it is finished, makes me even angrier when Owen doesn’t want it because I took the time to make it), I asked, “Owen, do you want yogurt for breakfast?”. “No.” He replied. He has a hilarious way of saying no like a little Frenchman (“Noh!”). “Nooooooooo Nonono”. “Ok, how about eggs?” “YEAH!” “Ok! Eggs it is.”

It’s… it’s like talking to a person instead of a caveman. It’s refreshing.

Believe me, I see how this can go downhill fast (when he starts saying “No” to everything), but for now it’s just a way for him to express himself without either one of us getting frustrated or worked up or whining or crying. It is, in a word, awesome.

The explosion of new words these days is amazing. He parrots back the last word in many of my sentences. School. Coat. Shoes. Walk. Dog. Go! And then he wanders around the house shouting out the ones he wants to practice. Broom! Mop! Book! Read! They may not sound like perfect English to anyone but me, but we are communicating. And it is exciting.

When did your child go through the frustrating stage of saying “No” to everything? How did you react? Learning language and seeing the impact your words can have is an important lesson to learn, but being a contrarian 100% of the time is not something I want to encourage.

As Owen gets older and pushes the boundaries, I’m beginning to realize I don’t know exactly where to draw the line. For instance, he just learned how to throw things. At first it was so cute, and we cheered him on. Throw the ball! Throw the dog toy! But now he’s beginning to throw blocks and TV remotes and books. And he’s surprisingly strong. I’m guessing that’s not going to go over well at daycare. Similarly, Owen LOVES to climb. On everything. All the time. At home we have been letting him climb on whatever he could reach (supervised) because it makes him so happy and he’s developing spatial awareness motor skills and dexterity and balance. But recently as I saw him climb from a chair to a small table to a tiny windowsill, I realized we may need to set some boundaries around these behaviors.

Is it time? Can a kid his age understand the concept of “that’s dangerous”? Or is a simple “No. We don’t climb on tables.” the better explanation at this point? Where do YOU draw the line between encouraging exploration/learning new skills and breaking the rules?

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9 responses to “She Says… No.

  1. I’m curious to get more opinions on this. I tell Ryan stuff like “that’s dangerous” all the time. And then I wonder why I’m bothering to say that. They probably are to young to understand the concept, but I still think more explanation is never a bad thing, even if it’s only teaching vocabulary. I try to get my point across more through urgency of tone. I reserve my “firm” voice just for the dangerous stuff. For everything else, I try to just tell him no and redirect. Ryan still isn’t talking at all, so I really have no idea whether any of it is sinking in or not.

  2. Our A never went through a “no to everything” stage. She definitely learned the word and could use it. I don’t think that all kids say no to everything once they learn they can. Now-a-days, though, we’re having a very stereotypical “why to everything” phase.

  3. Sigh, we’re still in the “Point and whine loudly” stage, even though Faith is older. But she’s been throwing shit for months, so she beat him at that. 🙂 She pegs the dog’s balls AT the dog and then laughs. I worry about that kid. 😛

    I don’t ask her what she wants to eat. She has to learn early that Mommy isn’t a short order cook and she eats what I’m making, haha.

  4. My little guy is the definition of mischief! On Sunday I removed him from the dining room chairs more than a dozen times, where he was standing and dancing when he wasn’t trying to climb onto the dining room table. He’ll say “No!” as he’s doing the naughty/dangerous thing. And he cackles and grins wickedly as he does it. If someone has an effective way to discourage this sort of thing, I’d love to know about it!

  5. As for the default “no” to everything, that hit its peak for us around 2.75, as I recall. There was a period before the third birthday that I could have suggested ice cream for dinner and Daniel would have shrieked “NO!” And then changed his mind and gotten even angrier. It wasn’t a lack of vocabulary, he’s always been very verbal. But it was a major peak in defiance for us. Not pretty.

    As for what to allow and what not… everyone varies. I decided that, at my house, climbing on the couches was allowed. Climbing on the bookshelves (low built-ins, not gonna fall) was not. Etc, etc. You figure out your boundaries, and then enforce them as consistently as you can.

    I’m a big fan of 123 Magic as a discipline/behavior-management strategy. While Owen is still quite young for it to be effective, one of the things I have really tried to take away from it is LESS TALKING. Well, at least as far as discipline and the kids are involved. 🙂 Lots of words are unnecessary. You can clearly and simply demonstrate that something is not allowed by an immediate and consistent consequence, like removing him from a dangerous situation. Yes, you can talk to him about things not being safe. But in the moment that it happens, it’s more effective to have zero (or almost zero) words and just let the action/consequence speak for itself. Otherwise you just keep talking and turn into the teacher from Peanuts.

    It’s hard, for sure, to bite your tongue. But I’ve found it helpful with my kids. I’m SO VERY FAR from perfect at it, but it’s something to work towards.

  6. I’m interested to hear from some other moms, as well. My son is Owen’s age and he is ACTIVE, to put it mildly. Although the house is very baby-proofed, he still manages to get into places he shouldn’t! He’s also started to bite, pinch, and pull hair. Thankfully?!? he only really beats me up and not his dad or his friends. Regardless, he doesn’t listen to ‘no’ and time-outs don’t work yet either. Obviously, he’s testing me, but I’d like to nip this behavior in the bud!

  7. I usually try to explain to my 15 month old that something is dangerous or not for her. She isn’t into climbing yet, which I am grateful for. I imagine that it will get worse once she does. She hasn’t discovered “no” or “yeah” yet, but says lots of nouns. If I ask her if she wants breakfast, she says, “oatmeal” (although she says it even if she isn’t having it for breakfast that day.) 🙂

  8. I am a nanny and have had the joy of going through this stage with lots of kids. Some strategies that have worked well for me across the board are things like “we don’t throw X, here have a ball.” Or “it looks like you want to throw, let’s go in (safe room outside) to throw.” And you just repeat until you feel like it will never sink in, and then somehow it does! I try hard to avoid the word “no” for things like that because it is part of what encourages them to overuse it too (don’t get me wrong he will eventually but why speed up the process?) Basically for every limit you place, offer an alternative that honors the developmental need he is exhibiting – a safe place to climb, a safe thing or place to throw etc.
    Good luck! This really is a super fun phase, they just soak up so much and you can see changes near daily!

  9. Firstly, on your last Owen video, just wanted to say that your little boy always makes me smile. What a sweet little darling he is 😉

    My approach to the “no that’s dangerous” stuff is to simply use a specific tone of voice that he understands it’s not acceptable to do “x,y,z” and use very simple “toddlereze” and redirect and distract and try to find something positive to reinforce almost immediately after (i.e. put him in a situation where he is going to succeed at something where I can cheer him on). But man it’s HARD because he’s usually smiling and giggling when he’s doing the thing he shouldn’t be doing! Generally I tend to think that babies/toddlers this young aren’t capable of understanding explanations as to “why” so I try to keep it to short simple “toddlereze” in a firm voice and remove him from the situation and engage in a new one.

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